Tuesday 12 December 2017

Mirallas keeps Everton in hunt

Everton 1 Stoke 0

There is no sign of Everton and Stoke's seasons drifting into obscurity. They possess the necessary attributes to retain an interest in the climax at opposite ends of the Premier League. In maintaining their European hopes, Everton plunged Tony Pulis's side ever closer to the relegation scrum.

Only four points separate Stoke from the bottom three now, and they are so bereft of craft and firepower, they will be relying on sheer brute force to steer clear of the pack assembling just below. Even their famed physicality has stopped guaranteeing points.

Kevin Mirallas's long-distance gallop on 28 minutes enabled a weakened home side to claim the victory and keep them in sight of the top four. The Belgian sprinted from the centre of his own half and eluded Steven N'Zonzi and Geoff Cameron before composing himself for a deft finish. It was an exceptional individual goal and also the first moment of quality in a game which had largely struggled to raise itself above the run-of-the-mill.

It appeared to be a favourable time to visit Goodison Park with Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar banned and Moyes forced to change to an unfamiliar 3-5-2 due to his lack of personnel.

The manner in which Stoke started would have accentuated Moyes's concerns.

The visitors almost led within three minutes from a familiar source, Ryan Shotton's extended chuck-in finding the head of Robert Huth, who forced Tim Howard, back from injury, into an excellent save. Jon Walters was unfortunate his effort from the rebound bounced onto the bar. Mirallas's goal opened up his box of tricks, his tendency to over-elaborate with a flick and twist too many as plain as his natural ability. He worryingly departed 10 minutes from time looking forlorn having appeared to tweaked his groin. Pulis would no doubt ask how the winger was allowed to run 80 yards to score without so much as a professional foul to worry about, but it was still a thrilling moment out of keeping with what had gone before.

Howard displayed more acrobatics to push a Walters strike from distance wide five minutes before the interval. Stoke will probably survive by virtue of the fact there are three worse teams in the league, but their vertical drift in 2013 is reflective of the fact they have relied on a single dimension for too long.

Telegraph

Irish Independent

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