It was a game they simply had to win – to improve on a record of just 1 win in 9 Premier League matches; to erase the sense of frustration and injustice at the events of last weekend at Stamford Bridge; to get the team back into the top half of the table; and to prove that the promise shown in terms of greater organisation since the New Year could be turned into points.
Instead, Everton fell to their fifth home defeat of the season and effectively saw the remaining glimmer of hope on their top-four hopes extinguished by what was an awful performance in the context of the ability in their ranks. A mere six wins in 23 Premier League games now tells its own unforgivable story and solidifies the question marks that have been forming over Roberto Martinez's tenure for the past 18 months.
Coming off two decent results from difficult fixtures at the Etihad Stadium and Stamford Bridge, this was Everton's chance to come back home to Goodison Park, earn successive League wins for the first time this season and finally light the touchpaper on a campaign that has promised much but delivered little except more frustration. Had they begun the game with a sense of purpose befitting the "Last Chance Saloon" nature of the game as it related to their European hopes, they might have revved up a tentative and anxious crowd that hasn't celebrated a win in the Premier League since the third week of November.
Unfortunately, however, the opposite was true. It was evident from the first whistle that, despite their awful away record, Swansea were going to be no pushover and that their efforts under the gaze of their new manager, Francesco Guidolin, combined with the Blues' suicidal tendencies, were a recipe for more misery for the home side. Those Evertonians who have seen their side concede the first goal on countless occasions this season were, predictably, anxious in the early going, the mood not helped by an injury to Muhamed Besic after just nine minutes.
The loss of a player who fired a shot off the post after three minutes and has become something of a new Talisman at Goodison in recent weeks, compounded when Kevin Mirallas was also forced off with less than half an hour gone, obviously had an affect on Everton' ability to generate some momentum in a poor first half but the Blues had shot themselves in the foot before they had had a chance to get going.
Martinez made great fanfare about how quickly he was able to institute a passing- and posession-based game at Everton when he first arrived and control of the ball became a hallmark, for better or worse depending on the circumstances, of the team's play. Here, though, it was Swansea affecting all the neat and incisive passing while Everton gambled on quick "percentages" balls hoping for something to break for Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley or Gerard Deulofeu in forward areas. More often than not, they found the immovable object of the impressive Ashley Williams who largely had Lukaku in his pocket for much of the afternoon.
The only time Martinez's side seemed willing to hold onto the ball for any length of time was in defence, where the playing-with-fire routine involving John Stones and Tim Howard that had already worn thin before today ended up handing the visitors the lead in the 17th minute. As he so often does, Stones delayed a pass back to the American who appeared oblivious to the opportunism of Andre Ayew and, after taking two steps away from the ball to set himself for a clearance, was hurried into a wild, panicked hack as the Ghanaian raced in to intercept. Ayew was dumped on the turf, referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot and Gylfi Sugurdsson lashed an unsaveable penalty into the top corner.
Not for the first time this season, Everton dug themselves out of that hole after Deulofeu's goalbound shot had been blocked behind by Neil Taylor. The same defender failed to track Tom Cleverley's dead ball or Gareth Barry's run to the near post to meet it and Jack Cork inadvertently helped the veteran midfielder's touch into the goal via the far post. Parity restored and that early mistake atoned for, that should have been the reset that Everton needed to seize control of the contest and go on to win but they fell behind again 11 minutes before the break to a goal they would prove singularly unable to erase over the ensuing 55 minutes.
A potential handball on Williams was not given by the referee in the build up and Everton lost focus, failed to press as Swansea played through them down the left channel, easily out-manoeuvred Bryan Oviedo – a painfully square peg in a round right-back hole at times – and Ayew popped up in the box to fire goalwards from the angle. Another heavy deflection, this time off Stones, guided the ball over Howard and it was 2-1.
Everton had their moments between then and half time, Lukaku dragging the best chance just wide from the edge of the box and Barkley jinking his way through with a wonderful run but then seeing his shot charged down, but in general the home side often couldn't build anything in the final third because they kept slinging the ball into the box aimlessly through Cleverley and Deulofeu.
