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My Goodison Greats: Matches

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During the writing stage of last week’s two-part article, I figured I had more memories from my time at Goodison than players. A collection of wonderful, or not-so but memorable, players are great but the coming together of them to produce an exciting 90 minutes worth of action is more powerful. So, in that spirit I thought I would put together a list of my favourite matches watching at Goodison Park. I find that sometimes it’s nice to look back and share memories that are particularly special to you for one reason or another.

In some ways this was easier to write than last week’s and in some ways it was harder. The criterion for this week was easier; after all it’s not hard to remember which matches I have attended, even if it’s hard to remember who played! However, there have been so many that it’s hard to narrow down to 10. Much like Prime Memories, I had my 10 before an 11th popped into my head and refused to drop. I’ll start by mentioning a few of the ones that failed to make the cut.

  1. Any under Walter Smith. Sadly, this means saying goodbye to the time Paul Gascoigne ripped Leyton Orient apart in the FA Cup (memorable for that and the unbelievable queues that greeted us as we arrived, ticketless) and my first ever match (as I mentioned last week, a 1-0 victory over Southampton). There were no others that came close to making the cut because we were awful under Smith.
  2. Gibson’s winner against City. His first goal, a trademark thunderbolt and wonderful match to be at came in at 12th in my list. The only match on transfer deadline day I’ve been to and a very important deadline day, so it gets a mention later.
  3. So many more! Jelavic’s first goal against Tottenham, a dreadful victory over Villa but we won so I remember it fondly, scraping past Derby on my birthday and Arteta’s debut v Portsmouth were all one’s I thought about but none came close to the final 11.

I have had 3 stints of being a season ticket holder, 2 sitting in the lower Gwladys and one in the upper Bullens. The majority of these matches came while sat in the upper reaches of the stadium, with the TV crews and near the away fans although some I viewed from the Street. Only two are matches I didn’t attend on a season ticket. Let’s begin then, and we start way back in 2004…

11: Everton 3 – 4 Manchester United (7th Feb 2004):

This feature starts with a defeat. So, to be on this list it has to be pretty special and this match had almost everything in it! At half time, it was the same old Everton story. We had rolled over, conceded 3 goals and looked to be a poor non-league side bowing down at the feet of the Mancunian Gods. This was a Manchester United side boasting 2 future Everton players (Howard and Saha (who had 2 of the goals)), as well as featuring Fletcher, Keane, Scholes, Giggs and van Nistlerooy (the other goal). Everton, 3-0 down at half time, were surely toast. Bringing 3 players on at the interval, David Moyes had different ideas.

From the first minute of the second half we were fantastic. Unsworth headed home a corner, a John O’Shea own goal brought us back into it and then Kilbane struck home Gravesen’s free kick to make it 3-3. Nigel Martyn produced save after save from Scholes and co before we were cruelly denied a deserved point in the last minute thanks to Ruud Van Nistlerooy’s 101st goal for Manchester United. Nevertheless, the endeavour shown by the Everton manager that day meant for years I would say Moyes would make 3 changes at half time and change the match completely. The second half performance was probably the best under the early days of Moyes, showing our resilience and channelling the dogs of war spirit. It was absolutely heart breaking to lose, and given that all but the winner was scored at the other end to us, a seemingly strange choice for this feature however the match has always remained with me and deserves its place on here. It’s also proof that I did see Rooney play for Everton.

Everton team: Martyn, Hibbert, Stubbs, Unsworth, Pistone (Naysmith 45), Watson (Rooney 45), Gravesen, Carsley, Kilbane, Ferguson, Jeffers (Radzinski 45)

Goals: Unsworth (49), O’Shea (OG – 65), Kilbane (75)

10: Everton 5 – 3 Blackpool (5th Feb 2011):

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Almost exactly 7 years on from that United match and Louis Saha was in fine scoring form again, yet this time it was for Everton. At half time, the match was finely poised at 1-1, despite our dominance. Saha had grabbed his first after 20 minutes only to see Baptiste equalize in the 37th. Just after the break, Saha scored his second before 2 goals in 2 minutes from Blackpool around the hour mark gave the visitors a 3-2 lead.

