Everton pile pressure on Royals
Everton stayed on course for the fourth Champions League place with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Reading.
Last Updated: 09/02/08 7:28pm
Everton stayed on course for the fourth UEFA Champions League place with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Reading at Goodison Park.
Tim Howard had to make a smart save from a deflected Stephen Hunt free-kick in the opening minute of the match but defences were firmly on top for the rest of the first half.
Reading had lost their last six games and were not going to surrender any more points without a battle, but the introduction of James Vaughan at the break gave Everton fresh impetus.
Phil Jagielka was the unlikely scorer of the decisive goal on 62 minutes as he beat the offside trap to head Leon Osman's neat chip past Marcus Hahnemann.
Reading had chances to equalise but could not convert as they slipped into the relegation zone with their seventh successive defeat.
Bright start from Reading
Everton boss David Moyes made just one change from the side that drew at Blackburn last weekend, with Leighton Baines out with a calf injury and Joseph Yobo returning, after playing for Nigeria in the African Nations Cup.
His countryman, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, who arrived late from the tournament this week, was fined and dropped from the squad for this match.
Reading were missing the suspended Ivar Ingimarsson while Leroy Lita had a heel problem. Former Everton winger John Oster stepped in with Ibrahima Sonko also starting.
And Reading opened brightly with two early opportunities. Inside a minute Hunt fired in a 25-yard free-kick that forced Tim Howard into a save at the foot of a post, claiming the ball only at the second attempt.
Then Nicky Shorey got away on the left from a clever free-kick routine, and his cross was headed over, unchallenged, by Dave Kitson.
But the game soon became ragged, with neither side able to maintain possession long enough to build moves.
With Everton short of Yakubu and Anichebe, Andrew Johnson was left on his own up front, a hard task that rarely saw him without two defenders in attendance.
What was becoming a dire match was brightened by a bizarre tantrum from Hunt after a clash with his Republic of Ireland team-mate. Hunt sprang to his feet and was heading for Carsley at pace before being dragged away by alert colleagues. At one time it took three of them to contain the little winger, who was clearly incensed.
No manner of colleagues or rivals imploring him to calm down could contain the rage. Referee Mark Halsey eventually stepped in, with Carsley also having a quiet word.
Sadly it did not spark much entertaining football. Marek Matejovsky saw a 25-yard go a yard wide, and the malaise even spread to Mikel Arteta.
The little Spaniard, who can usually be relied upon for clever footwork and neat touches managed to plant two crosses hopelessly high.
A minute from the break Tim Cahill wasted the best chance of the half when he hooked wide from a Leon Osman cross, and then Cahill headed just over from a corner.
Everton sent on Vaughan at the break in place of Manuel Fernandes to give Johnson some much needed support.
And after 51 minutes, Vaughan stormed down the left to fire in an inviting low cross that both Cahill and Johnson missed in the six-yard box.
The game had improved with more shape and quality about the play, and Everton went ahead on 62 minutes through Jagielka.
Kevin Doyle headed out a corner, and when Osman lobbed the ball back into the six-yard box for Jagielka to appear all on his own to head over Hahnemann, Doyle playing three Everton players onside.
Back at the other end, Jagielka's crucial challenge stopped a Matejovsky pass reaching the unmarked Kitson.
Reading took off Kitson and sent on Shane Long on 74 minutes, but Everton were now looking far more assured.
Vaughan managed a spectacular overhead effort that Hahnemann saved at full stretch. He then mis hit a hook after setting up Johnson for the cross himself.
Next on for Reading was Jimmy Kebe in place of Oster amid growing pressure from Reading to salvage something from the game.
And it was Jagielka again who produced a stunning saving tackle after Kebe had broken away with six minutes left. Reading kept coming forward, Carsley looked to handle in the box and James Harper hit the outside of a post as Everton's control began to slip.
But in a dramatic ending of Reading pressure, Everton hung on to a crucial victory.
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|4||Shots on Target||1|
|5||Shots off Target||11|