Newcastle and Everton both fought hard to secure points at St. James’ Park. A terrific free-kick from Leighton Baines and a another effort from Victor Anichebe sealed the win for Everton after Newcastle took an early lead through Papiss Cisse.
Both sides had an equal share of the ball. Neither side strove to control the possession, and both seemed keen on quickly placing the ball in dangerous areas. The result was a possession split right down with middle, with half a percentage point favoring Newcastle.
Overall, Newcastle attempted slightly more passes than Everton. In the final third this statistic flips, where Everton attempted 160 passes to Newcastle’s 109. Newcastle also completed these passes at a significantly lower rate: 58% compared to Everton’s 71% completion rate. This is indicative of Newcastle’s more direct style of play. Everton tended to play more intricate passes down the left, favoring the partnership of Baines and Pienaar. Baines played the ball to Pienaar 13 times, making that the most common pass combination of the match.
Differences aside, the two sides created an equal number of clear scoring chances with 5 a piece. Each also tucked away only one of these chances. Newcastle were a touch unluckier, as Perch hit the post on a close range header. Newcastle were close to leveling the match after Eveton’s second, but Cisse was denied first by a defender and then again on the follow-up by Howard.
Despite the departure of Ba, Cisse was not granted the opportunity to play through the center of Newcastle’s attack.
Moyes will deservedly take some praise for his introduction of Anichebe in the second half. The second striker provided an overload of work for Newcastle’s defenders and allowed Jelavic to drift wide on the counter before assisting the Nigerian. This tactical decision became the dividing line between the two sides at the end of the day.
In total, Newcastle conceded 21 fouls, over twice that of Everton. Contributing to this total were three players with foul totals over 5.
This also included three yellow cards given out to Williamson, Tiote, and Cisse. A side thinned by injuries, Newcastle should be looking to decrease the possibility of any of their players being suspended, but this was not reflected in their play.
Tiote, one of Newcastle’s most celebrated players of last season, was especially rash with his challenges. Tiote committed a total of 5 fouls, all of which were in Newcastle’s own half. The only player with more was Shola Ameobi, but while his 7 fouls is cause for alarm, none of them were as dangerous as those conceded by Tiote. Tiote’s fouls were all located in areas where Everton could either play a dangerous ball into the box or take a shot on goal.
This inevitably caught up with the Magpies when Baines scored from a distance of 35 yards after one of Tiote’s fouls. The strike was irrefutably magnificent, but it was still a free opportunity offered up by Newcastle.
Fouling aside, this was a poor match for Tiote. He made on solitary tackle during the whole match, and failed to win all but 2 of his 10 ground duels. And, as if this were not already enough to cast doubt on the Ivorian’s performance, he lost possession 18 times, tied with Shola Ameobi for the most losses for Newcastle.
Starkly contrasting to Tiote, Gael Bigirimana was phenomenal in his brief 25 minute appearance as a substitute. Bigirimana successfully tackled 4 times compared to the 1 of Tiote, and did not concede a single freekick. On top of this already impressive stat, the Burundian won 5 of his 6 ground duels. And if his defensive game is not enough to impress, he completed 93% of his attempted passes. If Tiote was passing at this rate, he would have had a total of 115 completed passes as opposed to his 36.
In short, Gael Bigirimana outplayed Tiote in every metric while playing roughly a third of time allowed to his teammate. Obviously, Bigirimana was afforded the advantage of playing on fresh legs in a high tempo game, but there is nonetheless a vast difference in the statistics provided by these two players.
Pardew should take notice of this gulf in performance and take advantage of a youngster who is clearly intent on proving his right to a regular first team spot.
The line between midfielder and attacking target man continues to blur in the case of Marouane Fellaini. The big Belgian may only have had one stray shot over the course of the match, but his frequent presence in the box was a nuisance to Newcastle’s defense.
Fellaini completed and attempted the most passes for Everton. 82% of these passes were in Everton’s attacking half, illustrating the advanced role that Fellaini is now being utilized in. Once you factor in that 32%, the majority, of his total passes were forward, the statistics begin to tell just how advanced and attacking this role is becoming.
But the importance of Fellaini is more than that of an attacking passer. He is also a crucial pressure valve for Everton when they are under pressure or wish to apply quick pressure to Newcastle’s back line. Fellaini is seldom receiving short passes from his teammates. Rather, more long balls are being served up to take advantage of his height and zip the ball into more attacking, less dangerous zones. Fellaini allows an opportunity for Everton to quickly skip through the key transition phase between
Newcastle’s greatest take away from this match should be their lack of discipline. Nowhere else on the pitch were they so clearly deficient in comparison to Everton. The dividing line on the day was one goal, and that goal could have easily been avoided had they not given Baines an opportunity with a free-kick.
This match marks the 9th loss in the past 11 games for Newcastle. Injury plagued and clearly tired, Newcastle are just 2 points clear of the relegation zone. Reinforcements are expected to arrive during January, but for the time being Newcastle have ample reason to be worried.
They may have come just short of taking points on Wednesday, but short they were nonetheless.
Everton were not as graceful or incisive in attack as they have been in the past, but still managed to score the goals they needed. Sometimes the mark of a truly capable side is that they find ways to win even when they play poorly, and this may very well apply to Everton in this case.
Baines continues to impress with nearly every aspect of his game, and Fellaini’s form warrants a great deal of credit. Whether or not they retain the services of the Belgian could prove to be a vital aspect of their season. Even when he is not scoring goals, Fellaini is using his muscle to do massive share of Everton’s heavy lifting in attack.
Raised in Seattle WA. Sounders FC, United States, and Liverpool supporter.
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