That would gradually change in the second half where, after Howard had made a good stop to deny Wayne Routledge, it became one-way traffic to Swansea's goal and Deulofeu began to take more of the initiative by peppering the Swans' six-yard box with crosses whipped in from the right. That, after seeing him do the same thing on numerous occasions two seasons ago, no one was regularly gambling by throwing themselves in the way of one of them to divert it home was frustrating. Granted, some of them were delivered with too much pace but Steven Pienaar knocked one over the bar at the back post and Lukaku came within a few inches of connecting with another in front of goal.
All that pressure would result in just two efforts on target in the entire 90 minutes, however – one of them from Lukaku who just couldn't get enough power on Barkley's cross from the byline to steer it past Fabianski who sprang across his line to make a two-handed save.
That Seamus Coleman, a curious 66th-minute change for Oviedo that left Arouna Kone (the man supposedly keeping Mirallas and Steven Naismith out the side this season) sitting on the bench, didn't grab the equaliser that would have secured a 12th draw of the season will remain a mystery. The Irishman latched onto a brilliant pass by Stones in the 88th minute and had most of the goal to aim for with just the goalkeeper in front of him but pulled his effort wide of the far post.
Then, as the game ticked into a fifth minute of stoppage time, a corner from the left fell at Coleman's feet barely two yards out but he somehow contrived to scoop the ball over the bar with the goal yawning in front of him.
Frankly, had either of those gone in, Martinez and his players would have saved some face but another meaningless point would have papered over some alarming and expanding cracks in a team that has the potential to be in the top four but which is massively under-performing. Martinez obliquely shifted some of the blame afterwards to the flat atmosphere at Goodison by claiming his players are fearful in front of their own fans but the painful reality is that Everton are not helping themselves in that regard.
It is no accident that some of the better games and higher levels of excitement inside the Grand Old Lady recently have come in the matches against Spurs and Manchester City when Martinez's side looked disciplined, composed and gave the supporters something to shout about. In the current vein of defensive frailty, individual cock-ups, goalkeeping calamity and a general lack of energy in pressing the opposition, it should come as a surprise to no one why Evertonians are so on edge during home games.
Everton currently lack tempo with the ball and, seemingly, any kind of system when they don't it. Gone are the days of doggedly hounding visiting teams out of their stride, replaced by an apparent mandate to the likes of Barkley and Lukaku to stroll around the centre circle as opponents ease by them with the ball to mount unfettered attacks. If the first line of defence is attack, Everton's has been taken completely out of the equation, either by managerial instruction – to preserve energy? – or a dereliction of individual duty. Either scenario is damning of Martinez's management.
Put bluntly, despite having assembled the most exciting squad in three decades, the mounting evidence suggests that in the League, where Everton earn their bread and butter, the club are now going backwards under this manager and unless something changes quickly it's difficult to see an end to the two-steps-forward-three-steps-back tenor to his stewardship of the Blues.
Safe passage to a Wembley final on Wednesday evening where, no doubt, another backs-to-the-wall strategy will need to be carried out, would provide a welcome distraction but Martinez must surely be on borrowed time where it comes to convincing the fanbase that he is capable of evolving away from the cavailier, defence-be-damned attitude that eventually scuttled Wigan and towards a more complete and balanced approach that is the only way to succeed in the Premier League.
Roberto Martinez chose a well-balanced side with his two best wingers in Mirallas and Deulofeu flanking Romelu Lukaku, but Jagielka was rested and Oviedo started at right back. The gameplan was in tatters after both Besic and Mirallas went off injured while Stones and Howard combined to let in two goals in a dismal first half-hour.
It was pedestrian stuff as Everton made a sleepy start to the lunchtime fixture until Besic went on a nice forward run thanks to an excellent pass from Lukaku, the Bosnian's drive smacking the outside of the post. But inside 10 minutes he was limping forlornly off the pitch, with a hamstring injury, to be replaced by Tom Cleverley.
Everton struggled to exert any degree of control on proceedings as they tried to make space against aggressive pressing from the visitors, Britton going in sharply on Barkley for Everton's first free-kick. From that, Deulofeu was next to fire in on Fabianski from outside the area.
