Everton vs. West Brom: 6 Things We Learned
With the transfer window almost shut, Evertonians started the evening wondering what might have been as the proposed move for Dutch midfielder Leroy Fey fell through.
By the end of the game though, Baines was the only topic of conversation as his two first half goals proved to be the difference in the game.
Having lost the reverse fixture early in the season, Everton exacted revenge pushing West Brom to another defeat as they have not won in five Premier League games.
With the win Everton stay in fifth in the League, one point off Tottenham in fourth place and three clear of Arsenal in sixth.
No Fer, No Problem
Technically we learned this before the game, but Goodison tongues were wagging over Everton's new signing that never was.
Some pointed out that Demba Ba and Joleon Lescott suffered similar hiccups in their respective medicals and their history of knee injuries has not hurt them. But at a club so strapped for cash, £8.6 million is an awfully big risk.
Nearly a year to the day on from one of the more famous nights in Everton history—their 1-0 win over Manchester City which went hand in hand with the transfers of striker Nikica Jelavic and midfielder Steven Pienaar—Evertonians are left wondering: who is next?
With 24 hours remaining in the transfer window, manager David Moyes and his staff will be clamouring for a Fer replacement and following the botched transfer of Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe Evertonians ask: Why do we leave everything so late?!
Another story-line that formed before the game had kicked-off was the benching of out-of-form striker Nikica Jelavic.
Since the Croatian's arrival at the club last year, he has been hailed as one of the best goalscorers Everton have had in modern times.
His knack for scoring and his deft one-touch finishing saw him capture Everton hearts last season as he scored nine goals in 13 games at the end of last season.
However, his second season with the Blues has been much tougher.
Jelavic hadn't scored in seven games before this match with West Brom and was subsequently dropped by manager David Moyes, with Victor Anichebe starting in his place.
The out-of-form Jelavic was given seven minutes at the end of the game to impress, but with Everton holding a slender lead, the striker had little to do.
The drop will be seen by many as a kick up the backside for the Croatian from manger Moyes and he's hoping that it works as well without Jelavic at his best. Everton's strike force is thread-bare and they can't rely on a left-back for a brace every game.
Finally a First Half
Everton hadn't scored two goals in the first half of a Premier League game since the Merseyside Derby at the end of October, but they've had many performances worthy of a goal glut.
Repeatedly, Everton have out-performed their opponents early on in a game but can never seem to put teams to bed. Reading, Arsenal and Norwich stand out in the memory.
With Leighton Baines' double before the break on Wednesday, Everton were finally able to capitalise on their chances and seemingly end the game half way through.
The first-half performance was needed too, as West Brom equalised in the second half and pushed Everton further back in search of another goal to level the tie.
Everton were able to take a bit of pressure off with a solid first-half performance which helped to open up West Brom to the counter-attack in the second half.
When you think back on those three aforementioned fixtures, they featured a performance of a much higher standard than that of the first half against West Brom. But as the old cliches go, European-bound teams can grind out a win even when far from their best.
Baines Brilliance Once More
A fantastic first-half double from the Everton defender effectively ended this as a contest as Baines once more showed his doubters why he is the best left-back in England.
Baines' first was a slice of individual brilliance (or an individual mistake if you are keeper Ben Foster) as the defender marauded forward, cut inside and blasted past the West Brom keeper.
The Merseyside native has been instrumental to Everton's success this season. he can drive a game forward and is rarely out of position when defending and showed his value once again when he coolly dispatched a penalty just before the break.
It is difficult to find something new to say about the brilliance of Baines as he has pushed his own high standard to another level throughout this season.
We might not have learned anything new about Leighton Baines against West Bromwich Albion, but we got confirmation on what we already know—Baines is brilliant.
Heitinga Back with a Bump
After his last-minute goalscoring heroics in the FA Cup last weekend, Johnny Heitinga came crashing back to Earth with a bump against West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday.
Heitinga played fairly well through the game but a preposterous goal-line clearance put Everton on the back foot in the second half.
The Dutchman was all too casual as he tapped Romelu Lukaku's effort off the line, rushing Shane Long to finish and put Everton under far more pressure with the game at 2-1.
The mistake spurred West Brom on and they continued to have the better of the second half, pressing forward and searching for an equaliser that never came.
Thankfully, Heitinga's mistake wasn't too costly, but one thing is for sure—Everton offer a much sterner test with Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin at the heart of their defense.
Kevin Mirallas Hamstring Watch
Well, the Belgian midfielder made it past half-time, which is an huge improvement!
Kevin Mirallas may not have had his best game for Everton but any playing time he can get under his belt is a big bonus for the Blues.
Everton are a much more dangerous side when they have Mirallas in the line-up over Steven Naismith
The Belgian International is a better player in every aspect than his Scottish counterpart and along with Steven Pienaar, offers Everton a dual-pronged attack from each wing offering great support for the Everton front-line.
Mirallas will need time to recover from his long lay-off, but the Belgian showed signs of life, testing the keeper twice before he was substituted in the 66th minute.