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"echo" Article

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David Prentice article in the Echo. It's in "Hot off the Press" but I think deserves to be posted here...

 

MANCHESTER CITY’S spectacular stadium provided the backdrop for the lowest point of David Moyes’ time as Everton manager.

 

It’s now the scene of the high spot, too.

 

It was May 15, 2004 when Everton crashed 5-1 to a slack City side, limped to their lowest points tally for 116 years, scored their most meagre goals total of all-time and fielded a couple of players who had clearly decided to put on their summer flip flops early.

 

Fast forward four years and the difference is stark.

 

Sven Goran Eriksson’s City are a good team.

 

But they were comprehensively dismantled by an efficient, energetic and effervescent Everton last night.

 

The biggest travesty of the night – on an evening when the typically wretched Rob Styles perpetrated more than a few – was the scoreline.

 

This was as comfortable a 2-0 win as you could imagine.

 

Yakubu and Joleon Lescott scored the goals which were the least Everton’s dominance deserved.

 

Steven Pienaar hit the bar, yet another stonewall penalty was denied, Joe Hart saved from Johnson, Carsley and Osman, Richard Dunne hacked off the line – twice; it was that dominant.

 

And it was against a resurgent City who had just won at Old Trafford – a City side which has lost only once all season at home, to Arsenal.

 

Eriksson was presumably using the kind of brazen front he usually reserves for the ladies when he walked into the Eastlands press lounge and claimed: “We were the better team for 31 minutes, but they defended very well.”

 

Everton were the better team for the entire 94 minutes, and no Scandinavian sauce could hide that fact.

 

Moyes looked like a man who might need an operation to remove the smile from his face.

 

But was this really his high point as Everton boss?

 

He has certainly enjoyed some scintillating and significant moments – a first win at Leeds for 51 years, a penalty shoot-out success, a fourth placed finish, a 3-0 derby win, a thrilling rampage through Europe – but they were fleeting memories.

 

There is the suggestion of something enduring, something permanent, something progressive about this Everton squad he has created.

 

They may fall short in the race for fourth. They may not even finish the season as their fans demand, by playing at City twice. But if those two unwanted moments take place, unlikely given their current form, this squad has the look of a side that will be back.

 

Four players were present at the City of Manchester stadium four years ago for that Moyes nadir – Tony Hibbert, Leon Osman, Joseph Yobo and Lee Carsley. All have been instrumental in the revival – Carsley was outstanding last night – and he wasn’t alone.

 

Phil Jagielka picked up the TV bubbly, and you couldn’t have argued. But Tim Cahill’s influence was arguably the most decisive.

 

Cahill and Eastlands have also had a chequered history.

 

The little Australian headed the first of his 36 Everton goals there in the autumn of 2004. It was also his first Premier League strike, but was swiftly followed by a red card.

 

Last night, he did the dirty jobs which mattered in midfield, but also provided the creative spark which provided the breakthrough.

 

He linked sweetly with Yakubu, waited patiently for the striker to manoeuvre into position, then delivered a perfectly weighted pass for Everton’s top scorer to finish.

 

The result was never in doubt from that moment.

 

One half of Everton’s make or break week has already been negotiated with a significant result. A follow-up win over Portsmouth on Sunday would really send out a forceful signal to the rest of the Champions League chasing clubs.

 

Moyes may try and play it down, but his players are making a mockery of his self-deprecating philosophy.

 

This Everton team is good enough to finish in a top four place this season – and they look like they’re in for the long haul.

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