Sport Soccer

Thursday 14 December 2017

Bruce livid as Pienaar strike topples Tigers


RICHARD JOLLY at Goodison Park

Roberto Martinez is a manager who has sent on a replacement and watched him score the winner in an FA Cup final but even he can rarely have seen a substitute succeed so quickly. Only 27 seconds separated Steven Pienaar's introduction and the midfielder's decisive goal.

"He finds the back of the net with his first touch," smiled Martinez. "It is quite an impact."

On an occasion branded Retro Day at Goodison Park, perhaps it was fitting that the winner came from a player who had revisited his past by returning for a second spell at Everton. Nevertheless, this is a new era and Martinez has made an auspicious start.

With 15 points from eight games, the Merseysiders continue to savour the sight of a league table that has Manchester United, and their former manager David Moyes, sitting beneath them.

If Gareth Barry, whose four league appearances have all ended in victory, has been pivotal, the catalyst was also the cause of controversy.

"Nobody is more of an admirer of Gareth Barry than I am," said Hull manager Steve Bruce, prefacing the airing of his grievances about the midfielder.

They were threefold: that Barry scored Everton's opening goal and rendered it illegitimate; that he escaped without a card for the foul that meant Danny Graham was carried off with a seemingly serious knee injury; and that referee Neil Swarbrick only cautioned him for a worse challenge on Sone Aluko.

Everton's opener was credited to Kevin Mirallas, his shot clipping the inside of the post as it beat a static Allan McGregor. Barry, who found himself in its path, was rather more active, trying a backheel flick. "He is a yard offside and he touches it: 100 per cent," Bruce argued.

Then Barry became the unlikely destroyer. Both members of Hull's strike partnership felt the force of his tackling. "The one on Danny Graham is bad enough," Bruce said. "That is worthy of a yellow card. But the challenge on Aluko is absolutely horrific. It is over the top of the ball."

Bruce said that both victim and assailant were lucky in different ways. The surprise that Aluko was able to continue was amplified when he fashioned Hull's equaliser, feeding the ball to Yannick Sagbo, who finished adeptly.

Everton's winner was a strange blend: part Moyes's tactic of aiming a long ball at a Belgian – Romelu Lukaku heading on Tim Howard's punt – and part the slick football Martinez prefers. Ross Barkley and Mirallas combined with the winger directing a cross for Pienaar, displaying perfect timing, to pick out the corner of the Hull net.


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