Brief Summary… A clumsy challenge by Maroune Fellaini gifted Everton a late penalty and a well-deserved point from a game they showed a great deal more effort, heart and pride in.
Everton needed to get back to winning ways and the visit of Manchester United even without Wayne Rooney was or should have been ideal opportunity to re-invigorate the squad and fan-base after just one win in the last nine outings.
Ronald Koeman made two changes dropping Phil Jagielka and Ross Barkley to the bench in selecting his starting line-up thus: Stekelenburg, Baines, Williams, Funes Mori, Coleman, Barry, Gueye, Cleverley, Bolasie, Mirallas and Lukaku.
Jose Mourinho’s starting eleven comprised: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Rojo, Darmian, Herrera, Carrick, Pogba, Mkhitaryan, Martial and Ibrahimovich.
Michael Oliver was the man with the whistle.
With the minutes silence for the loss of life in the Columbian air crash observed impeccably, the noise levels rose for kick-off in full expectation of a traditional rip-roaring north-west derby… enter the boorish ‘feed the scousers’ chant from the Untied followers.
An early surge forward by Bolasie forced two early corners to give the home fans something to cheer before the pony-tailed Ibrahimovich reacted to a stern challenge from Gareth Barry.
Marcus Rojo was first to see yellow (could have been red) on 16 minutes for a dreadful two-footed challenge on Gana Gueye who had made a bright start to the game.
Gareth Barry was slightly fortunate not to see yellow a couple of minutes later when the ball struck his hand as Untied looked to breakout at speed… Herrera chasing after referee Oliver crying like a soft kid for a booking.
Yannick Bolasie turned sweetly to beat Darmian and show him a clean pair of heels, only for his cross to be blocked and cleared. Lukaku then bullied Rojo off the ball to feed Bolasie only for his cross/shot to go hopelessly wide, but the early signs were encouraging for the Blues.
Ibrahimovich wasted a free kick dead centre and just outside the Everton area before Gareth Barry was unfortunate to get booked for a nothing challenge on Mkhitaryan, the ref patently showing yellow on a totting up basis.
Untied took a late lead as Williams lost possession and when the visitors lofted the ball over his head to find Ibrahimovich, the Swede showed his class with an audacious lob as Stekelenburg came racing off his line. The lob hit bounced up and off the bar, but span back and crossed the line a split second before RFM hooked it clear.
Martial fired a 20-yarder straight at Stekelenburg and the visitors led, rather fortuitously, at the break.
Half Time 0-1.
Neither side made any changes at half time and the Blues set about upping their work rate in seeking an equaliser. Seamus did well to dispossess and turn away from Ibrahimovich who then fouled him and fell on him, the Irishman needing treatment before soldiering on.
De Gea made the first real save of the game denying Kevin Mirallas as he tried to put the finishing touch to a flowing Blues move.
A giveaway by RFM caused some concern and a little panic at the back especially when Leighton Baines slipped trying to clear and the ball clearly struck his arm.
Tom Cleverley, having something of a nightmare, chopped down Mkhitaryan and from the resulting free kick, RFM made a telling block to a one-time volley from Ibrahimovich before Herrera hit the woodwork after further indecisive work at the back allowed Carrick to cross from the right flank.
Ronald Koeman had been considering making changes and he made three in as little as two minutes, with two as a result of injuries. First Gerard Deulofeu – 64 mins – replaced Cleverley, and whilst it was a blindingly obvious move, it was a touch disappointing to hear an Everton cheered sarcastically when replaced. Mason Holgate – 66 mins – was rushed off the bench as Seamus gave way to a chest injury sustained in the clash with Ibrahimovich, and Enner Valencia – 68 mins – came on for Bolasie who incurred ankle injury and had to limp off.
Into the final 15 minutes and Everton were turning up the wick and De Gea had to be alert to punch away a strong shot from Gana; the Spanish keeper then turned a Mason Holgate header away for a corner and then denied Valencia as he got to cross from Holgate.
Untied brought Rashford on for Martial on 82 minutes, quickly followed by Maroune Fellaini replacing Mkhitaryan to a chorus of boos from the home support.
Five minutes later, bless him, Felli lived up to the criticism he often receives for being clumsy when his somewhat agricultural challenge on Gana Gueye gave the referee no alternative than to point to the Gwladys Street penalty spot. Felli and De Gea were both booked for trying to delay the spot kick and spoil the concentration of Leighton Baines.
The experienced Baines though kept a clear head and dutifully placed his kick beautifully into the lower left hand corner, just out of the reach of the diving full length De Gea to bring Goodison to its feet.
With five added minutes signalled, if there was to be a winner, it was only going to be Everton, but De Gea again saved the visitors with a smart stop on a shot from Baines.
Full Time 1-1.
A much improved showing from Everton for whom Gana Gueye was outstanding, but Kevin Mirallas also deserves a lot of praise for a hard-working effort. I personally have accused Mirallas of only being a 60-65 minute player, but today he showed a solid all-round game and excellent work ethic.
If there was a disappointment for me, it was Romelu Lukaku not tearing the back out of Phil Jones, a centre back of limited talent at best
As for Untied, well they are nothing like the Utd sides of SAF. Rooney was missed and take De Gea and the aging, but still classy Ibrahimovich out of that line up and they look distinctly average.