IF only the Grand National was staged on a more frequent basis, David Moyes would be laughing.
Prior to yesterday, the Merseyside club had won all six games they have played at Goodison Park on the Sunday after the annual big race at Aintree.
Thanks to some Brazilian magic from Jo, David Moyes’ thoroughbreds continued that successful run as they cleared another tricky hurdle in their pursuit of a Champions League berth by galloping to an easy victory over a poor Wigan.
Jo, on loan from Manchester City, took his tally to five goals in seven games by helping himself to a brace yet the real inspiration behind Everton’s seventh successive home victory was Marouane Fellaini.
Fellaini scored one and was involved in the other three goals as Everton proved they are in fine fettle as they enter the finishing straight in what has been a long, yet ultimately, fulfilling campaign.
Not only do they have an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United to look forward to, Moyes’ men are almost certainly guaranteed a top-six finish and European football next season. They are seven points ahead of seventh-placed West Ham United with seven games remaining and have fifth-placed Aston Villa, punch-drunk from their late defeat at Old Trafford yesterday, firmly in their sights
“This win doesn’t guarantee European football next season,” stressed Moyes. “But it’s put us in a strong position and it’s for us to throw away as regards to finishing in the top six.”
Everton recovered after a slow start to dominate a Wigan team which had arrived in Liverpool with high hopes of securing a European spot themselves after a successful first full season under Steve Bruce’s command.
Yet they went missing for long periods, ironic considering their build-up to the game had been overshadowed by the absence of leading scorer Amr Zaki.
The 11-goal forward had failed to return to the JJB stadium on time after damaging a hamstring while representing Egypt in a World Cup qualifier last weekend.
That provoked a furious outburst from Bruce, who labelled Zaki, on a season-long loan from El Zamalek, the most unprofessional player he has ever worked with.
It was left to another Egyptian to spearhead the Wigan attack yet Mido was given a master-class in the art of finishing by Jo.
He opened the scoring in the 27th minute after a pulsating move involving Joleon Lescott and Fellaini had sliced the Wigan defence wide open.
While Wigan seemed more interested in kicking lumps out of their opponents — Mario Melchiot, Michael Brown and Titus Bramble were all booked — Everton kept their composure before cementing the points with three quick second half goals.
Chris Kirkland, the former Liverpool goalkeeper, endured a miserable return to Merseyside although there was little he could do as Fellaini swung a foot to connect with Tony Hibbert’s 47th-minute cross to double the lead.
However, Kirkland was at fault for Everton’s third and fourth goals.
He failed to hold a long-range attempt by the industrious Fellaini, the rebound falling nicely into the path of Jo to tap home. Wigan, who had won their previous two games against Sunderland and Hull City, were shell-shocked.
As well as dealing with Zaki in the coming days, Bruce faces a massive task lifting the spirts of his dejected players ahead of Saturday’s home game with Arsenal.
Leon Osman completed their misery on the hour mark courtesy of another error by Kirkland. Once again the keeper was unable to hold an effort by Fellaini with the ball spilling to Osman, who made no mistake from close range, the midfielder’s fifth goal of the campaign.
It was all too much for Bruce. Although the Wigan manager labelled Everton “the best team we have played this season”, he could not resist another pop at the absent Zaki.
“There comes a time when you think he’s just taking the piss and that can’t happen,” said the former Manchester United captain.
“It’s a ridiculous situation. I don’t know where he is.”
And with that he was off. Oh to be a fly on the wall in Bruce’s office when Zaki does eventually decide to show his face back at the Wigan training ground.
REFEREE: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire) 5: Kept a lid on proceedings when things threatened to get out of hand in the first half but was also guilty of allowing some poor tackles to go unpunished.
MATCH RATING: **** After a slow start, this was a great match if you are an Evertonian. They should have scored more while Wigan were simply poor.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved