Start the celebrations: Everton players rush to congratulate Phil Neville after scoring the decisive penalty against Chelsea. Just don't mention Reading.
As we continue to review Everton’s 2010/11 Premier League campaign I have chosen five of my favourite games from the season. Granted there wasn’t a great deal of choice, and choosing the five worst games of the year may have a longer shortlist, but this at least serves as a reminder that this season did have some moments to remember.
Everton 2 Liverpool 0 17th October 2010
As obvious one this, any Merseyside derby win over Liverpool is one to treasure and this was no different. What made this game so strange though was the performance – or should I say non-performance – of the Reds. As soon as Tim Cahill volleyed the Toffees in front on 34 minutes the result never really looked in doubt, though that didn’t stop Evertonian hearts racing throughout the 90 minutes. The standout moment of the game was a superb strike from Mikel Arteta, the Spaniard controlling the ball on the edge of the box before firing in an unstoppable shot beyond an unsighted Reina. The fans spent the rest of the game taunting the Liverpool supporters, whose side barely threatened Tim Howard's goal. The writing was already on the wall for Roy Hodgson even before he bizarrely claimed after the game that this was his side's best performance of the season.
Man City 1 Everton 2 20th December 2010
The two months following the Liverpool game were instantly forgettable as the pillars of Everton’s campaign collapsed all around them. The visit to high flying and big spending Man City, with Carlos Tevez back in the team after his withdrawn transfer request, looked another defeat in the making. Indeed I went into this game full of my usual pessimism. But the Toffees’ handy knack of beating Mancini’s men - and pulling a performance out of the bag when all seemed lost - continued with two goals in the first 15 minutes, instantly putting City on the back foot. The second from Leighton Baines was a beauty, curling the ball home with his right foot after good work by Tim Cahill and Victor Anichebe, and warmed us all up on one of the coldest nights of the year. A late Phil Jagielka own goal made for a nervy finish, but the players defiantly held on for a win so at odds to what we had seen for much of the season so far.
Everton 5 Blackpool 3 5th February 2011
It was crazy games like these that made me support Blackpool in their battle for survival. Holloway’s men arrived at Goodison with the intention of going for the heart of the Toffees defence. Everton were still struggling at the wrong end of the table at this point and a defeat would have dragged them further towards the relegation zone. But unfortunately for Blackpool they encountered Louis Saha at his predatory best. The Frenchman would almost certainly still be at Man United if he didn’t have legs made of chalk and Everton gambled on him in the hope of seeing occasional glimpses of his true talents. We certainly did see that on this soggy afternoon as he grabbed four goals, with Beckford volleying home a fine fifth, to finally put to bed a brave Blackpool fight back.
Chelsea 1 Everton 1 FA Cup 4th round replay 19th February 2011
A game the highlighted all that is good about Everton as the players battled and scrapped for 120 frantic and breathless minutes. After a 1-1 draw in the first leg Tim Howard was the hero for much of normal time, making several key saves. Extra time looked to be heading for heartbreak when Frank Lampard fired the Champions in front. But what I - and I suspect many Evertonians - didn’t count on was a moment of pure magic from Leighton Baines as the full-back arrowed a free-kick into the top corner past a stranded Petr Cech in the final minute of extra time. The feeling of elation must have transferred its way to the five penalty takers, as well as Howard, who saved Nicolas Anelka’s spot kick. Ashley Cole hilariously blazed over leaving it to Phil Neville to take one step and plant the winner into the top corner and spark more wild scenes among the sizeable travelling support.
Everton 2 Man City 1 Sat 7th May 2011
With the season drifting towards a subdued conclusion Everton produced one last swashbuckling performance to once again trip up money bags Man City. Yaya Toure’s first half strike looked to have out the away side in control but Moyes, the players and the Goodison crowd responded in the second half to roar back. First Sylvan Distin headed home a free kick to level things before Leon Osman – arguably in the form of his life at this point – rose majestically to plant Phil Neville’s cross into the far corner. It was a result and performance that highlighted just how well the team could perform on their day, but left us scratching our heads as to why we didn’t see it more often. It has though set a marker for the next campaign and perhaps given us fans hope for a brighter future.