A Ryan Shawcross own goal cancels out Peter Crouch’s opener to earn Everton a point at Stoke City.
Two blocks from Joel Robles to deny Arnautovic were key to Everton earning a valuable point on the road against a Stoke side who proved a tricky opponent.
A midweek trip to the ubiquitously wild, wet and windswept Bet 365 Stadium was expected to be a good test of the resurgent Everton looking to extend their five game unbeaten run, and so it proved to be.
With Idrissa Gana Gueye only just back from his AFCON duties with Senegal, Ronald Koeman made just one change to the eleven that started Crystal Palace, Gareth Barry dropping to the bench to allow Morgan Schneiderlin to make his full debut: Robles, Baines (C), Funes Mori, Williams, Holgate, Coleman, Schneiderlin, Barkley, Davies, Mirallas and Lukaku.
Mark Hughes resisted the temptation to blood new signing Saido Berahino as he selected a strong Potters line-up of: Grant, Bardsley, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Pieters, Whelan, Allen, Afellay, Adam, Arnautovic and Crouch.
The man in the middle was Craig Pawson.
The first goalmouth action saw Crouch win a header that Schneiderlin turned away for a corner, wasted by another ex-RS Adam. However, the robotic beanpole had the first laugh as a long ball out of defence found Arnautovic and his cross found Crouch in oceans of space for a simple tap-in on seven minutes for a disastrous start for the Blues.
Everton responded with Davies driving into the box and trying to set up Coleman before Barkley tried to feed Lukaku on the edge of the six-yard box and Stoke successfully defending a couple of corners. Things were not going well for the Blues as Lukaku dragged a 25-yard shot well wide of the target and after another few minutes of largely uninspiring play from both sides, Crouch looped a back post header into the gloves of Robles.
Crouch appeared to be on a one-man mission as Arnautovic found him with a header and his instant right foot volley went narrowly wide of Robles right hand post.
Coleman collecting a pass from Barkley was quickly closed down and his lifted shot comfortably cleared the crossbar with Grant in the home goal again untroubled.
Adam then carved his way through the centre of the Blues to feed Arnautovic, looking suspiciously offside, and Robles needed to be quick off his line to foil the Austrian.
The home crowd were incensed on 39 minutes as Everton drew level. They were expect ecting offside to be flagged against Lukaku as Mirallas found Coleman and the 60-grand man romped into the box and curled home with the help of a deflection off Shawcross.
At first the referee appeared to side with the home crowd, but some severe pressure from Blues eventually saw the right decision made, and the Potters fans angrily mutated into Boo-ers.
Stoke were clearly rattled by the goal and the robotic beanpole reacted to being penalised for nearly tearing the shirt off Seamus Coleman, before Robles was again razor sharp in rushing off his line to deny Arnautovic and send the teams for their half-time cuppa tied at 1-1.
Half Time: 1-1.
James McCarthy came on for the second half replacing Mason Holgate with the 3-2-4-1 starting formation changing to the previously used 4-5-1 with Lukaku to plough a lone furrow up front.
Everton with the first meaningful effort of the half saw Schneiderlin find Barkley only for his shot to go straight at Grant in the home goal.
Arnautovic needed treatment after banging his head into the turf following a perfectly executed sliding tackle from McCarthy and was eventually okay to continue. Approaching the hour mark, Bardsley tried a speculative shot from 35 yards that sailed harmlessly high and wide.
A left wing free kick from Adam caught the wind and nearly took Robles by surprise, but his big hand managed to turn it away for a corner that came to nothing. The Blues were looking better defensively but needed to improve in midfield and Davies it was who tried to find Lukaku in the box with the big man unable to make the most of it.
Berahino prepared to enter the fray with 25 minutes left to play eventually replacing another former RS in Joe Allen. Ronald Koeman countered by sending Ademola Lookman to warm up in readiness for his appearance.
A little bit of a mix-up at the back caused a momentary problem before arguably the best move of the night so far saw Davies play a neat one-two with Mirallas to drive meaningfully in to the box before being thwarted. Lookman duly replaced Mirallas and with his first involvement fired in a shot from a narrow angle to force a corner.
A foul by Shawcross on Coleman earned a right wing free kick that Barkley floated in, but the header from Schneiderlin didn’t have sufficient power or direction to trouble the Stoke keeper.
Bardsley was booked for a foul on Lookman with ten minutes left to play as the two teams continued to cancel each other out in a game that wasn’t likely to linger long in the memory.
Adam was keen to continue launching balls onto the wind and into the Everton box and from a corner, Davies got a fine block on an Afellay shot. Adam found Berahino next and with Robles slightly caught out, Funes Mori was on hand to clear the danger.
Everton raced down the other end and a fine cross from Coleman saw Grant save at full length from a Davies header and then Lookman fire back across the face of goal from a tight angle. Grant then denied Funes Mori although it wouldn’t have counted as the Argentine was offside when the ball was played through to him by Barkley.
Arnautovic was replaced on 89 minutes by Ngoy after signalling he was feeling dizzy after his early bump on the head. A foul by Schneiderlin on Berahino gave Stoke a chance from 35 yards with Adams’ shot blocked by the Everton wall and cleared… and that was about it.
Final Score: 1-1.
After a shocking start with the defence all at sea for the Stoke opener, Everton gradually fought their way into what has to be said was a poor advert for the Premiership. But, despite not playing particularly well, we earned and got the point thanks to some dogged play, and Stoke is never an easy place to visit. Tom Davies again looked comfortable in midfield and Colemans’ right wing raids and the late introduction of Lookman offered some excitement.
As for MotM, my vote goes to Joel Robles, he might not have kept a clean sheet, but those two first half blocks to deny Arnautovic proved crucial.