It is possible to sell very good footballers and emerge as a serious force in English football. That may be a crumb of comfort to Newcastle's supporters this morning. There are not many more. Everton continued their excellent season by climbing to fifth place in the Premier League. They will still believe the Champions League is possible after Chelsea lost at home to Queen's Park Rangers. Two points separate clubs with completely different ideologies, and completely different budgets.
Everton have sold big in Wayne Rooney, Joleon Lescott and Jack Rodwell in the last decade. It has not broken them, on the contrary in fact. From that, Newcastle, with Demba Ba ready to be unveiled as a Chelsea player, must begin to find hope. It will not come from the statistics. They have won two of their last 15 games after this latest defeat, which was their 10th in their last 13.
Alan Pardew got spirit out of his team, who sit two points above the relegation zone. In the same fixture he got three points last season. Newcastle went second that day. Their demise has been quick. Everton matched the spirit and their class told.
"I hope we are strong finishers," said David Moyes. "We have been in the main a good second half to the season team. If we do, we will try to compete with the teams at the top end. Whether we are good enough, only time will tell. We are getting better.
"If you come here and beat Newcastle you have to play very well. Newcastle were hurting and they came out of the blocks. I thought we played really well in the first half. I was disappointed our play didn't lead to more clinical finishing and then Bainesy came up with a worldly to get us back level."
There is much to admire in this current Everton team. Marouane Fellaini matches sublime skill with a huge frame. Nikica Jelavic relentlessly asks questions and Phil Neville marshals it all from the heart of midfield.
Yet for all that, it was Leighton Baines who was the best player on the pitch last night. Moyes said afterwards that he thinks the gap between Baines and Ashley Cole is getting closer all the time. Cole would not have scored the goal that drew Everton level, in the 43rd minute. It was a brilliant, vicious, rising drive from 35 yards. A free-kick that surpassed his earlier effort, that one drawing an excellent save from Tim Krul. Krul could not react to the equaliser and with that foothold, after a dominant first-half, despite falling behind, Everton were on their way to victory.
The goal cancelled out Papiss Cissé's opening strike, which came in the 73rd second. The world looked so different then for Newcastle fans, who enquired of Ba, still technically their player at that point, what the score was. It always felt premature.
By the hour mark, Everton had their winning goal. Victor Anichebe, who scored against Newcastle earlier this season (and had one not given) fired in the second. Ba scored twice in that game, which ended as a draw. Holding onto good players remains important. Selling goals (Andy Carroll left in the transfer window two years ago and Kevin Nolan went in the summer of 2011) is a dangerous game to keep playing.
Newcastle felt powerless to the clause that allowed Chelsea to firm up their interest yesterday with a £7.5 million offer. It was a contract they agreed to. Ba has scored 29 Premier League goals for Newcastle in one-and-a-half seasons. There is a naivety to believe it will be simple to replace that kind of output. At the end of last night's game they were looking for an equaliser with Nile Ranger on the pitch. Ranger has been available for transfer for as long as anyone can remember but there have been no takers. He has not scored a Premier League goal. It felt desperate.
They hit the woodwork through James Perch, and Davide Santon and Cissé both had chances, but that their best player was Krul was testimony to Everton's play. Baines went narrowly wide with another free-kick, while Fellaini, Steven Pienaar and Steven Naismith lost one on one duels with Krul. The goalkeeper had conceded 11 goals in his previous two games, but it did not show.
"We can't hide," said Pardew. "We're right in it now. We need to get out of it.
"Let's be honest. We've had an awful run. We gave an honest account tonight. In the end Everton had a but more guile, experience and quality. We need to bring that back. We've played three top teams without our best team. We have to take heart form the performances we've given. We need some new boys in and some bodies out of the treatment room.
"There is a positive [from Ba's sale]. If he'd gone with two days of the window to go and we hadn't got a replacement we would have been in real trouble. We've got time. Hopefully that will work in our favour. Demba's been honourable. When he came there wasn't too many people queuing up. I took the opportunity to take him.
"The clause that went in made a lot of sense for us and Demba of course. If he hadn't of worked out as well as he has, then it would have been a great deal for us. It's worked out even better for him because he's scored loads of goals. The clause has kicked in and he's moved on.
"I thought the combination of the two of them didn't really work so maybe we can find someone who is a bit more ideal for Papiss."
Man of the match Baines.
Match rating 7/10.
Referee M Atkinson (West Yorkshire).
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- Joleon Lescott
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