Under Moyes, losing was just the spark we needed to glide into top gear and we did it to remarkable effect on that rainy afternoon at Goodison. On the 76th minute, Saha made it 3-3 with a header before substitute Beckford volleyed home the fourth with 10 minutes to go. At this point, I remember thinking that there were more goals in this game and we needed a fifth else we wouldn’t win. As Blackpool pressed for a, quite frankly deserved, equalizer we started to threaten more on the break and it was during one of these that Saha scored his fourth and Everton’s fifth. He instigated the break himself and rather than play Beckford in he went at it alone, running half the length of the field to slot past the Blackpool keeper. A striker scoring 4 in a match is a rare occurrence, and on top of that the match was full of quality. Every Toffee fan arrived that day wanting to beat the Tangerines, a lot left hoping Blackpool would beat the drop.

Everton team: Howard, Neville, Heitinga, Distin, Baines, Coleman, Bilyaletdinov (Cahill 70), Arteta, Fellaini, Rodwell (Beckford 70), Saha (Jagielka 86)

Goals: Saha (20, 47, 76, 84), Beckford (80)

9: Everton 3 – 2 Newcastle (30th Sep 2013):

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Was this match the start of the Martinez revolution? Or was it simply the sign that Barkley and Lukaku would be deadly together? More time is needed to stumble upon an answer. It’s always been my belief that night matches are best at Goodison and this is evidence of that, as it was a Monday night full of optimism, promise and the usual nail-biting finish that must come hand in hand with every Everton success.

After Lukaku steered a cross in at the near post, Barkley and the Belgian attacker produced 30 minutes or so of top class forward action. Lukaku played the pass of the night to set Barkley up for our second, and they were terrorising the shaky Newcastle defence every time we ventured forwards. In truth, Newcastle were incredibly poor and we deserved the third goal, courtesy of more defensive errors. The match could have finished 6 or 7 nil. It didn’t, and that’s why it doesn’t feature higher on this list. Cabaye pulled one back for the Toon before Remy made us sweat a bit but if we hadn’t have won this match, it would have been a travesty. This probably wouldn’t feature on many peoples list however it does on mine due to the sheer brilliance of Lukaku and Barkley. That first half was nothing short of mesmerising and had me believing Martinez was the way forward for my football club for the first time.

Everton team: Howard, Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, McCarthy, Barry, Mirallas (Deulofeu 73), Barkley (Naismith 88), Osman (Stones 90), Lukaku

Goals: Lukaku (5, 37), Barkley (25)

8: Everton 1 – 0 Chelsea (14th Sep 2013):

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September 2013 was a good month. We played 3 matches and won all 3, which included the victory over Newcastle I’ve mentioned and Lukaku’s winner at West Ham on his debut. However, for me, the highlight was the first match of the month. The story goes that 3 games into the season, Martinez had got 3 draws and there was a tiny bit of unrest at Goodison. All of that disappeared when on deadline day we signed James McCarthy, Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku. Suddenly, a wave of optimism spread across our club like winning the jackpot while in a casino. We were Everton and we were quality once again. Chelsea were the first to face the new Everton and, even though Lukaku couldn’t play, they were the first to lose.

This match was the most un-Martinez game we played at Goodison all season. Chelsea dominated almost every aspect of it, having more possession, making more passes and taking more shots. They should have been 2 or 3 up at half time, and would have been at least 1 to the good if it weren’t for new boy Barry making a huge impact by tackling future teammate Eto’o when he had an open goal to aim for. Martinez had pulled a masterstroke by putting Naismith on the right wing against Cole and told him to make a nuisance of himself. The Scot won every header, every tackle and every ball that came near him. He was on fire, and when Cole got taken off after 69 minutes it was clear his career at Chelsea was over. Naismith deserved to score the winner, and score it he did when he headed the ball home from about 2 yards on the stroke of half time. We held on, indeed looked the more comfortable side in the second half and deserved all three points. It was a masterful mix of Moyes’ resilience and Martinez’ flair.

