Toffees cruise past sorry Potters

BY foxsports • March 16, 2009

David Moyes' celebrated his seventh anniversary as Everton boss with a 3-1 home win over Stoke to keep City firmly in a relegation battle. Everton cruised into a two-goal first-half lead through Jo and Joleon Lescott, but did their best to throw away victory after the break. Stoke pulled one back through Ryan Shawcross and continually threatened to steal a point, but despite a brave fight they are still without an away league win this term. But it was only a third from Marouane Fellaini in injury-time that ensured Everton the points, as they made it just one defeat in their last 18 games. Brazilian striker Jo was recalled in place of teenager Jack Rodwell, having been cup-tied last weekend for the quarter-final victory over Middlesbrough. His return was the only change from that side. Stoke, who produced an encouraging win over Bolton last time out, retained that starting line-up, with Matthew Etherington returning to the bench after suspension. But Everton looked full of confidence, certainly early on, as you would expect from a side heading for a Wembley semi-final against Manchester United, and with European football all but confirmed for next season by virtue of their current sixth place. If Arsenal beat Hull in their delayed cup quarter-final on Tuesday, it will virtually secure seventh place in the Premier League as a European qualification spot, further enhancing Everton's desire for at least Europa League football next term. They opened with a flurry of chances, created with pace and movement that worried Stoke's big defenders. Only a fine saving challenge from Salif Diao stopped Steven Pienaar finishing off a Fellaini cross, the Belgian now sporting a surprisingly cropped hair-cut instead of his trademark bushy style. Then Leon Osman fired over under pressure following a Leighton Baines cross. Stoke produced some difficult moments via Rory Delap's long throws, but after 18 minutes Everton were ahead. Fellaini lifted a neat ball into the box and Jo evaded Ryan Shawcross's challenge to hit a low shot that Thomas Sorensen only half stopped, the ball rolling over the line. Liam Lawrence needed treatment for a head injury after being caught by Baines' boot as the pair contested possession on the bye-line, and the Stoke man then found himself booked for a foul on Pienaar soon after. Stoke seemed visibly deflated, and after 24 minutes it got worse for them when Lescott side-footed home after Sorensen was only able to palm out a Tim Cahill header following Osman's cross. It was Lescott's fifth goal of the season on his 100th league appearance for Everton, who were now in full command. Jo's clever control and pass set up Osman for another chance, the midfielder lifting a shot just over the far angle, as Everton cruised to the break largely untroubled by the Potters. Everton sent on Louis Saha for Cahill at the break, with Fellaini taking up a deeper midfield role. But Stoke, who recovered from 2-0 down at Aston Villa recently to grab a point, looked to again be embarking on similar powers of recovery when Shawcross headed home from a Lawrence corner after 53 minutes. Before the re-start Ricardo Fuller replaced Mamady Sidibe, who soon headed wide from Delap's cross. Everton needed more now than cruise control. Shawcross just failed to connect with another Lawrence corner on the far post, Everton looking anything but the assured outfit of the first period. Stoke sent on Etherington after 68 minutes for Delap, to hopefully supply the wing service for James Beattie and Fuller. Everton were being caught in possession, hounded all over the pitch and their general lethargy continued to give Stoke encouragement. Sorensen saved from Jo and Saha, but generally Everton were having to defend in numbers. Stoke sent on yet another forward with 10 minutes left, Henri Camara taking over from Lawrence as they strived for the equaliser. Rodwell replaced Joe with five minutes left, to add more strength to midfield as Everton hung on. Sorensen saved from Osman's 20-yarder, and then beat away Saha's follow-up effort, Everton hitting on the break as Stoke kept coming forward. And in injury-time Everton sealed the points when Fellaini brought down a Baines long ball and guided his shot past Sorensen.


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