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Football: Fantastic spirit key to success says Pienaar.


STEVEN PIENAAR has warned Everton's rivals that they can cope without his fellow midfield playmaker Mikel Arteta.

The South African assumed the role of chief creator in Sunday's 3-1 win over Portsmouth that took Everton back into the top four, taking the free-kick that led to Yakubu's opener and crossing for Tim Cahill to head Everton back in front.

The Goodison men have now won all three games they have been without Arteta during his recent struggle with a stomach and groin injury.

The Spaniard has been playing through the pain barrier with the strain since October and it could limit his impact during Everton's run-in when they will be going for a Champions League spot and Uefa Cup glory.

But Pienaar, on a season-long loan from Borussia Dortmund, is ready to take the burden and insists that the team spirit among the players will carry them through.

"Mikel is such a good player, but it says a lot about the team that we are doing so well without him," said Pienaar.

"With Mikel injured I have to take more responsibility with things like free-kicks and try to be even more creative.

"But I'm comfortable with that. I was one of the playmakers at Ajax and when I was in Germany."

"We all showed great spirit to finish so well (against Portsmouth), and it is that spirit that will be so important for the rest of the season.

"The team that shows the most character will take the prize, and there is a fantastic spirit running right through our team.

"The only way to survive when you are being tested is to know you can count on the players around you and we all have that feeling.

"The next 10 league games are going to be vital for everyone at the club, but the Uefa Cup is also important to us, so there is a lot to play for in every game."

Everton's next venture to the continent takes them to Italy on Thursday where they take on Fiorentina in the first leg of their last 16 tie.

Tomorrow, meanwhile, Liverpool will try to draw level on points in their game in hand on their Merseyside rivals at home to West Ham United.

Victory at Anfield will take them into fourth on goal difference but Pienaar is confident that Everton - following the win over Portsmouth that came immediately after Rafael Benitez's men had won at Bolton - can cope with the pressure of matching Liverpool's results.

Pienaar added: "We knew we had to beat Portsmouth because Liverpool had a good win before we kicked off.

"But we are going into every game like it is a cup final anyway because we have to keep on getting these results to qualify for the Champions League.

"We have to concentrate on winning each game, and if we do that we know it will be good enough.

"We are definitely all up for the challenge, and I think you saw that on Sunday. It felt almost like we had to win it twice.

"We scored so early that we thought it was going to be easy, but of course it never works out that way.

We made it difficult for ourselves by letting them back into the game."

Everton will look to sign Pienaar when his season-long loan from Dortmund expires.

The player himself, however, is remaining non-committal until the summer.

Pienaar said: "I'm enjoying it here but we'll wait and see what happens at the end of the season.

"For now I just want to concentrate on the games we've got left, playing my best for Everton."


Blues' Steven Pienaar
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 4, 2008
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