Everton 1-0 Stoke City: Koeman's men hold on in captivating clash

Everton kept their unbeaten run in the Premier League going after they grabbed a solid 1-0 win over Mark Hughes' scrappy Stoke City side at Goodison Park at a sunny day in Liverpool.

The Toffees scored in one of the most comical fashions ever, as Leighton Baines' penalty early in the second half went in off Shay Given after the former Manchester City goalkeeper had saved the effort from spot.

The Toffees made a bright start

Ronald Koeman's men, who had resorted to playing a 3-4-3 formation against West Bromwich Albion last week, had Romelu Lukaku back starting up front, with Mason Holgate slotting in at right back. The 4-2-3-1 formation looked more settled than the 3-4-3, which witnessed Gerard Deulofeu start up front but the game at Goodison Park saw the former Barcelona man take to the bench. Stoke started with a 4-3-3 formation, intent on keeping a deep defensive line with Welsh star Joe Allen sitting in front of the back four and Peter Crouch making a rare start for Mark Hughes' men.

Everton started the game brightly, with Stoke happy to sit deep and defend from the offset, allowing Everton to come forward and attack. The likes of Yannick Bolasie, Kevin Mirallas and Ross Barkley switched positions continuously behind Lukaku to unwind the Stoke defense, giving Everton the shape of a fluid 4-3-3. The first chance of the game fell to Mirallas, as Shay Given parried it succesfully to hand the Toffees a corner.

Everton's willingness to keep possession of the ball meant Stoke picked their opportunities to move forward. Pace in wide areas due to the presences of Mame Biram Diouf and Marko Arnautovic allowed the Potters to bring the ball out from wide areas. The Austrian's effort from the edge of the box went flying over the post as Mark Hughes's men succeeded in penetrating the Toffees' penalty area for the first time.

But Stoke's best chance of the game was blocked impressively by new acquisition Ashley Williams, after Diouf's ran down the right ended in cross, that found Gianelli Imbula. The former Porto man's effort from close range was blocked by the Welsh skipper, as he attempted to curl into the far right corner.

Everton crept close to scoring in the 25th minute, as Mirallas' cross from the left hand side of the box was met by Ryan Shawcross' head, who almost put the ball into his own net, but Peter Crouch emerged as a savior and cleared the ball off the line superbly, by an overhead kick.

As Everton pressed to find the goal that would've handed them a lead, Stoke began to misplace passes rather cheaply in the midfield, allowing the opposition to break on the counter with the pace of Barkley, Bolasie and Mirallas. Barkley's run from some way out after another cheap give away by Stoke could've led to a goal, but the pass at the end of the run found Mirallas, who shot straight at Shay Given.

Everton take control of the game

The second half of the game began just as promisingly for Everton, but with the presence of more drive and hunger on the ball. The drive from the the left side of the pitch saw Ross Barkley twist and wiggle past two Stoke defenders, but the shot at the end of it meered past Given's left hand post.

As Everton piled on the pressure by taking control of possession around the box, Stoke began defending deeper than they did in the first half. A Mason Holgate flick on in the box, after a precise Gareth Barry, saw Romelu Lukaku, who went past Shay Given, but a slip right before a possible tap in led to Shawcross handing the Toffees a corner. The resulting corner saw former Manchester United man Phil Bardsley trip Williams in the box, as referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot to hand Everton a penalty.

Everton players rejoice. Photo: Everton Twitter
Everton players rejoice. Photo: Everton Twitter

The resulting penalty, which Leighton Baines stepped up to take, was initially saved by Given, but the shot hit the bar and went in off the former Manchester City man to hand Everton a lead in the 50th minute, in one of the most comical goals one can ever see.

After the goal, Everton showed signs of complacency as Stoke grew into the game. The club, which finished ninth last season, hit the post in the 58th minute through Marko Arnautovic as the former Werder Bremen's star deflected shot hit the cross bar, and Diouf failed to head it in from close range after being muscled off the ball by Phil Jagielka.

As the game wore on, it assumed the form of being a rather midfield dominated and cagey one as balls were won and lost in the heart of the park and chances were few and far in between for either of the sides.

In the 77th minute of the game, a lovely piece of deft skill by Barkley saw the Englishman cruise past Joe Allen, but the shot was saved in sublime fashion by Given. At the counter, Stoke moved forward promisingly and a pass by Imbula cut opened up the Everton defenses and found Arnautovic. The winger's cut back failed to find the unmarked Jonathan Walters, who could've scored into an open goal.

As Stoke began to commit numbers forward in search of the equaliser, Everton began fancies their chances on the break. A well worked move after a corner was taken short, saw Bolasie's curled effort go just wide of the goal. Stoke's inability to break down the Everton defenses, which was being marshaled by Ashley Williams led them to being exposed at the counter. Arouna Kone's surge into the box late in the game, saw the former Wigan Athletic man fire over the bar.

Stoke began resorting a direct approach to the game, with numbers overloading the box in desperate fashion. But Everton's organisation in the midfield, that shielded the back four from exposition took Ronald Koeman's side home, handing them their second win in three games.