LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 21: Leon Osman of Everton scores a goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Swansea City at Goodison Park on December 21, 2011 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Two of the lowest scoring teams in the Premier League clashed on Wednesday evening at Goodison Park, so a 1-0 result was always going to be the most likely outcome if Everton were to emerge victorious. Yet again, chances were aplenty for the Blues, but the clinical finishing was missing for the most part. But a win's a win, and considering Swansea City provided an organized and stubborn opponent this victory should give the team a boost headed into the Boxing Day match on Monday at Sunderland. Game thoughts and player ratings after the jump...Game thoughts...
- Yes, Swansea struggle to score, especially away from home. And yes, Swansea came to Goodison with the full intention of parking the bus, keeping a clean sheet, and hoping more than trying to nick a goal of their own. But it's still nice to see Everton hold an opposing team scoreless, even if it is one of the very few teams in the Premier League that might have less firepower than we do. I thought the back four did really well tonight.
- Referee Kevin Friend was inconsistent at times, and it seemed that he was hesitant to make any controversial decisions and played the game safe. Most confusing was his choice to ignore what appeared to be a handball in the box by Swansea left back Neil Taylor off a Magaye Gueye effort, while minutes later whistling for a nearly identical handball by Ashley Williams (this time on the edge of the box). There was also a penalty shout from Leroy Lita in the second half, and while I've seen penalties given for less I feel it would have been a tad harsh.
- Man do I love me some Royston Drenthe, and I applaud David Moyes for starting him tonight. He did his best to make an otherwise stagnant offense tick, which is precisely the role Mikel Arteta used to play so well.
- Great headed goal by Osman, off a delightful cross from Drenthe. There was a worry after the game though, as Osman seemed to pick up a knock and was visibly hobbling for the final few minutes. He's in a good run of form at the moment and hopefully will be ready to go for the next match.
- I (along with many other Evertonians I'd wager) do not enjoy watching Phil Neville play in the midfield. Though he was benched for a brief spell earlier in the year, because he's the captain he's usually going to be in the team. I get that. But against a team like Swansea, at home, I would prefer a more offensively-minded player at central midfield. Too many times tonight we had a chance to break only for Neville to pass the ball backwards. Of course, there really isn't much in the way of alternatives with Rodwell out, unless Moyes wanted to roll the dice with Barkley.
- I thought the commentators made an excellent observation early in the second half about Everton's forward play (or lack thereof). Swansea had just made one of their rare forays into the Everton half, but once we won the ball back we were far too slow to react and a golden chance at a counterattack fizzled out. This is no doubt a product of the 4-4-1-1 formation, but I still would have liked to see more blue shirts in front of the Swansea goal because Baines and Drenthe provided some excellent service at times.
T. Howard - Nothing to do aside from Danny Graham's header directly at his chest, but it goes down as his third clean sheet of the season. 6
L. Baines - Wasn't especially memorable today and Drenthe stole a few of his free kicks, but did what he needed to do when asked. 6
J. Heitinga - I expected Distin to take his place after a sub-par game against Norwich, but Johnny bounced back with a solid effort. 7
P. Jagielka - His usual self. Paid to defend, and he did that well today. 7
T. Hibbert - Thought he put in a really good shift today, especially after we scored and he was called upon to make a few crucial tackles. 7
R. Drenthe (Cahill 79) - Wasn't perfect, but contributed more to the victory than any other player on the field. His creativity and flair are enjoyable to watch if nothing else. 8
P. Neville - Clogged up the midfield, both for Swansea and Everton. 5
M. Fellaini - Another so-so game for Fellaini. Won some challenges but should have tried to get forward more. 6
S. Coleman (Gueye 30) - A mistake by Moyes to rush him back, but he tried hard in his half-hour on the pitch. 5
L. Osman - Scored again and played some very nice football at times. My only quibble is that I wish he could have gotten himself into scoring positions more frequently. 8
L. Saha (Stracqualursi 74) - A typical game this season for King Louis. Lots of effort, no reward. 5
M. Gueye (substitute 30) - Had a pair of priceless opportunities to score, but Michel Vorm was his kryptonite today. 6
D. Stracqualursi (substitute 74) - Squandered a chance to double Everton's advantage, but he at least provided the fans with some comedy when he tried to head the ball forward from his stomach. 5
T. Cahill (substitute 79) - Didn't do much of anything in the ten minutes he was on. 5
Man of the Match: Royston Drenthe