Weir and wonderful for Everton

Everton 2 - Newcastle United 0
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The Independent Football

If the Football Association were hoping Everton would do them a favour by kindly vacating fourth place in the Premiership, they can forget it. David Moyes' team are now just one point from ensuring Champions' League football.

If the Football Association were hoping Everton would do them a favour by kindly vacating fourth place in the Premiership, they can forget it. David Moyes' team are now just one point from ensuring Champions' League football.

In an ideal Soho Square world, Liverpool would have overtaken their neighbours to prevent the FA having to go cap in hand to Uefa to get an extra Champions' League place, but Everton, as they have done all season, proved difficult. Indeed, if Rafael Benitez's players do not win at Highbury today the race for fourth place will be over.

It was a thoroughly satisfying day for Everton, who secured a win that was a microcosm of their season in that they made the most of meagre resources. Outplayed in the first half, they nevertheless went in at the interval 1-0 up thanks to David Weir's first goal since January 2002 and then sealed three precious points through Tim Cahill. "We know it doesn't achieve anything yet, but it was nice to win our last home game in front of our own supporters," Moyes said. "We've got 61 points with two games to play and it means we've done better than we did two seasons ago." Then they finished seventh.

The 90 minutes also summed up Newcastle's season, in that they failed to take their chances, lost and finished with fewer than 11 men on the pitch. Shola Ameobi was the man sent off this time, but at least he was dismissed for hitting a member of the opposition. "I can't defend him in any shape or form," Graeme Souness, the visiting manager, said, "and when that happened the game was over."

It needed to be for an edgy Everton. They had come into the match resembling runners whose energy is being sapped as they approach the finishing line and Newcastle, who consigned Alan Shearer to the substitutes' bench until it was too late to matter, ought to have been three goals up by the interval. After 17 minutes a tackle by Charles N'Zogbia rebounded in such a way that it became a through pass. Darren Ambrose had scored from a similar position against Manchester United two weeks ago, but this time his first touch had all the precision of a sledgehammer and the ball bounced through to Nigel Martyn. Patrick Kluivert was wide from three yards with a free header and then James Milner shot too close to Martyn after a one-two with Kluivert had pushed him beyond the Everton rearguard. But as the visitors threatened and failed to deliver, Everton took the lead two minutes before half-time.

There was little danger on the left when Jean-Alain Boumsong was adjudged to have fouled Marcus Bent, but there was plenty when Mikel Arteta's free-kick floated to the back post, particularly as Newcastle's marking was lamentable. There was Weir to dive forward and head his first goal for Everton in three years.

This reverse was hardly designed to soothe Newcastle, who were last refereed by Barry Knight when Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer were sent off for fighting each other. They believed the foul had been wrongly awarded and Souness had to pull several players away from the official as the team left the field at half-time.

"We were in total command and Mr Knight made a complete and utterly wrong decision that led to the first goal," he said. "We feel hard done by." The match was smoking, and ignited after 56 minutes when Ameobi was sent off for hitting Cahill. There was a tussle for possession on Everton's right flank and as the ball bounced away the pushing and pulling continued until the Newcastle striker lashed out, hitting Cahill in the head. Under the circumstances, the referee had little option but to show Ameobi a red card and Cahill a yellow.

To add insult to injury, Everton extended the lead with their next attack and the scorer, inevitably, was Cahill. Arteta aimed a shot from 25 yards and mis-hit it so badly it became a fluky pass that fell to the Australian who was 10 yards out, but had time to compose himself and slip the ball past Shay Given. Cue an Everton celebration that extended to a lap of honour at the end. "Champions' League, we're having a laugh," Goodison sang and the players were. But you can bet the smiles are a little thin at the FA.

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