Stoke 2 Everton 0
Everton endured further Barclays Premier League misery as goals from Victor Moses and Mame Biram Diouf condemned them to a 2-0 defeat at Stoke.
Moses headed home superbly in the 32nd minute before Diouf slotted in on the rebound six minutes from time after fellow substitute Marko Arnautovic hit the post to steer the Potters to a third straight win.
The Toffees, meanwhile, are now without a victory in five league games and they have won only once in their last 12.
Everton boss Roberto Martinez had said before the fixture that his side, who have been thriving in the Europa League, were not enjoying their Premier League campaign, and they may well currently be worrying about the prospect of a relegation battle, with them lying only six points above the drop zone in 14th place.
The picture is far more positive for Stoke, who have triumphed in seven of their last 11 league games and are now up to eighth in the table on 42 points. The Potters are looking to better their Premier League club records set last term of a ninth-placed finish and total of 50 points, which certainly looks achievable – and their fans may well be wondering about a push for Europe.
The contest began in a scrappy manner, with few attempts on goal registered.
Everton midfielder Darron Gibson, making his first league start since May 2013, struck a low shot from outside the box that was comfortably gathered by Asmir Begovic, while Jonathan Walters was unable to keep down a header from Charlie Adam’s free-kick at the other end.
Gareth Barry was booked for a challenge on Adam, meaning he will now serve a two-match suspension for 10 yellow cards, while Stoke had to make an early substitution as the injured Philipp Wollscheid made way for Geoff Cameron.
Moses then brought the game to life around the half-hour mark, cutting in from the left and firing a powerful strike goalwards that Tim Howard managed to parry away.
Two minutes later, the on-loan Chelsea winger had his fourth goal of the season, finding the space in the Everton box to expertly guide a header past Howard from Phil Bardsley’s cross. It was an effort Peter Crouch – who on Saturday moved level with Alan Shearer on 46 at the top of the standings for the most headed Premier League goals – would have been proud of.
The visitors struggled to fashion much in reply for the rest of the half, with an Aaron Lennon drive causing little problem for Begovic.
Martinez looked concerned as he walked off with his players at the interval, although there were plenty of cheers of encouragement for them from Everton fans in the away section.
And shortly after the restart, the Toffees went close to levelling as Romelu Lukaku’s shot went across Begovic and narrowly wide of the far post.
Still the Toffees struggled to drum up momentum, though, and on the hour Martinez changed things around by bringing on Arouna Kone and Leon Osman for Lennon and Barry.
Kone swiftly brought a diving save out of Begovic, but Stoke soon had control of the contest once more. Arnautovic and Diouf were brought on and the latter had a penalty shout turned down before the pair combined to wrap up the points for Stoke.
The Potters burst forward, Arnautovic shot against the woodwork and Diouf was on hand to tuck the ball away.
Luke Garbutt’s free-kick was turned behind by Begovic in stoppage time before another defeat for Everton was confirmed – their seventh in the 12-game sequence, which drew some boos from the frustrated travelling fans at the final whistle.