Everton team: Howard, Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Osman, Barry, Naismith (Stones 89), Barkley, Mirallas (Deulofeu 90), Jelavic (McCarthy 66)

Goal: Naismith (45)

7: Everton 1 – 0 Liverpool (11th Dec 2004):

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You always remember your first derby victory and I’m no different. I’ll be honest I don’t remember much about the match, hence why it doesn’t feature higher, but the two things I do remember, I remember very clearly.

The first: before the match was, I believe, the first time I heard Europe’s The Final Countdown and still to this day no song sends shivers down my spine like it does. I remember pumping myself up, thinking, nay knowing, that this was going to be our day. It was my second derby, the first had been a disaster and in truth, I was just experiencing what every football fan feels on derby day, the sheer belief that we are going to thrash them this time. It usually ends in disappointment but for once, Everton didn’t let us down. Secondly, I remember the goal incredibly well. Lee Carsley seemingly never scored, but there he was stroking the ball home after 68 minutes in front of the Gwladys Street. Which is where I was sat. The goal was nothing special but the crowd celebration certainly was. I’ve never hugged so many strangers, I’d never felt such ecstasy and relief in so many people before and it was a long time before I experienced anything like it again. It’s difficult to explain if you aren’t a sport fan however I’ll give it a go. It’s like an explosion, of both sound and emotion. As the ball ripples into the net, you jump up as one singular being and celebrate anyway you can. It’s the definition of heat of the moment, it’s the only time adults cast their inhibitions aside whilst sober. You don’t, you can’t forget how special that day was.

I’ve never witnessed another derby win live. In truth, I don’t mind that – nothing could possibly match the feelings of that day. It’s an iconic victory; the image of Cahill celebrating on top of an Everton pile has gone down in Everton folklore.

Everton team: Martyn, Hibbert, Stubbs, Weir, Pistone, Carsley, Osman (Watson 87), Gravesen (Yobo 83), Cahill, Kilbane, Bent (Ferguson 76)

Goal: Carsley (68)

6: Everton 4 – 0 Leeds United (28th Sep 2003):

Maybe it is slightly strange that this match comes in ahead of the Carsley derby however it’s a match I remember in a lot more detail, despite being more than a year earlier. It saw the emergence of a promising new Scottish talent, the continuation of a Scottish idol story at Everton and an unlikely hat-trick hero. It also must have been one of my first matches as a season ticket holder.

Steve Watson is far from the most famous Watson in history (or in print, to include the good Doctor John), he isn’t even the most famous Watson to play for Everton, but the 28th Sep 2003 was his day. The right back (admittedly playing in midfield) scored a wonderful hat trick, the first coming thanks to a volley after some nice play with Duncan Ferguson. The second was a stupendous lob from 30 yards after Robinson rushed out and the third came in the second half, a chip from an acute angle. None of it would have been possible if not for James McFadden. McFadden was a new signing from Motherwell and he was the biggest talent Britain had produced in years. Making his full debut, he took the Leeds defence to the cleaners with his exciting runs and promising play. He set Goodison alight that day and looked set to have a very prospering career. In between Watson’s goals was a trademark header from Big Dunc as Everton cruised to a very comfortable and enjoyable victory. When asked about matches I’ve attended at Goodison, this is one of the first I think about.

