KEVIN KEEGAN can dismiss the Premier League as “boring,” but the concluding day of the domestic season brought ample entertainment for Everton and their support yesterday as two goals from Yakubu comfortably shepherded them into next term’s UEFA Cup.
Even allowing for some minor posturing between manager David Moyes and owner Bill Kenwright over the former’s contract extension, the future looks bright for Everton. As for Newcastle, who like their hosts yesterday would like to believe they can infiltrate the “big four” of English football, this will be a long and important summer off the field.
“I’d rather have been parading a cup around the pitch at the end but I’ve got to be realistic,” said Moyes. “We put up a good fight to finish fourth, for most of the season, and just fell short but I’ve been delighted with this season.
“We’ve not only qualified for Europe but the supporters realise strides have been made. Now I will maybe meet Bill some time at the end of next week. No real date has been set and I’m very relaxed about the situation. I have been more interested in getting the result today.”
Keegan, meanwhile, tried to bring a good-natured approach to his final press conference of the season but bristled when questioned about his “clear the air” meeting with owner Mike Ashley on Friday and could not resist scoring a sarcastic point over his earlier comments about the invincibility of the division’s leading four clubs.
“A statement was put out about the meeting and I’m totally happy with it,” said Keegan. “I’m happy to talk about Everton but we’ve had enough about the meeting. You know it took place, you know it was very, very good because a statement came out.
“It is an achievement for anyone who finishes just outside the top four, who I thought were running away with it but I’m now convinced by so many people who know the game that I was wrong!
“I thought that the same four teams have won it for the past six years apart from one. I thought I was right on it but I’ll have to check my record books!”
Yakubu opened the scoring after 27 minutes with a landmark goal that came following Damien Duff’s clumsy trip on Steven Pienaar. Manuel Fernandes’ superb, hanging free-kick allowed the forward to lose his marker and head emphatically past Stephen Harper, becoming the first Evertonian since Peter Beardsley in 1992 to score 20 goals in a season.
Newcastle’s possession and threat, save for the occasional cross or long-range shot from Charles N’Zogbia, had been severely limited in the first period, which made it all the more remarkable that they required just 30 seconds of the second to equalise.
Yobo was at fault as he failed to adequately marshal N’Zogbia’s twisting run and made the contact that was always going to lead to the player going to ground and winning a penalty.
Michael Owen, completely anonymous to that point, scored to the right of Tim Howard.
But Everton were undeterred. In the 70th minute, Fernandes took a pass from Lee Carsley and his telling cross, not for the first time, caught out a stationary defence, with the aid of a slight deflection off the head of Taylor, and allowed Lescott to score with an excellently-placed shot.
Anichebe should have removed any doubt about the outcome in the 75th minute, only to be denied by Harper after Yakubu had played him clean through, but that error mattered little 10 minutes from time when Taylor’s outstretched leg brought down Osman. Yakubu made no mistake with an unstoppable penalty.
EVERTON (4,4,2): Howard 7, Neville 7, Yobo 7 (Baines 85), Jagielka 7, Lescott 7, Fernandes 9, Osman 8, Carsley 7 (Rodwell 90), Pienaar 7 , Anichebe 8 (Gravesen 85, 5), Yakubu 8.
Subs Not Used: Gosling, Wessels.
NEWCASTLE (4,4,2): Harper 7, Beye 6, Taylor 5 (Ramage 90), Faye 5 (Cacapa 45, 7), Jose Enrique 7 (Lua Lua 79, 6), Duff 6, Butt 5, Smith 5, N’Zogbia 8, Owen 7, Carroll 7.
Subs Not Used: Forster, Tozer.
REFEREE: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire) 7: Controlled matters well from start to finish. Kept bookings to a minimum and maintained the flow of an entertaining and meaningful end of season game.
MATCH RATING: **** A fantastic atmosphere on the final day at Goodison Park indicated how much was on the line.
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