Everton: Stracq's A Hero, Pienaar's Ace And Phil Neville's Tackle Was As Good As A Goal

How things change. Everton were mired in poor form on the pitch and arguments off it. But with new signings and an attacking brand of football, things are definitely on the up...
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How things change. Everton were mired in poor form on the pitch and arguments off it. But with new signings and an attacking brand of football, things are definitely on the up...

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Everton: Stracq's A Hero, Pienaar's Ace And Phil Neville's Tackle Was As Good As A Goal

Steven Pienaar is ace (still)

The South African epitomised all that was good about Everton on Saturday. Making his second home debut, a fifth minute strike set the Toffees on the way to what turned out as a fairly comfortable victory. Pienaar had the beating of Chelsea full-back José Bosingwa all afternoon, his trickery and effort fully deserving of the standing ovation he received on being replaced by Royston Drenthe. The opening goal displayed terrific composure as Pienaar chested down a high ball and powered a half-volley into the roof of Petr Čech's net.

His all round performance was of the highest order. Tirelessly pushing forward and tracking back, he brought so much extra to a side that evidently needed an injection of canniness and ruse. One piece of skill, an elegant shimmy that left Bosingwa wondering where his marker had disappeared to, was the type of moment that young Evertonians will have replayed in their dreams tonight. As David Moyes said after the game: "Sometimes players fit clubs and maybe this just suits him". Welcome home.

Landon Donovan will be missed

Granted, he hasn't quite hit the heights of his first loan spell, but Landon Donovan's second stint at Everton has provided the club with a timely boost. He adds a balance to the side that our other wingers haven't been able to supply, knowing when to do the right things in attack and, equally importantly in a David Moyes side, knowing how to protect his full-back. Phil Neville took to Twitter after the game to say "I've played with some very good right wingers in my career and @landondonovan is up their with the best!" Overlooking his incapacity to use the correct version of 'there', his praise for Donovan is not unwarranted.

The American knows exactly when to play a killer pass - for evidence look no further than his through ball for Victor Anichebe to score at Aston Villa or his assist for Denis Stracqualursi's goal yesterday. His combination of a superb 'football brain' and pace will be missed when he returns to California after the FA Cup tie with Blackpool next week.

Denis Stracqualursi is fast becoming an Everton cult hero

I must confess, I had totally written off our Argentine loanee just four games ago. Useless in front of goal, with the turning circle of a bus and the first touch of a Stoke City defender. How my opinion of him - and that of many other Evertonians - has changed. It's still clear he's not blessed with technical ability but his sheer effort and determination has completely won me over. He appears proud to wear the shirt, his attitude second to none.

There's that saying that God loves a trier. It could equally apply to Evertonians. Since scoring against Fulham in the FA Cup, Stracqualursi tore Manchester City's defence to shreds and yesterday capped another fine individual showing with Everton's second goal. Evertonians have taken the loveable lump to their hearts. Interesting footnote - he's only the second Everton player ever to have a 'Q' in their surname. Can you name the other? (answer at the bottom)

Phil Neville tackle 'as good as a goal'

David Moyes said after the victory that he cheered Phil Neville's challenge on Ashley Cole almost as much as he did Everton's goals. It was an exquisitely timed tackle, wonderful to see in an age where that particular art has been all but eliminated from our game. Strong but totally fair, it was even slightly reminiscent of the same player's tackle on Cristiano Ronaldo a few years back that proved a turning point in Everton's season.

England's second best left-back (Leighton Baines is the best, if you're wondering) limped off shortly afterwards. Which I can't say I was too disappointed about as he is one of the most detestable players in the sport. Well in Phil.

The atmosphere was much improved

In a poor man's 'chicken or egg' debate, it is contested whether players respond to encouragements from the stands or whether the fans respond to the players' actions on the field. Regardless of which sparks the other, one thing for certain is that both the performances and the atmosphere at Goodison have improved dramatically over the last few games. That is, in part at least, down to the excitement created by the January deadline day arrivals; the return of the 'prodigal son' Steven Pienaar and the £5.5 million striker that we have waiting in the wings.

It is well known how a rocking Goodison can intimidate opposition. Let's hope that the players keep giving the fans cause for a sing-song, and that the fans continue to oblige. The support undoubtedly made a real difference today and in the previous few games. Long may it continue.

Answer to question in point 3: Jesper Blomqvist

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