Football: Moyes' men are bringing a little extra to the party.
EVERTON have shown an increasing knack of gatecrashing Premier League parties under David Moyes in recent seasons.
From breaking into the Champions League qualifying places and regularly sticking the noses of the perceived "big four" out of joint, the Goodison side have revelled in their assumed role of party-poopers.
They were at it again on Saturday, welcomed as guests at the loth anniversary of the opening of the Reebok Stadium before turning the afternoon into a celebration of new striker Yakubu and another away triumph.
But it's the growing sense that such achievements are becoming the norm for this new-look Everton that is giving supporters the genuine reason to raise a glass in salute.
It's early days, of course, and after too many previous false dawns, no Evertonian will be getting carried away.
But the sight of Moyes' men sitting pretty alongside neighbours Liverpool at the top of the league on Saturday evening was just reward for an encouraging start to the campaign.
Whether Everton can maintain that form to improve on last season's sixth-placed finish will be one of the more fascinating aspects of the Premier League season, but what's not in doubt is that the Goodison outfit are better placed than at any time during the past decade to do so.
The latest additions to the squad, Yakubu and the returning Thomas Gravesen, didn't waste any time in announcing their arrivals on Saturday, both men delivering key contributions to earn victory over Bolton Wanderers.
Having failed to net during an unhappy final 16 games with Middlesbrough, Yakubu took just 11 minutes to begin repaying the club record pounds ll.25m fee that brought him from the Riverside.
That the Nigerian international's goal was a result of sterling work from Andrew Johnson will have been even more pleasing for Moyes.
Everton have lacked a genuine strike partnership under his tutelage, but the pounds 2Om outlay on the duo equates to heightened expectation the wait may now be at an end.
Their instant combination that led to Yakubu's 62nd Premier League goal was a statement of intent of what everyone at Everton hopes will follow.
While Yakubu understandably flitted in and out of the game on his debut, Johnson was the visitors' outstanding performer with his selfless work ethic and directness harassing the Bolton defence and the hapless Gerald Cid in particular.
The only thing missing was a goal. Johnson hasn't scored since March, and the manner in which he snatched at a second-half chance when faced with only home goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen to beat suggests that drought could be playing on his mind.
Moyes, though, is confident the goals will surely soon begin to flow and Yakubu's arrival will at the very least ease the burden on la season's leading scorer.
Gravesen, meanwhile, emerged from the substitutes' bench on the hour in trademark understated fashion, decked in a pair of alarmingly yellow boots.
But his second-half cameo commanded even greater attention as his introduction turned the game in Everton's favour, his passing from midfield helping spark a previously subdued Mikel Arteta into life with the Dane also earning and then delivering the 89th-minute corner from which Joleon Lescott headed a dramatic winner.
Gravesen's all-action style may have divided supporter opinion on his previous stay at the club, but his passion and personality are an un-B deniably infectious presence in the Everton dressing room and, on a season-long loan, the midfielder will have a point to prove after his career stalled at Real Madrid and then Celtic.
His impact was an indication of the options Moyes at last has at his disposal, the manager now able to call upon players from the bench who can offer something different to alter the course of a match when things aren't going quite to plan.
That was the case on Saturday when Bolton made life difficult for the visitors following Yakubu's debut strike with practically his first touch in a blue shirt.
After Phil Jagielka had done well to keep the ball in from Nicolas Anelka, Steven Pienaar's pass released Johnson on the counter-attack, the striker skipping over a rash sliding challenge from Cid near the halfway line before haring down on goal and playing across for Yakubu to tap in from six yards.
Mikel Alonso - brother of Liverpool's Xabi - led the Bolton response, forcing Tim Howard to turn behind his 20-yard shot before firing an angled drive from even further out that crashed against the crossbar.
A quirk of the fixture list meant that Everton visited Bolton on Saturday exactly 10 years to the day they were the opposition in the first-ever game at the Reebok Stadium.
Gary Speed was the only survivor from that game, although he's of course now part of a Bolton side struggling in the lower reaches.
In truth, however, their display at the weekend suggests it won't be long before Sammy Lee's men rediscover the form that saw them finish a place below Everton last season.
Despite constant Bolton pressure, the pace of Johnson meant Everton always had an outlet on the counter-attack and one such sortie led to a corner which Jagielka headed at Jaaskelainen.
But the right-back, who along with the impressive Pienaar was handed a first start by Moyes, was partially at fault when Bolton inevitably drewlevel 10 minutes after the break, Jagielka colliding with team-mate Joseph Yobo when attempting to head clear an El Hadji Diouf cross which allowed the ball to fall invitingly for Anelka to smash in a fine volley from 15 yards.
Kevin Nolan spurned a great chance at the far post, despite appearing suspiciously offside when meeting Anelka's cross, and Howard turned another Alonso shot around before parrying Abdoulaye Meite's header froma Diouf corner.
But by then Gravesen had replaced Lee Carsley and the tide was turning in Everton's favour, Pienaar firing a volley wide and Johnson denied by Jaaskelainen after Meite failed to deal with the Dane's through-ball.
And after Gravesen had combined cleverly with Arteta only for Leon Osman to sky the Spaniard's cut-back criminally over, with a minute remaining the returning midfielder dropped a left-wing corner to the far post where Lescott rose between Jlloyd Samuel and Andy O'Brien to head Everton's winner.
Lescott's celebrations were particularly expressive, as he had been give first-hand experience of the increased competition for places at Everton the previous week when he was benched for the home draw against Blackburn Rovers.
The only concern for Moyes will be his team have kept only one clean sheet in their last 13 games, something that must be addressed if they are to remain in such a lofty position.
For now, though, the message is simple - let's keep this party going.
Yakubu 11, Lescott 89
BOLTON: Jaaskelainen, Hunt (Davies 80), Meite, Cid (O'Brien 46), Samuel, Nolan, Alonso, Speed, McCann (Wilhelmsson 56), Diouf, Anelka. Subs: Al Habsi, Braaten.
EVERTON: Howard 6, Jagielka 6, Yobo 6, Lescott 7, Baines 6, n Pienaar 7 (Osman 6),,""Neville 6, Carsley6 (Gravesen 7), Arteta 6, Johnson 8, Yakubu 7. Subs: Wessels, McFadden. BOOKED: Baines, Lescott.
REF: Peter Walton
NEXT MATCH: Prem, Man Utd (h),
Sept 15, 3pm
MAN OF THE MATCH...
His selfless performance in attack just shaded Thomas Gravesen.
VILLAIN OF THE MATCH.
The Bolton man looked a weak link, responsible for some rash tackling.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH...
Mikel Alonso's explosive 30-yard shot - woodwork is still reverberating.
MOAN OF THE MATCH...
Bolton's fans - with 5,000 empty seats you wonder where they've gone
QUOTES OF THE DAY...
"Tommy Gravesen came on and gave us a calmness to our play."
"It's early days, of course, and after too many previous false dawns, no Evertonian will be getting carried away."
"When we gave Yak the ball in the right areas he always looked a threat."
Ace Phil Jagielka; Matchwinner Joleon Lescott; Thomas Gravesen; Joleon Lescott (main) heads Everton's late winner at the Reebok on Saturday and clears the danger (inset top) from Kevin Nolan; Mikel Arteta (bottom left) battles with Christian Wilmhelmsson; Steven Pienaar is tackled by Gavin McCann (right)
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|Publication:||Daily Post (Liverpool, England)|
|Date:||Sep 3, 2007|
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