Everton team: Martyn, Hibbert, Yobo, Stubbs, Unsworth, Watson (Rooney 76), Gravesen, Carsley, McFadden (Linderoth 86), Radzinski (Kilbane 76), Ferguson

Goals: Watson (26, 37, 52), Ferguson (39)

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5: Everton 2 – 0 Chelsea (11th Feb 2012):

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People talk about how Sir Alex Ferguson had 3 teams while at Manchester United. For that to be true, there must have been dramatic periods of transition where a lot of the old guard left and the new guard began to settle. I believe Moyes had 3 teams while at Everton and I see the 2011-12 season as the transition into the third. Following Lescott out the exit door were Yobo, Arteta, Bilyaletdinov, Beckford, Vaughan, Turner and Yakubu. Saha would join them in January and it was Cahill’s last season with us as well. The first half of the season was dreadful but things began to change on the 31st January when Gibson, very much part of Moyes’ third team, blasted home the winner against Man City. We had already signed Nikica Jelavic that day and that night I lay awake frantically refreshing twitter for news regarding the return home of our favourite South African, Steven Pienaar. Confirmed minutes before the window shut, it was impossible not to get excited about! Pienaar, Cahill, Fellaini, Osman, Gibson and Neville – we had a midfield to die for again. The second half of the season was just fantastic as we narrowly missed out on Europe and found ourselves at Wembley. Moyes’ third team began in spectacular fashion on the 11th February.

Pienaar was back at Goodison Park and he was lining up alongside Cahill, Fellaini, Gibson and Donovan. It took 5 minutes for him to score. He intercepted a throw-in, Stracqualursi played the ball off a Chelsea defender and it bounced to Pienaar in the box. It was meant to be as he blasted the ball home. There was no way Chelsea were ever getting anything from this match from that moment on. Donovan was superb but it was Neville who brought about the second goal. Tackling Cole, who went off injured, Neville fed Donovan who beat Luiz and played in Denis. The Stracq couldn’t miss and he duly slotted it past Cech to register his only PL goal. He deserved that, he had worked his socks off for the team and as it turned out, it was a perfect swansong for a wonderful grafter. Chelsea never threatened to come back into it. AVB was gone by the end of the month as we were heading to a fabulous end to the season, thanks to the Jelavic and Pienaar effects.

Everton team: Howard, Neville, Heitinga, Distin, Baines, Gibson (Hibbert 89), Cahill, Pienaar (Drenthe 74), Fellaini, Donovan, Stracqualursi (Duffy 90)

Goals: Pienaar (5), Stracqualursi (71)

4: Everton 2 – 1 Tottenham Hotspur (9th Dec 2012):

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AVB returned to Goodison Park with a different team just 10 months later, only to leave surely hating the place. Now, there’s a big difference for me between moments and matches, and hence why this features at 4 and not 1 or 2. It was the single greatest 5 minutes that I can remember watching at Goodison but that doesn’t make it the greatest match! In fact, the rest of the match was fairly anonymous and lacking in quality from memory. Despite being the better side, we fell behind to a Dempsey strike, which deflected off Distin in the 76th minute. Tottenham should then have closed the game off but Sigurdsson could only hit the crossbar. That miss cost Spurs 3 points.

Moyes changed the match after 81 minutes by bringing Apostolos Vellios on for Leon Osman. This allowed Fellaini to drop back into the centre of the park and we started dominating proceedings. But it wasn’t until the 90th minute that that dominance paid dividends. Coleman whipped in a cross, Pienaar came charging in Cahill-esque and powered a header past Lloris. 1-1, game on. As the Goodison announcer proclaimed 4 minutes of injury time to play, Gibson sprayed the ball into the box. Vellios tried an overhead kick that didn’t quite come off but instead trickled into the path of Nikica Jelavic. Poor Jela was in one of his goal droughts, however that didn’t mean he was about to miss the chance to snatch 3 points for us! His instincts took over and his second touch once again became a celebration. I mentioned that Lee Carlsey’s winner was the first time I’d felt elation and relief in one moment amongst such a vast number of people, well this was the second. And it wasn’t just the fans. Jelavic stole a guys hat, then got substituted and high fived everyone on the bench. He was delighted to score such a crucial winner for Everton despite being with us for less than a year; maybe that’s why I loved him so much. He would only score one more league goal for us, but don’t worry – that is featured on here too.

