Everton's late-season surge continues against a mediocre Fulham
Everton prove they are still in startlingly good form, with a classy performance at Goodison.
I really, really hope Harry Redknapp didn’t look the highlights of yesterday’s match. If he did, he might yet realise that in Steven Pienaar he still has one of the Premier League’s most alchemistically creative midfielders on his books.
The South African was fantastic yesterday, setting up Tim Cahill’s goal with a sublime chip and Nikica Jelavic with a through ball which had the geometric elegance of a priceless pocket look.
With three goals and seven assists in only 11 games since re-joining on loan in January, Pienaar really could be the difference between Everton breaking back into Europe and another season of mid-table inconsistency. The fact that his slow, slightly meandering approach to the game makes a misfit of him in a Spurs team with the electric Lennon and Bale will hopefully be enough to bring him back where he belongs.
Moyes sounded hopeful when he told the official Everton website:
“For all the times people may ask me there certainly won't be an answer but, yes, it would be great to keep him.
“I think he's found somewhere where he is happy so hopefully we will be able to do something.”
But switching to players who definitely will be at Goodison next season, Jelavic still looks every bit the natural goalscorer, and put himself about admirably yesterday, with his two goals making it 10 from 13 in royal blue.
Admittedly, Fulham never really turned up to the game, and made it easy for Everton to take 68% possession, with the first three they conceded all having the feint scent of the self-inflicted. But 18 goals in the last six league games is enough to tell you that Everton, who in November were misfiring as badly as anyone in the league, are in fantastic scoring form. And they’ve still only lost three of the last 20 games in all competitions.
Marrouane Fellaini, unshackled from holding duties by midfield partners Phil Neville and the quietly excellent Darron Gibson, is regaining the form which made him such a hero for the blues. He’s back to gratuitously knocking people over and going up for headers, with defenders straining to compete, only to miraculously bring it down on his chest. And his header for Everton's second was text-book, with the bounce before the goal-line enough to force the mis-cue from the defending Damien Duff.
So Evertonians will find themselves in the familiar end-of-season situation of looking to the next term with understandable optimism. If the line-up which has done so well over the last couple of games can be held together and kept fit (obviously with the return of best left-beck in the country Leighton Baines) then 2012/13 really could see a return to the quality of a few seasons ago.
But this is Everton. It never works out quite like you hoped.