Everton see the light with Rooney

Everton 2 Tottenham Hotspur

James Corrigan
Sunday 18 August 2002 00:00
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Everton celebrated the beginning of their history-making 100th season in the top division of English football as only they know how. They took the lead, controlled the game, then let in two before fighting back for a plucky point with Tottenham.

Goodison has become well used to such ups and downs as although the posters claimed "100 years of top- flight football" the only thing in the top flight at the old stadium recently has been the cheap seats. At least they had the debut of their 16-year-old sensation Wayne Rooney to rave about and Tomasz Radzinski's equaliser was worthy of any point.

But as ever there was plenty to scratch their heads over. Chief among their worries will be their summer recruit from Arsenal, Richard Wright, who was blamed for both Spurs goals. Indeed, the words of his manager, David Moyes, must still be ringing in his ears.

"I don't feel sorry for him, he should have saved it," Moyes said when asked if Wright was at fault for Spurs' second, a weakly struck shot from Les Ferdinand. "And he should have saved the first as well," Moyes added without any encouragement.

That might have been unfair to Wright who looked helpless to stop Matthew Etherington's 63rd-minute equaliser. Indeed, if his side had continued the form they had showed until the hour mark then Wright would never had found himself in that upended position in the first place.

Tottenham's tormentor and Everton's entertainer during this spell was Rooney, who went some of the way to justifying David Unsworth's pre-match billing of being "Michael Owen and a little bit more". The one they call "The Kid" in these parts put on a show of brain and brawn in the first 45 minutes that startled even the dreamers. His direct style and nifty footwork played havoc with Spurs and just when Moyes was signalling for him to think more laterally, Rooney produced a piece of football that belied his years.

In the 37th minute, the ball fell to Rooney with his back to goal on the edge of the box. With a swivel straight out of Kenny Dalglish's Anfield textbook Rooney made the space, but instead of unleashing his already fabled right-foot shot he noticed Mark Pembridge stealing in on the left. A cute rolled ball and a swing of the Welshman's boot and Everton had rubber-stamped their new hero's credentials.

"The Kid" was not about to keep his lethal weapon covered for long, however, and when he drew his right foot to fire a stinging drive that skimmed the bar six minutes after break, Goodison erupted. But Rooney's rampage had a strange effect on Everton, who instead of forging on sat back in amazement. The midfield of Gravesen, Pembridge and the impressive Chinese debutant Li Tie were caught napping as Jamie Redknappreturned to Liverpool with a bang on his first Premiership start for Spurs. His ball across the area in the 63rd minute teed up Etherington to crash in his shot off the crossbar as Wright was left flailing.

This jolt made Moyes halt Rooney's debut and the groans that greeted his departure in the 65th minute were replicated later by the appearance of Ferdinand. The 35-year-old has long been a bugbear to Everton having scored 12 in 15 games before yesterday and he took just two minutes to make it 13 as Wright saw the ball slip through his fingers.

The Goodison gloom descended and looked set for the day until Radzinski's mazy run from the left brought him in front of goal to smash home the equaliser with his left foot from 10 yards. It was all that they, and Rooney especially, deserved.

Everton 2 Tottenham Hotspur 2
Pembridge 37 Etherington 63
Radzinski 81 Ferdinand 74

Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 40,120

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