Everton pay for defensive lapse
Published 25/11/2012 | 05:00
David Moyes cited profligacy as the cause of Everton's recent slip from the Champions League places, but his forward line is not solely responsible for a serious loss of momentum at Goodison Park. Another defensive lapse cost them a win over Norwich City as Sebastian Bassong's 90th-minute header earned Chris Hughton's side a merited point.
Everton appeared to have survived a strong second-half recovery from Norwich, who are now unbeaten in seven matches, only for Tim Howard and John Heitinga to leave Bassong unchallenged at the far post with only seconds remaining. It is now only one win in seven league games for Moyes' team. Their top-four aspirations are fading.
Norwich's form was not the only cause of concern for Moyes, with his team again paying for wastefulness in defeat at Reading last weekend and several key players absent here through injury and suspension. The injury to right-back Seamus Coleman forced the Everton manager to shift Phil Jagielka out of position and promote Tony Hibbert to the bench ahead of his scheduled return from a calf problem.
With Marouane Fellaini also serving a one-match ban, the onus fell on Thomas Hitzlsperger and Bryan Oviedo to seize rare opportunities in midfield. To Moyes' relief they delivered, as Everton made a surprisingly comfortable start and Hughton cut an increasingly agitated figure on the touchline.
Leon Osman went close as early as the second minute with a neat turn and curling shot from the edge of the area and the visitors had hardly ventured out of their own half before Everton took the lead.
The breakthrough showed the virtue of patience to Everton. Leighton Baines, Oviedo and Hitzlsperger all appealed for better movement from their team-mates as they kept possession down the left. As supporters followed suit, Hitzlsperger floated a fine ball down the wing where Oviedo controlled on his chest and slipped away from Steven Whittaker. He glanced up and rolled the ball perfectly into the path of Steven Naismith who side-footed into the roof of John Ruddy's net.
Every aspect of the visitors' display required improvement to avoid defeat and they complied in the second half, while Everton were becoming increasingly anxious, their passing likewise, and it took a desperate tackle from Osman to deny Grant Holt. Norwich came closer still when Wes Hoolahan combined with Holt to release Robert Snodgrass on the right of the area. Snodgrass shot low under Howard but Heitinga recovered to block in front of the line.
Pilkington's header was saved by Howard but the Everton 'keeper and Heitinga were nowhere as Javier Garrido curled in a last-minute free-kick to the far post. Bassong rose unchallenged to head in a deserved equaliser.
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