But a ridiculous back-pass from Stones put Howard under massive pressure and he was deemed to have fouled Ayew running in as he attempted to clear the ball late, Sigurdsson, smashing in an unstoppable spot-kick.
Lukaku turned well to beat a defender but dragged his shot wide when something on target would have been more appropriate.
If the start had been poor, the Blues were well out of sorts as their play failed to get going until Baines finally swung in a great cross that bounced nicely for Deulofeu but his accurate drive was blocked out for a corner. Barry was the most alert, nipping in to glance a nice shot that was deflected in at the far post by Cork to level matters.
But Mirallas had been struggling, and he finally went off, with Pienaar coming on in his place. Deulofeu delivering a fine cross for Lukaku to attack but under some pressure. The Blues were still struggling for any continuity and another Swansea attack saw Ayew fire in a shot that deflected horribly off Stones's attempted block and past Howard at the near post.
Barkley made a good run, and his shot was blocked for a corner but it came to nothing and Funes Mori had to time his covering challenge well to stop the break forward by a very tricky Swans side.
A poor challenge by Rangel on Cleverley saw him carded but Cleverley's free-kick from deep was too strong for Lukaku, and Swansea were soon pressing the Blues back again. The visitors were simply playing far better than the home side, sharper, more committed, quicker to the ball, more accurate with their passing... Hopefully this was Everton's poor half; it needed to be followed by something far far better.
After the restart, Oviedo won a corner that was taken rather hurriedly by Deulofeu and defended away. On the other side, the linkage between Baines and Pienaar was not really clicking, and limited Everton possession was squandered too easily, allowing Swansea to press and Routledge to fire in on Howard, whose leg this time was in the right place.
The best move so far saw a nice interchange with and Lukaku and Baines, his cross to Barkley should have been buried but Baines was deemed offside. Everton were finally trying to get the ball into the area better, as Fabianski was booked for time-wasting.
Better play saw an brilliant cross in from Deulofeu but Lukaku was three feet behind it and Pienaar well beyond the far post could not control it. Another absolutely fantastic cross from Deulofeu, but again, Lukaku 5 feet further back, and not showing any challenge for the ball. But Everton were pushing forward better, Deulofeu firing in another great corner, but no Everton head on the receiving end.
Barkley was doing better, trying to take more control as a Number 10, but despite some intricate passing, he could not dig out a shot. Deulofeu fed Lukaku to feet but the big man tried and failed to curl in his shot, it drifting wide.
With Everton still unable to carve out a direct strike on goal, Martinez used his last sub as a like-for-like swap: Coleman for Oviedo, as time ticked away and Swansea came back into it a little, having resisted the second-half efforts from the Blues.
A better move saw a corner from Baines delivered in well, and a deep cross in from Deulofeu that was punched out by Fabianski, then a loud appeal for handball but it was a natural position of the arm: unintentional. Baines delivered another looping corner but Barkley could not get a clean strike on it.
Another absolutely brilliant cross from Deulofeu and this time Lukaka was perfectly placed but utterly unconvinced as he wafted lamely at it as it flew by him. A shockingly pathetic lack of commitment and determination from the big man.
Cleverley picked out Lukaku with an excellent forward ball to his feet but the big man yet again made a horrible mess of it and the defender won the ball. Everton's next attack lacked inventiveness and was eventually stalled by Fabianski.
Another brilliant Deulofeu cross but this one deemed to have curled out before reaching Baines well beyond the far post. Baines lashed a free-kick far too deep and well beyond Lukaku whose tumble was ignored by Ref Taylor. Into the last 10 minutes and it looked like Everton had exhausted all attacking possibilities, unable to penetrate the determined Swans defence.
Determined work from Barkley, with some great close control, finally saw a nice cross right onto Lukaku's head but his delivery was weak and easily saved by Fabianski.
Coleman worked his way in brilliantly after a fantastic ball from Stones but he scuffed his shot with only Fabianski to beat. As late subs by the new Italian manager broke up the tempo, another cross from Deulofeu, this time behind Lukaku whose header looped over the bar.