Everton team: Howard, Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Gibson, Osman (Vellios 81), Pienaar, Fellaini, Mirallas (Naismith 46), Jelavic (Heitinga 90)

Goals: Pienaar (90), Jelavic (90) 

Because it’s worth seeing the hat being stolen (he did return it!):

3: Everton 3 – 0 Arsenal (6th April 2014):

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I very nearly didn’t make it to this match. It’s almost like everything was meant to go right on that day. A few weeks previous, Arsenal had lost to someone while we had won and I realised we were only 8 points behind them with 2 games in hand and, obviously, Arsenal to host at Goodison. We won the 2 games in hand then knew we would leapfrog them into the final Champions League spot with a win on my 21st birthday. Given that I grew up with Arsenal and United dominating, any win over them is special but this wasn’t just any win. This was a demolition. Which makes it amazing to think that without the spare tyre in Dad’s boot, we would never have made it.

First of all, credit to Roberto Martinez for pulling off a masterstroke. Lukaku on the right wing tore Monreal a new one with power, pace and strength in the air. He cut inside in the 14th minute to take a shot, which Szczesny could only parry to Naismith who duly opened the scoring. Naismith was the middle of a front three, with Belgians on the either side. Both Mirallas and Lukaku were causing Arsenal problems, with Lukaku scoring the second on the half-hour mark. The ball was swept out to him and he ran at the Arsenal defence, cut inside and unleashed a powerful shot into the bottom corner of the net. There was no coming back from that and Mirallas sealed the victory in the second half by instigating the third goal. That was made sweeter by the fact it was an Arteta own goal, which served him right for kissing the Arsenal badge the match at the Emirates. I have no problem with players celebrating against their ex-clubs but I thought that particular celebration was in poor taste and it tainted my opinion of him. Enough of him, this was easily the best match under Roberto Martinez to date.

Everton team: Howard, Coleman, Stones, Distin, Baines, Barry, McCarthy, Osman (Barkley 10), Lukaku (Deulofeu 86), Naismith (McGeady 81), Mirallas

Goals: Naismith (14), Lukaku (34), Arteta (OG, 61)

These Coleman tricks are worth a watch:

2: Everton 3 – 1 Manchester United (20th Feb 2010):

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Being born and raised in Manchester and supporting a Merseyside football club brought a plethora of problems, one of which was that it wasn’t easy to go to the matches. As a result, I had never attended a match on my own until 2010 when Dad asked me if I wanted to go to the United match on his ticket, as he could no longer go. The journey there was fine; although it was during it I became acutely aware of my slight Mancunian accent for the first time (when asking for a bus ticket in Liverpool it seemed to be much more pronounced!). Having arrived there in one piece, I saw Moyes had chosen an attacking team with Bilyaletdinov, Arteta, Pienaar, Osman and Donovan all crammed into one midfield. It turned out that Arteta and Osman were holding, Donovan on the right, Bily on the left with Pienaar in the centre. Those five were absolutely crucial to this victory.

It didn’t start well, Dimitar Berbatov scored after 16 minutes thanks to some usual lacklustre defending. However, it didn’t take long for us to restore parity as Bilyaletdinov latched onto a loose ball in the centre of the park and blasted it past Van der Sar from about 25 yards. Being honest and reading that back, I don’t do it justice – it was a phenomenal goal! It swerved and it dipped and there was nothing any goalkeeper could have done about it. Donovan, Pienaar and Bilyaletdinov starting switching places with regular aplomb, not allowing the Man U defence a chance to settle and hence stopping their attacking threat. Just when United were coming back into it, Moyes shifted things by bringing Gosling on. Gosling provided a link between Saha and the midfield and it was no surprise that he scored after good work between Pienaar and Donovan. We led, and then another substitute, Rodwell, sealed the win with a surging run from the halfway line and low shot past Van der Sar. It’s still the greatest goal he’s ever scored. Dad had never seen us beat Manchester United, I had done it on the first time I’d been to a match alone. The journey back into Manchester was a particularly special one.

