Everton vs. Newcastle: 6 Things We Learned from Tonight's 2-2 Draw
For one reason or another, the football gods conspired against Everton tonight.
Twice, through Marouane Fellaini and Victor Anichebe, the Toffees scored what seemed legitimate goals, only to have them cruelly denied because of poor officiating.
Having deservedly taken the lead through Leighton Baines' strike, Everton should perhaps have made more of a dominant first-half, only taking a fragile 1-0 lead into half-time.
With Demba Ba on as a substitute, Newcastle started the the second-half reinvigorated and soon drew level with the Senegalese striker finishing well from outside the box. The game then transcended into an frenzied end-to-end affair, riveting for the neutral and entirely absorbing for supporters.
At 1-1 Fellaini had a 'goal' incorrectly ruled offside whilst soon after the linesman did not see Anichebe's header cross the line—both decisions sure to rile Evertonians.
With minutes left, a pumped-up Anichebe turned his man and finally slotted home, seemingly giving Everton the points, only for Newcastle to once again drew level on 90 minutes as Ba collected his second.
Here are six points talking points to emerge from tonight's showing.
Poor Calls a Major Factor
Whichever way it's painted, Everton were denied two goals by tonight's officials that will greatly accentuate fans' dejection.
With both incidents coming at a period in the game when Newcastle were on top, had they been given they would have changed the momentum of the game and potentially allowed the Toffees to regain control.
Newcastle will rightly contest they managed to overturn the deficit at 2-1 anyway and Everton should not let these decisions detract from the sloppy manner in which they conceded, but these calls will take up space in many columns tomorrow and should have been allowed to stand.
Wrong, yes. Decisive, not certain. What is clear is that the the officiating was well below standard tonight and will subsequently become too much of a talking point.
Once again the goal-line technology debacle raises its ugly head and makes this a far harder result for Evertonians to digest.
Hurry up and get it installed.
It's Time Fellaini Returns to Midfield
In the absence of Darron Gibson, David Moyes needs to seriously consider using Fellaini as an orthodox midfielder once again.
In the first-half, with the Toffees in the ascendancy, their lightweight midfield core was barely noticeable as the home side bossed the possession and territory.
However, once Newcastle wrestled back the momentum at the start of the second-half, the Geordies began to scythe through their hosts with ridiculous ease.
If Leon Osman is to be played in the middle, he must have a far more imposing presence next to him or he won't be effective. He and Phil Neville is not a robust enough partnership for the Toffees to prosper with. They were rarely in sync tonight, strayed positionally and Osman was badly at fault for one of Ba's goals.
Without the gritty influence of Gibson, Fellaini's physicality is suddenly emphatically missed here, as Moyes' side appear too easily dissected if possession is lost in attack.
As long as he possesses game-changing ability at both ends of the field, where he plays best will forever divide Evertonians.
He will be missed wherever he doesn't feature, but for now, with four goals conceded in two games and too many of them scored on the break, no Gibson leaves Everton's midfield requiring an upgrade.
Baines and Pienaar Continue to Shine
In Baines and Pienaar, Everton continue to be blessed with one of the most potent left-hand sides in the game.
The pair constantly torment full-backs and are behind almost everything Everton manage to create. During the first-half tonight, Newcastle struggled to get near them as they once again took centre stage.
As is well documented, Baines has created more chances than any other player in the Premier League this season. It is an amazing feat for a left-back and thanks in no small part to the chemistry he shares with Pienaar.
Clever interplay between the diminutive duo set up Baines for the first tonight and Pienaar also registered a second assist for Anichebe's late finish.
As much as Jelavic, Fellaini and a few others are seen as key individuals, as a pair, Baines and Pienaar are very much Everton's pivotal and most vital ingredients.
Is there a better left-sided tandem in the Premier League?
Injury to Jelavic Gives Moyes a Headache
Nikica Jelavic was in the wars for Everton tonight; colliding with a post early on and struggling to get away from some feisty Newcastle challenges.
Withdrawn before half-time, the Toffees spent large periods of the second half struggling to get his replacement, Victor Anichebe, played into space.
Jelavic's clinical finishing often leaves his canny movement and astute awareness as underestimated traits of his game, but tonight it was certainly evident how his rounded ability is integral to Everton's attack.
Before being substituted, Kevin Mirallas was also used up-front, and may well be the more suitable option if Jelavic's absence is prolonged.
Either way, Moyes will be hoping his Croatian hit-man makes a quick recovery.
Impressive Signs from Mirallas
Amidst the drama and ultimately disappointing conclusion of tonight's encounter, Kevin Mirallas gave Evertonians several exciting glimpses of quality on his first full start in the Premier League.
Predominately coming in off the right, he seemed energetic, possessed a deft touch and was always eager to fire off a shot.
In the same way Pienaar excels from having Baines in support, Mirallas could have done with a more adventurous right-back, as Hibbert was too often slow to offer support to the Belgian.
Consequently he drifted over the the left more often and appeared instantly in-tune with the tempo and quick passing and was unlucky not to score himself.
It will take time for Mirallas to acclimate to the Everton approach, but when he does, expect the Belgian to quickly become a key contributor for the Toffees.
From tonight's showing, there is far more to come.
The Battle for Europe Will Be Tight
Both these sides certainly harbour hopes of Europe this season and may even foster feint hopes of entering the Champions League race.
Everton might find a couple of deficiencies see them fall short—their first-half display demanded another goal, whilst poor defensive errors contributed to both goals.
To enter the Champions League mix, both facets would have to be eradicated almost immediately. Whilst this may still be out of reach, for now, the race for the Europa League is well and truly on.
On tonight's evidence, particularly with the first-half showing, Everton should be right in the mix.
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