Hurrah, weeknights no longer mean a dearth of football.
Tonight was the first of four school-nights of live top class action. Newcastle travelled to an emotional Merseyside hoping to inflict Everton with their second consecutive defeat.
FULL TIME: Everton 2 – 2 Newcastle United
20.01 – KICK-OFF: Alex Ferguson is among the crowd in Liverpool who are applauding in tribute at the 96 lives lost at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final. A moving tribute from an arch-rival.
20.06 – OUCH! Disallowed goal for Everton.
MIrallas showed some confident touched on the right, cut the ball inside to Fellaini whose first time shot was weakly batted away by Krul.
Nikica Jelavic slid in to finish, but was flagged offside. He took a sharp auld bang off the post for his troubles. He’s since managed to hobble back onto the field.
20.13 – For an evening kick-off, Goodison Park is unusually quiet. But a series of snappy passes from Hibbert to Neville, onto Osman, Distin and Baines culminates in a chance for Pienaar.
His shot though, from 15 yards on the angle, is sliced well wide of the visitors goal.
20.18 – That chance for Pienaar was the beginning of some sustained pressure from the home side. United are struggling to find a way out of their final third.
Perhaps it won’t be too long until we see Demba Ba.
20.23 – 20 minutes gone and Everton could easily be 3-0 up. Kevin Mirallas cut in from the left and unleashed a 25-yard curling shot which whistled inches past the post. Harper was at full stretch, but would have been very lucky to save the shot had it been on target.
20.35 – Another narrow escape for United. Phil Jagielka won a header from a long pass upfield. Jelavic, on the left corner of the area instantly laid it back to the England international and he drove a powerful shot towards the bottom right corner.
Alas, it veered off course in the final two metres.
Steve Harper is puffing out his cheeks in frustration. Another let-off.
20.36 – Yellow card for Vernun Anita. The Toon’s new signing got a little too combative with Tony Hibbert and is rightly cautioned.
20.41 – Chances galore in this game.
Leighton Baines has already won man-of-the-match according to co-commentator Matt LeTissier. The fullback has just cleared the ball off the line after Marveaux and Cisse caused confusion the the hosts’ defence allowing Ben Arfa fizz a ball low across the six yard box.
we’re not sure if the contact came from Marveaux or Osman, but Baines was once again in exactly the right place at the right time.
20.47 – Seriously, though. Everton really should be two up by now. James Perch received a short kick-out but was quickly dispossessed by Steven Pienaar.
He cut inside to shoot, but failed to notice Osman drift into an acre of space to his right. The shot was awful. Osman was most displeased.
All the while, the other man you’d expect to be in support, Nikica Jevalic, lay prone on the ground. He has finally succumbed to injury and is replaced by Victor Anichebe just before the half-way point.
20.52 – HALF TIME: Everton 1 – 0 Newcastle
Chances at both ends, then. But Alan Pardew will make his way down from the stand very happy to be only a goal down. Everton have looked dominant without ever hitting top gear so far tonight.
The visitors need a dramatic change of tack (or a whopping big slice of luck) to get anything from this game.
21.07 – The second half is underway and Newcastle have made a necessary change. Demba Ba is on in place of Marveaux and Pardew has reshuffled his defensive options with Anita moved to right back to keep an eye on Baines and James Perch pushed into midfield.
With Anita on a yellow we’re not sure that’s the wisest move.
21.17 – Apparently, that’s the Magpies 100oth Premier League / Premiership goal.
Now, don’t let me here you complaining there’s no useless stats on TheScore.ie
21.21 – The home side have ratcheted up the temp through – guess who – Leighton Baines.
His whipped cross misses Fellaini by inches at the near-post, but a sign of what Everton are capable of id they start to put their minds to it.
…. and there’s another disallowed goal. Another lovely incisive move that ends with Pienaar slipping through-ball to Fellaini who is offside by the length of his collarbone.
21.26 – Another close shave for Harper as Anichebe chases down a weak backpass and the pair collide in a heap.
The ref eventually decides a free out is in order and looks tempted to book Anichebe until Harper protests that the striker only had eyes for the ball.
Sportsmanship. It’s well in tune with all we have seen on Merseyside this evening.
21.31 – Wow. Not only does Harper has his hands full in defence of his goal he’s moved into attack.
The ‘keeper rushed 30 yards off his line to intercept a ball over the top. He headed on and volley the ball clear. So clear, in fact, that is landed on the toe of Papiss Cisse in the Everton area. This tome, his touch was not assured enough and Baines managed to steal the ball away.
21.47 – 85 minutes: A little overdue, but Ben Arfa has his chance to go clean through on Howard. The Frenchman latched onto a fine through-ball and out-sprinted Jagielka on his way into the box.
Jagielka slid as Ben Arfa pulled back his left foot to shoot low. Saved by the foot of Howard.
21.57 – What a finish. Alan Pardew was frantically barking down his phone trying to make a change after Ben Arfa sloppily gave the ball away. We’re hearing reports that Gabriel Obertan pulled a Tevez and refused to move from his comfy spot on the bench.
If true, he’ll not be moving beyond it for the foreseeable future.