Kanchelskis in command

Everton 2 Kanchelskis 16, Stuart 60 Sheffield Wednesday 0 Attend ance:34,160
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The Independent Online
Andrei Kanchelskis spearheaded a commanding victory which saw two of the season's surprise packages gravitate towards more predictable league placings.

That the scoreline flattered Wednesday was a reflection of the downside of the Kanchelskis performance. With the visitors possessing neither the strategy nor the flexibility to cope with the winger's threat, Kanchelskis, spurred by his early goal, accepted responsibility and culpability for a succession of missed opportunities.

Everton enjoyed a first-half romp against a side appearing mildly embarrassed by their lofty position. The left-back Ian Nolan was relentlessly exposed to the Kanchelskis menace.

Michael Branch, 17, industrious as well as inventive, screamed himself hoarse for a chance to cash in on the superiority. His unselfish display, in which he was happy to run at a retreating defence before turning provider, was typified by a teasing but forceful drive to the byline and an accurate cross to Graham Stuart, who shot home on the turn to seal the victory.

Everton's first real chance was squandered. The referee Paul Alcock penalised Des Walker's timely tackle on Branch but David Unsworth, opting for raw power in preference to placement, tested the durability of the bar from the penalty. The Wednesday respite was short-lived. Regi Blinker sacrificed possession, allowing Joe Parkinson to release Kanchelskis. Cutting inside before favouring his right foot, the Ukrainian combined accuracy with a crisp strike to open the scoring.

Kevin Pressman was instrumental in preventing a landslide and while Everton eased off in the second half, chances continued to flow. David Pleat, the Wednesday manager, was characteristically matter-of-fact. "We got lucky," he confessed. "We didn't compete well enough in midfield initially and Kanchelskis got too much of the ball and gave us all sorts of headaches. It would be very dangerous to look for too many answers. Everton were better in all aspects."

Joe Royle is keen to protectBranch from "burn-out". "We will pull him in and out at the right times. I've got to use him sparingly like Alex Ferguson did with Ryan Giggs. The win was very welcome and we played some excellent football. Our Russian friend was back to his best and could have had four or five. The score could have been 10. For a side who have been described as 'one-dimensional' we make a lot of chances," he said.