There was nothing wrong with Deulofeu's late delivery of a free-kick except that it was met by two Swansea defenders rather than a blue shirt, as time finally ran out for the beleaguered Blues.
The last play was a great corner, headed brilliantly in by Stones to Coleman who clipped over the bar from point blank range. It was simply not to be...
Another shockingly poor home result... but at least it wasn't another draw.
Scorers: Cork (og:26'); Sigurdsson (pen:17'), Ayew (34').
Everton: Everton: Howard, Oviedo (67' Coleman), Stones, Funes Mori, Baines, Barry, Besic (10' Cleverley), Deulofeu, Barkley, Mirallas (29' Pienaar), Lukaku.
Subs not Used: Robles, Kone, Lennon, Osman.
Swansea: Fabianski [Y:52'], Rangel (91' Naughton) [Y:35'], Fernandez, Williams, Taylor, Cork, Britton, Ki, Sigurdsson [Y:64'], Routledge (77' Amat), Ayew (89' Eder).
Subs not Used: Emnes, Nordfeldt, Montero, Barrow.
Referee: Anthony Taylor
From My Seat: Swansea (H)
Lunch in Walton and a meet up in the Room of Nonsense where we anticipated a steady three points as we warm up for Wednesday night. The team came through and found favour with most, although a rumour had gone around that Robles may be in in place of Howard. He wasn’t. The walk up was a procession of fans in good mood anticipating nothing less than a victory against a team in some bother at the wrong end of the table. Snatches of conversations were of where in the league we would be after these three points. I wasn’t so cock sure as Swansea were in their first game under a new chief coach and that always gives teams a lift.
In for Z-Cars and the handshake and we start the game attacking the Park End. For a good minute and a half we chased shadows as Swansea played keep-ball and in the main we stood off and let them. Not a good omen I thought. The next half hour was to prove my thinking right as it was the worst spell I can remember for many a year. In the first ten minutes we had one dangerous looking attack which saw a counter attack four on three with Besic leading the charge and Mirallas sprinting to his right and screaming for the ball. Besic ignored him motored on and struck a shot that hit the outside of the post.
The next time I noted Besic he was sitting on the turf. The medics came on and took him off to be replaced by Cleverely. That is a blow to us as he has been out injured a lot and was just starting to look like a player and now another set- back. You have to feel for the lad. Swansea were attacking when they could with Ayew showing well. They also were quick to close us down with fair means or foul as Barkley found out when he was decked. We did get a free kick for that though.
It was painful to watch now and Goodison was like a morgue, eerie in fact. The players needed something. We needed something just to get the match going. What we did get was not altogether to our liking as Stones found himself with the ball at his feet and not much on for a pass to feet, a perfect opportunity for one over the top to give Lukaku and Mirallas a run but no, he dallied and dillied and then hit a slow back pass to Howard which Ayew spotted and was after it like a robber's dog,. Howard started to come, stopped (that was fatal) then came again a touch too late and he met Ayew and sort of kicked him up in the air and our ref. Mr Taylor did not hesitate to point to the spot. Our lads sort of protested but to no avail. Sigurdsson took and almost took the net off. Who was to blame? Well from my seat it was both Stones and Howard plus the dilly-dallying at the back. The faithful were not pleased.
Everton tried to rally but we were lacklustre. I have seen much more life in a dog's fur. Lukaku did turn well to get a shot in but it bothered the corner flag more than the goal. As the half hour approached Baines at last got a good cross in and Deulofeu hit it hard and low on target but a Swans defender got a block and we got a corner. Cleverley put in a low one and our only decent player Barry made the near-post run and got a flick on it and the ball went in off a post. The roar that usually greets goals for the Blues at Goodison was at best tepid.
The goal was timed at 25 minutes and I thought that might be just what we need to wake up and play but within five minutes things got worse as Mirallas pulled up and had to be replaced by Pienaar. So that is him and Besic out for the City game and much longer probably plus, we had used two subs to injury in the first half hour making it difficult to change much as the manager might have liked.
