Everton 2 - 2 Watford
It's always a nice buzz catching up for the first game of the season. Gaz rolling up at about midday, grabbing Ste on route and on towards Goodison Park. We parked up as per the norm, though as we saw a lad hanging around at the end of the road with a "watch yer car?!" threat/request, we instead sneaked away towards The Brick via a different route...we sure showed him.
We got the team news in the pub and it's a real shame that Leighton Baines has suffered a reoccurrence of that ankle injury (that's a ridiculous accumulation of injuries for a pre-season by the way). Brendan Galloway replaced he at left back with Lukaku also making it back from a pre-season injury scare to lead the line for us. In the pub before the game Arouna Kone was the subject of substantial scorn from a few of the guys. You wouldn't really have banked on him making such an impact today.
Predictably enough Watford supporters arrived in their numbers and filled their away end in yellow and made quite a noise throughout...though I would expect that from a newly promoted team.
We attacked towards the Park End in the first half though other than a busy first five minutes and a fizzer from Ross Barkley that was tipped over the crossbar, we offered precious little and Watford edged ahead via a Layun drive following a dizzy spell of pressure from the visitors. Watford ahead and Goodison Park restless. The boos at the break told you that if you didn't know already.
The second half was much improved by Everton. We attacked Watford with much more intent and could have equalised on two occasions in particular when first Lukaku and then substitute Kone headed over with free headers. It was getting frustrating and you wondered where the goal may come from when, out of nothing, Barkley opened his account with a thunderous effort from 20-25 yards out. OK it took a deflection which helped carry it past Gomez but that is exactly what we have been crying out for. Don't shoot, you don't score and it was a great goal from Barkley in an otherwise muddled performance by he.
We dared to dream and Mirrallas was immediately withdrawn injured, with the vigour and enthusiasm of Bryan Oviedo replacing him, however we were caught with a sucker punch when Watford substitute Ighalo waltzed through, beating Stones and placing the ball beyond Howard far too easily. All the hard work put into getting back into the game undone in one sloppy instant.
Even with just seven minutes remaining in the game you felt there was another goal in the game and it came when Lukaku combined nicely with Kone with the Ivorian finishing very smartly indeed into the far corner. He appeared a little emotional as he kissed the turf once he'd scored.
Four minutes remained and though we huffed and puffed we couldn't get the winner. We trudged away disappointed. How have we managed to start every season under Roberto with a 2-2 draw against a newly-promoted team? This signifies that we have learnt nothing. Our play hasn't changed. We are still FAR too predictable. Every team has long since figured us out. Seeing us gamble more by going with two up front on the hour mark was almost more frustrating. I'd love to see us begin games this way. It brings way more out of Lukaku and plays much more to his strengths, though we all know how we will line up next week at St. Mary's. Hell I bet most of us could even successfully guess the team. Perhaps personnel will improve before the deadline slams shut but it won't change our style or our "philosophy". We desperately need to embrace other styles of play. We are far too easy to play against and, given the fixtures ahead, we could be in for some bumpy ride.
Howard: I don't think he can be questioned on the goals. Kicking poor and distribution often laboured however. 6
Galloway: Did little wrong and it's great to see young players given opportunities. However I question why we play him ahead of a more natural and attacking left back in Oviedo, who really helped us press forward later in the game. Surely at home to Watford we should be thinking about attack rather than field a lad who is much more of a centre back than a full back. 6
Stones: Began the game very well though was caught out for their goal. At times he threw his arms out in exasperation at what was going on ahead of him. Looked a little frustrated. I don't believe he will still be here come the end of the transfer window. 6
Jagielka: At fault for Watford's opener, though had a pretty solid game otherwise. 6
Coleman: One of the few who tried to make things happen and kept on ploughing forward. 7
Barry: The better of the midfield duo. At least he always shows for the ball and shows some willingness to make things happen. 6
McCarthy: I thought he would play well having just signed his new contract though he probably had his worst game yet for the club. Poor display. Headless chicken springs to mind. 5
Cleverley: He improved second half but didn't get into the game in the first. In hindsight Leon Osman would have been a sounder bet to start. 6
Mirallas: My man of the match. I hope we get that effort from him every week now. I also hope that injury isn't too serious. 7
Barkley: The goal aside he didn't offer a lot for me. Seemed to run around in circles and was often over-elaborate with the ball. More positively, it was a great drive which got us level. Fingers crossed it can give him a bit of confidence for the season. 6
Lukaku: Poor. Didn't seem to show enough desire to get on the end of things and link up with the team though he did improve immeasurably when paired in attack with Kone. If only Roberto would take note of this and give it a go with two strikers. 5
Kone (for Galloway): Credit where it's due, he made an impact and you never know, maybe the goal will help him kick on. He should start up top with Lukaku next game. He'd be disappointed to remain on the bench having scored one and made one. 7
Oviedo (for Mirallas): Got involved and made a positive impact. Also should start next game at left back as he provides a much more attacking threat than Galloway. 7
Naismith (for Lukaku): Got involved in the short time he had on the field. 6