Match Report: Everton's Leon Osman puts Cinderella stamp on European push

Everton 2 Wigan Athletic 1

Goodison Park

As Christmas entertainment, the alternative to this was Cinderella at the Liverpool Empire with Coleen Nolan “the queen of daytime television” as the Fairy Godmother.

It will be five long months before Everton discover whether they will go to the ball of Champions League football but at the halfway point they are within reach, propelled by rather more than mice and pumpkins.

It was fitting that the goals that decided this fixture were scored by Leon Osman and Phil Jagielka, men who represent all that is best about the underfunded, overachieving club David Moyes has built. It would be wrong to call them ordinary footballers but they possess an honesty that those in Goodison’s stands, smelling of freshly unwrapped Christian Dior and Jean-Paul Gaultier, would recognise.

There is an honesty in Everton’s approach that is absent elsewhere in the Premier League. When Marouane Fellaini had headbutted Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross, Moyes was unstinting in his condemnation of perhaps his most valuable player. Yesterday, when asked if Osman should have conceded a penalty when bringing down Shaun Maloney, Moyes replied: “I don’t want to answer questions on referees when the answers always fall on my side and from where I was, sat in the dugout, it looked like a penalty-kick.”

Moyes also correctly pointed out that when Arouna Koné wriggled through the Everton defence to give Wigan Athletic hope they might snatch something from the afternoon, the forward used his hand to control the ball.

For Wigan, this was another game that they received less than they deserved. If playing badly and winning is the mark of a champion, then playing well and losing is the sign of a side bound for the Championship.

The Wigan manager, Roberto Martinez, argued that it was better to be playing well and losing on the grounds that the law of averages suggests that sooner or later you will get something. However, the Premier League has passed its midway point and Wigan are now on to “later”, which fortunately for them is the period of a season in which they tend to excel.

This match may have seen its first shot on goal after a mere 14 seconds but it only came alive after the interval when Thomas Hitzlsperger sent a shot from 30 yards or more crashing against Ali al-Habsi’s crossbar. If the Wigan keeper was fortunate then, luck abandoned him four minutes later when Osman’s shot struck Gary Caldwell on the arm – which would have resulted in a penalty – and left Al-Habsi horribly and hopelessly wrong-footed.

There was nothing fortunate about Everton’s second, although Martinez thought that Wigan might have better defended a straightforward cross from Phil Neville that Jagielka’s header buried in the Gwladys End net to take Everton’s tally of points from 2012 to 68. Should they finish with 71 after Sunday’s encounter with Chelsea, the race for the Champions League will be alive long after Cinderella has made way for Dolly Parton, the Musical at the Liverpool Empire.

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