Everton team: Howard, Neville, Heitinga, Distin, Baines, Arteta, Osman, Donovan, Pienaar (Rodwell 88), Bilyaletdinov (Gosling 70), Saha

Goals: Bilyaletdinov (19), Gosling (76), Rodwell (90) 

1: Everton 2 – 0 Manchester City (16th March 2013):

Everton v Manchester City - Premier League

This was just a magical 90 minutes of football, a wonderful rear-guard action in the face of intense pressure and two simply stunning goals. There was no way we ever should have won this match. No way. Just a week before, we had exited the FA cup at the quarterfinal stage with an embarrassing 3-0 home loss to eventual champions Wigan. Howard and Jagielka were missing through injury, Neville had been dropped and our bench included youngsters Springthorpe and Duffy as well as the inexperienced Barkley and Oviedo. On the other hand, City still had a slim chance of winning the title. Our season was over; theirs was starting to gather momentum.

Despite all that, we absolutely dominated Manchester City in the first half. Mirallas had a goal disallowed because he was a toe offside, before captain Leon Osman opened the scoring with a wonderful 30-yard curling effort into the top corner. It’s one of the best goals I’ve ever seen. Coleman had produced 4 or 5 step overs before laying the ball back to Osman. There was no danger, so Osman just shot and boy what a shot it was. Did he mean it? Of course he did! City responded well and were the better team by the time Pienaar, on a yellow, left his studs up when tackling Javi Garcia. Down to ten men, so steps forward stand in goalkeeper Jan Mucha. Save after save did the Slovakian make, including a fantastic double from Silva and Milner. He came off his line at the right time, he held the ball if he could or parried it to miles away from danger if not. He was a man possessed and single-handedly kept us in the contest.

Now, I’ve mentioned a few times during this series my love for Nikica Jelavic. I’ve also been trying to understand where it comes from. I think I know now, I think it’s the passion he showed while celebrating goals for us or the importance of the goals he did score in that horrid second season. His last was in the last minute of this match. Fellaini led a break, fed Jelavic in who coolly took it round a defender and curled the ball past Joe Hart. It was a wonderful goal and a totally deserved 3 points. No 90 minutes mean more to me than those that day. It was the last great victory of a special 11 years in charge for David Moyes and it was a day where we showed all our greatest assets: defending, ability on the break and spectacular goals. Rather than what happened after, this is the Moyes I’d like to remember.

Everton team: Mucha, Coleman, Heitinga, Distin, Baines, Gibson, Osman, Pienaar, Fellaini, Mirallas (Naismith 70), Anichebe (Jelavic 90)

Goals: Osman (32), Jelavic (90)

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Football matches can be good, they can be bad and they can be dreadfully boring. There are times you leave Goodison questioning your decision to attend and there can be times when you wish you could live there. Yet, when all is said and done I won’t remember the bad times, I will only be able to recall the good. All it takes is thinking or a read of a match report and all these memories came flooding back to me. It was a pleasure to reminisce and reflect upon good times in days gone by and it’s been a delight to share them with you. As you can see, there is no winning formula for a football match, although I think lots of goals and a convincing/last minute winner is a good place to start. Every football match, every sporting event or even every day could be a classic, even if the overwhelming emotion after it is sadness and therefore it’s worth still going, searching for that moment of joy when everything comes together.

Next time: The final week, this time a look at some of the better goals I’ve seen scored.

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Author: GHardman42

Mancunian. Main passions are Sport and Mus(e)ic. Huge Everton, AM, Lancashire, JB and England fan! I play tennis like Dolgopolov (except nowhere near as good). Josh has said "You just don't know what will come next"

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