Everton v Cardiff: Irish eyes were smiling as last-gasp winner from man-of-the-match Seamus Coleman keeps Everton on track for Europe
With the Feast of St. Patrick in full swing, it was fitting Everton’s marauding Irish right-back Seamus Coleman popped up to secure a late-late win for the Toffees.
Coleman, now the highest goal-scoring defender in the Premier League, has scored better goals this season but perhaps none so important than his seventh strike of the current campaign.
Deep into injury time and just as it seemed three points were slipping away from the Blues, the Donegal-born Coleman latched on to a Gareth Barry knock-down to shin a priceless winner past the outstanding Cardiff City keeper David Marshall.
The relief around Goodison Park was palpable after a stuttering second-half performance threatened to stall Everton’s push for European football next season.
Manager Martinez made three changes to the team beaten at the Emirates last weekend as Tim Howard returned in goal, Leon Osman replaced Ross Barkley and Spanish winger Gerard Deulofeu deputised for the injured Steven Pienaar.
It was Everton’s other wide-man Kevin Mirallas, who threatened early on as he cut in from the left to force a save out of Cardiff keeper Marshall. It would not be the last time the Scottish stopper would frustrate the home team.
While Mirallas looked the most likely to break the deadlock, at times his decision making infuriated not only the Goodison faithful but also his teammates. The Belgian international seemingly determined to make his mark on the game, sometimes to the detriment of his own team.
With Leighton Baines regularly taking advantage of the space down the left flank, Cardiff’s rookie boss Solskjaer changed his formation to a more traditional flat-back-four and the Norwegian’s tactical switch stifled Everton’s early attacking promise.
At the other end, Tim Howard back in the starting eleven after sitting out the FA Cup defeat to Arsenal, was called into action as he spread himself to block a Frazer Campbell shot.
Everton though remained the dominant team and almost took the lead as Gerard Deulofeu, collecting a James McCarthy interception, moved the ball onto his left-foot only to see his low drive turned around for a corner by the ever impressive David Marshall in the Cardiff goal.
Just minutes later, the Scottish keeper, who has made more saves than any other goalkeeper in the Premier League, would pull-off a top-class reflex stop from Romelu Lukaku, who’s powerful shot looked destined for the top corner after a storming run down the visitors left.
Cardiff began the second half with more intensity and enjoyed their best spell of the match as Tim Howard was once again called upon to deny Frazier Campbell. However, the struggling Welsh side’s growing confidence was dealt a blow as just before the hour-mark, Gerard Deulofeu ghosted past Chilean midfielder Gary Medel before cutting inside to beat Marshal at his near post.
After having been on the periphery of the game for long periods, the young Barcelona protege was about to be substituted by Martinez. Thankfully for the Blues the young winger broke the deadlock before the opportunity arose. However despite his strike, the Everton manager made an immediate double change as Deulofeu and Mirallas made way for Aiden McGeady and Steven Naismith.
If anything the change seemed to disrupt Everton’s rhythm and any momentum the Toffees hoped to build was swiftly curtailed just 9 minutes after Deulofeu’s opener.
Everton had looked shaky defending set-pieces and it would be another free-kick that would give Cardiff a Premier League lifeline.
Everton were unhappy with the referee as Campbell seemed to go to ground far to easily, however, it will be the manner in which they conceded the equaliser that will give more cause for concern.
As Cardiff substitute Peter Whittingham swung the ball in from the left, an unmarked Juan Cala bundled the ball past a rooted Tim Howard. There was certain sense of deja vu for Everton with the goal reminiscent of the late Tim Howard own goal at Stamford Bridge.
Despite the blow of Juan Cala’s scruffy equaliser, it was Everton who went in search of a winner. Once again, the Blues were thwarted by the Cardiff keeper who bettered his first half stop from Lukaku with a world-class save down to his right. A neat interchange ended with Lukaku getting his goal bound shot off from the edge of the box only for the outstanding Marshall to turn the ball around the post. The slight deflection off Cardiff defender Theophile-Catherine making the save even more impressive.
With the game now deep into injury time – and looking as if Everton’s dominance would only muster a solitary point – Marshall was again on hand to stop a downward header from late substitute Ross Barkley. Then, with virtually the last attack of the game, Aiden McGeady slung a left-foot cross beyond the far-post were Gareth Barry was on hand to nod back into the path of the oncoming Seamus Coleman.
Not for the first time, the old footballing cliche that you make your own luck in this game was dismissed post-match by Everton boss Roberto Martinez. The Spanish manager insistent patience was once again key to his teams late victory.
Whichever way a win comes will be welcomed by all Blues – even if it takes a last minute slice off the shin of a right-back to secure victory – and if Martinez was loath to judge Coleman’s winner as fortunate, Evertonians will surely embrace as much luck as they can in their remaining 10 games.
Including the luck of the Irish!
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Roberto Martinez on Cardiff and Coleman:
“You can say that you get a little bit lucky when you score the winner that late but it’s down to having that control and patience.
“It would have been all too easy to play with your heart rather than your heads with Cardiff piling bodies behind the ball and defending well.
“Once we scored that first goal and then let Cardiff back in, it became a difficult moment. It became a real test for us and I’m very pleased that we didn’t panic and we kept doing the right things.
“Overall I would say we left it late because we couldn’t take our chances. We created a number of chances and I thought David Marshall in goal was phenomenal. It was as good of an individual performance that you are going to see from a goalkeeper. ”
“In the modern game, it is rare to have someone who can defend, who can be strong in one-v-one situations as well as cover the centre-backs and then have the stamina to get forward.
“He [Seamus Coleman] has a clinical eye in front of goal and it is quite difficult to find a better full-back than him.
“He is learning the game, he is a really exciting talent and we want to see how far he can go.”