Stoke vs Everton match report: Victor Moses makes problems mount up for Roberto Martinez

Stoke 2 Everton 0

Click to follow

Roberto Martinez may not care to talk about negative statistics but as Everton enter the stage of the season when it is the numbers that count for everything, his team’s are not looking good.  One win from 12 in the Premier League leaves them with 28 points from 28 matches, their lowest so far at this point in a top-flight season.

It is two fewer, for example, than Everton had accrued at the corresponding stage in the 1997-98 season, when they avoided relegation only on goal difference. The Everton manager reckons four wins from the last 10 matches will see them safe this time, which does not sound too daunting on one level, but more so when translated to a win percentage of 40 per cent compared with 21.4 per cent so far.

Stoke, on the other had, can look forward calmly now, with 42 points in the bank after goals from Victor Moses – a Martinez signing at Wigan – and substitute Mame Biram Diouf lifted Mark Hughes’s side to eighth, on course for a highest Premier League finish.

Martinez dropped Ross Barkley to the bench again in three changes, tinkering despite his assertion that Everton are close to achieving “momentum” in their league form, whatever their results suggest.  Kevin Mirallas and Muhamed Besic also lost their starting places.

A booking for Gareth Barry for a foul on Charlie Adam gave Martinez another negative statistic to think about, triggering a two-match ban for his midfield linchpin for accumulation of cards that will rule him out of the matches against Queen’s Park Rangers and Newcastle.

He earned it through a scruffy foul that had much in keeping with the early football until Moses brought things to life with a stinging shot that Tim Howard could only beat away.  It was an indication that Stoke had the confidence to show some ambition after two wins in a row.  More was  to come, and with it the opening goal.

Both Steven Naismith and James McCarthy were lucky to escape being booked after a shoving match with Phil Bardsley in which they appeared to be the aggressors.  Once referee Mark Clattenburg had calmed matters down with diplomacy rather than sanctions, Bardsley punished them anyway, delivering a cross from the right that Moses met with a superb header, generating much of the power himself to send the ball beyond Howard’s reach into the corner of the net from 15 yards.

 

Stoke sensed a second could put Everton under real pressure and it took a solid retrieving tackle from Phil Jagielka to deny Jonathan Walters a chance to strike at goal, before John Stones managed to intercept another Bardsley cross aimed at Peter Crouch.  Drawing breath, Everton responded positively, however, and Naismith and Aaron Lennon at least created a couple of chances, if nothing could be made of them.  Stoke had lost central defender Philipp Wollscheid to an early injury, bringing on Geoff Cameron in his place, but until then the visitors had not been able to probe for any weakness.

Everton resumed on the front foot after half-time, with Romelu Lukaku attempting at least to make a nuisance of himself.  He was by now effectively a lone striker, with Everton trying to crowd out their opponents in midfield.  It worked in terms of possession share, although it was not a formula to create chances.   Naismith, meanwhile, had another go at Bardsley, Clattenburg this time pulling out his yellow card.

With an hour gone, Martinez decided changes were needed, taking off Lennon and Barry and replacing them with Arouna Koné and Leon Osman.

There was almost an instant reward, Osman driving an attack that ended with Koné bending in a shot that Asmir Begovic did well to beat away. There was a sense, though, that Stoke could do some damage on the counter-attack as Everton committed themselves forward and it was probably with this in mind that Hughes decided Diouf might be a better bet than Saturday’s match-winner against Hull, Crouch.

Indeed, it was Diouf who finished Everton off, with six minutes remaining, on hand to knock the ball into the net after a shot from Marko Arnautovic, Hughes’s final substitute, had cannoned back off the inside of a post.

Comments