Mirallas magic floors Stoke

Kevin Mirallas’ stunning solo goal illuminated an often drab and

uninspiring 1-0 victory for Everton over Stoke at Goodison

Park.

David Moyes’ men remain in contention for a top-four Premier

League finish and are now just four points adrift of Chelsea in the

battle for UEFA Champions League football next season.

Stoke, meanwhile, have now lost eight times in their last 11

Premier League outings and have slipped to 13th in the table, only

four points above the increasingly congested battle against the

drop.

Everton welcomed goalkeeper Tim Howard and Phil Jagielka back

into their starting line-up and they were joined in the team by

Nikica Jelavic as Moyes made three changes and opted for a 3-5-2

formation with Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar suspended.

Stoke selected centre-back Robert Huth after his three-game ban

as he replaced the injured Matt Etherington, with the German

helping the Potters go close to opening the scoring with just three

minutes gone.

Ryan Shotton’s long throw into the box was met by Huth’s head

with Howard palming it away as he threw himself to his left, with

Jon Walters, who lined up in midfield in Tony Pulis’ 4-4-2

formation, scrambling his follow-up effort against the underside of

the bar.

Leighton Baines had come close to providing Jelavic with the

ammunition to test Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic on more than one

occasion before Everton took the lead courtesy of a majestic solo

effort from Mirallas.

The Belgian collected possession deep inside his own half as

Howard fisted away a Stoke free-kick, wriggling away from the

attentions of Steven N’Zonzi before switching on the after-burners

and embarrassing Geoff Cameron as he turned the last defender

inside and out before slotting under Begovic.

Howard had to be alert again as the interval approached,

plunging away to his left to push away a stinging effort from

Walters from outside the box with Stoke remaining a threat to

Everton’s back three.

Stoke continued to create decent openings after the interval

with Huth’s downward header from Whelan’s free-kick in the 57th

minute whistling the wrong side of Howard’s upright, while Shotton

could not control his chance at the far post soon after as Marc

Wilson’s cross flicked off Distin.

Everton could have extended their lead in the 63rd minute when

Jelavic’s far post header from Darron Gibson’s cross went straight

at Begovic, before the Croatia striker brought a finger-tip save

out of the Potters keeper with a free-kick from the edge of the

box.

Cameron Jerome flashed over the bar after Shotton’s back-heel

before deep into added time substitute Charlie Adam stung Howard’s

palms at the near post after a free-kick had incorrectly been

awarded following Leon Osman’s challenge on the former Liverpool

player.

Speaking after the game, Everton boss David Moyes insisted his

side remain outsiders to

href='http://www1.skysports.com/football/news/11671/8608526/Premier-League-Everton-manager-David-Moyes-will-discuss-future-in-summer'

class='instorylink'>secure Champions League football next

season.

He said: “We are the big underdogs, we need results to go for us

as well as us winning our games, but we are in there and it is a

great thing to say Everton are in with a chance of the Champions

League.

“We deserve to be there because of how well we’ve played this

season.”

Stoke counterpart Tony Pulis had no problems with the effort his

side displayed, but admitted they

href='http://www1.skysports.com/football/news/11701/8608568/Premier-League-Stoke-boss-Tony-Pulis-wants-finishing-touch-after-Everton-defeat'

class='instorylink'>need to be more clinical in front of

goal.

He said: “Our problem has been scoring goals. We haven’t played

many games where we haven’t created chances and, again, we have

created enough chances to score.

“That’s a bit of a worry, but the commitment and the football we

played today and the attitude of the players was absolutely first

class.”