Could it get any worse? Well, yes it could and did when just four minutes later we failed to halt a Swansea raid and the ball was fed to Ayew who shot with venom, the ball deflected off Stones and whipped past Howard at his near post and, Hey-Ho, we are behind again.
Swansea were now protecting their lead by parking the bus and our efforts to break it down almost always ended in blocks or a misplaced pass. Swansea were taking advantage of this by breaking quickly and stretching us. Where Swansea were quick, incisive and putting a real shift in we looked, I am sorry to report, bereft of ideas and no one except Barry tried to rectify the situation. In fact, it would have been easy to accuse certain players of not really trying such was the lethargy. Half-time was a welcome relief from what we had witnessed.
During the interval we had a young lad George Shaw who has cerebral palsy getting the chance to score a goal at the street end and receive the crowd’s roar, all this set up by Deulofeu. Everton do some things really, really, well. I bet that little lad and his dad who was with him were made up.
Second half and we did start brighter but not with that intensity that suggests cups have been thrown. We attacked more but were unable to really get at them where it mattered and, indeed, the first chance of the half went to the visitors when, from our move breaking down, Swansea swiftly got down our right and Routledge got into our box and let fly but luckily Howard’s leg was the saviour.
We then started to get wide and get the ball into the box and with some success at times. Baines and Lukaku exchanged passes, Baines's cross was on the money and Barkley should have scored but didn’t and as it turned out it didn’t matter as Baines was given offside. However ,our strategy of getting wide and getting crosses in was unsettling Swansea and their keeper was booked for time-wasting at an early hour. Also Barkley was trying to get his surge going but was thwarted on the edge by crowding out or he twisted and turned this way and that but could never find his right moment and eventually ended up being robbed.
Deulofeu was having a little purple patch and speeding passed his men usually from a well-placed pass from Barry and delivering some excellent hard and fast crosses the fact that we did not capitalise on this period has me baffled. As anyone who follows the Blues on a regular basis can tell you the type of cross that he puts in with some 95% accuracy yet the players he trains and plays with seem not to have the fans' knowledge as no one closes on the goal line as he delivers. Today I am convinced we could have scored three if they had half the knowledge of the fans. Makes you wonder what they do in training.
The clock was ticking down at what seemed a fast rate of knots and the manager used the last available sub by swapping Oviedo with Coleman. Oviedo got a good send-off but in truth he had not had his greatest game. The best efforts we had were from Baines corners and also a loud shout of ‘Penalty’ from the street end but the ref waved that awa,y plus no player made the claim. Barry was tirelessly prompting but the edge of the box was our downfall as we seemed to run out of ideas there and Lukaku looking disinterested as we failed to get a ball to his feet going forward and, to make matters worse, when he at last got one he tamely put it wide.
Ten to go and Barkley got a cross in that Lukaku got to but could only loop it to the keeper. Then Stones, who had a day to forget, did come forward and deliver a superb through pass to Coleman who sped in on goal then scuffed a shot that went past the far post. I have seen him do much better with those sorts of chances.
Three minutes extra added and one more chance occurred when from a corner Stones headed across goal to the far post where Coleman was lurking unmarked. A tap in, ‘GOAL’ was in the throat but that is where it died as he somehow hoisted it over the bar with the last kick of the game.
MotM – Barry
Coming out of the ground was a bit like leaving a funeral. Sombre faces heading into the dusk and many wondering if we will get near City on Wednesday. The manager was getting some stick, mainly due to the lessons we are supposed to be learning are not being learned and too many games are throwing up the same mistakes.
I wondered if it was the semi-final on too many minds that caused that football calamity today. So many good players under-performing and, worse still, showing little fight or intensity. I think fans can take a defeat if the players have given their all but today’s offering is only likely to cause rancour.
We have our manager and other managers lauding our players with some being in high demand for high money. I hope the players realise that even if it is Barcelona next stop they should represent their club with respect and put in the shifts of skill and endeavour and not believe their own hype. Fans pay lots of money to follow and support them and deserve of their best.
Let’s hope they get it together for Wednesday. Today they were all expensive Fur Coat but no knickers!
Dynamo Kiev rule out January sale of YarmolenkoDynamo Kiev's owner, Igor Surkis, has said that Andriy Yarmolenko won't be going anywhere this month because he wants to keep the 26-year-old on board for the remainder of his club's Champions League run.
Though the report doesn't carry any direct quotes, that's the claim in The Mirror who say that Everton are still interested in signing Yarmolenko, who is continuing his rehabilitation from a medial knee ligament injury that would preclude him from going straight into Everton's side anyway, but will have to wait until the summer.
Recent speculation had it that the Blues were prepared to offer £21m for the Ukrainian international after Yarmolenko himself said that his situation hasn't changed: i.e. he has an agreement with the Kiev supremo that he can leave to join a club in a "bigger league" provided Dynamo receive a "suitable offer."
Broadcaster Ian "Moose" Abrahams tweeted this evening that according to his sources "Yarmolenko to Everton is back on the agenda".
Meanwhile, there are reports that Arsenal have entered the race to sign him and could offer £25m this month to prise Yarmolenko away.
Elsewhere, another reported Everton target, IÃ±aki Williams has signed a new contract at Athletic Bilbao, putting an end to those transfer stories linking him with a move to Goodison Park.
And Chelsea's Bertrand Traore, mooted as a possible loan signing this month for Roberto Martinez, looks likely to join Marseille on loan.
Having enjoyed a rare full week's preparation between fixtures, Everton play the first of five games in the space of just 14 days with the visit of Swansea City to Goodison Park this Sunday.
It's a run of matches that promises to be season-defining for Roberto Martinez and his team – back to back Premier League victories over the Swans and Newcastle followed by a successful revenge mission at Stoke could vault the Blues back into European contention, while a pair of positive results in the cup could see them sidestep a potential banana skin in Carlisle and book their place in their first Wembley final in seven years.
The notion that Martinez's side could win five on the bounce – in reality, of course, a draw at the Etihad on Wednesday would do – when they have yet to win more than two in a row in all competitions this season so far might sound a little fanciful but that is essentially the reality facing Everton if they are to remain alive on all three fronts.
Adamant that his side won last Saturday's controversial game at Chelsea – the fourth good or decent result since the turn of the year – Martinez has expressed his confidence that his team is continuing to learn its lessons and, with more personnel due back from injury in the coming days, the squad is primed to go on the kind of run it needs to finally ignite the League campaign.
He could welcome Seamus Coleman back after two and a half weeks out with a calf strain to ease the selection problem at right back that was thrown up by his absence. Bryan Oviedo is fit to deputise there again if required – the Costa Rican suffered no damage to his ankle at Stamford Bridge after all despite being stretchered off – and John Stones is again another option but the manager would surely like to see his first-choice fullback start.
In midfield, Tom Cleverley should be fit enough to start and will surely be in Martinez's thinking for the left sided midfield role he has filled already this season, although he will face stern competition from Kevin Mirallas who has surely earned his place in the starting XI following his impressive display last weekend.
It's also possible that, having seen Gerard Deulofeu struggle in recent games as a starter and Aaron Lennon fail to make a significant impact himself that Martinez could deploy the Belgian on the right and Cleverley on the left.
Swansea will have new manager Francesco Guidolin in the dugout for the first time since he was appointed as the long-term successor to Gark Monk, though much of the direction will probably still come from interim boss Alan Curtis who oversaw the South Wales side's victory over Watford last time out.
That represented their first win since Boxing Day and kept them out of the relegation zone by a point coming into this weekend's games but with one win on their travels so far this season and only one win over Everton in any competition in their history, they know they will have their work cut out for them.
For Martinz and Everton, the opportunity is there to finally demonstrate that they are the kind of team that they and the fans know they can be. They will know that, with 11 draws on the board and just one home win in the Premier League since November, nothing short of victory will do.
With goals continuing to flow at the right end, doing what it takes to win the game up front should not be a problem based on recent evidence – it's retaining the defensive solidity and organisation that they showed against Spurs and Chelsea at Goodison that will be the keys to all three points.
Kick off: 1.30pm
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Predicted line-up: Howard, Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Baines, Barry, Besic, Cleverley, Barkley, Mirallas, Lukaku