Yakubu continues Everton revival
Ayegbeni Yakubu struck his first goal since April to maintain Everton's Premier League revival at the expense of Stoke this afternoon. The Nigeria international, linked with West Ham in the summer and criticised for lacking match fitness early in the campaign, hit the only goal of a tense Goodison Park encounter.
The game only came to life in the second half but Everton deserved their victory having dominated possession and created the better of the chances. Yakubu showed a brilliant striker's instinct to snatch his chance after Tim Cahill had hit the post. His goal was the first from an Everton striker this season and finally justified manager David Moyes' faith in him after featuring in the eight previous games.
The Nigerian picked up the ball from Tim Cahill after the Australian's shot had rebounded off the post before beating Asmir Begovic to condemn Stoke to their fourth straight defeat. Victory extended Everton's unbeaten run to five games and continued their march up the table after sitting bottom with six games gone. Stoke's promising start is now beginning to fade after three consecutive defeats.
It took Everton some time to get into their stride despite the return of fit-again Mikel Arteta, who passed a fitness test on a hamstring injury. Stoke were without goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen due to an elbow injury but replacement Asmir Begovic was not seriously tested in the first half. Stoke had a rare chance five minutes before the break after winning a corner but an unmarked Abdoulaye Faye shot well wide after receiving the ball at the back post. Arteta lined up another free-kick early in the second half after being tripped by Marc Wilson but Jonathan Walters blocked his powerful shot.
Everton then pieced together a good move which appeared to break down on the edge of the box as Coleman lost control. But the Irishman showed tenacity to win it back and burst into the area after playing a one-two with Neville, only to shoot tamely at Begovic. Nevertheless, the game had finally started to warm up and Leighton Baines picked out Cahill with a good cross which the Australian headed over.
With 50 minutes on the clock, Stoke finally enjoyed a good spell with first Wilson cutting in from the right to shoot over. Shawcross then spurned a glorious chance from 12 yards, slicing wide after team-mate Robert Huth had a shot blocked. Tuncay was denied a goal after barging into the back of Baines to put the ball in the net.
Everton finally grabbed the lead after Pienaar broke clear of Collins on the right. Faye chose to let the ball hit his shins instead of clearing and Yakubu nipped in to set up Cahill. The midfielder drove a powerful shot at the base of the post and Yakubu again quickly picked up the loose ball. This time the former Middlesbrough striker cut inside and fired an unstoppable left-foot shot into the roof of the net.
The visitors should have equalised 10 minutes from time after Etherington broke down the left but the midfielder dragged his shot across goal. Yakubu, satisfied with his contribution, was withdrawn five minutes from time and replaced by Diniyar Bilyaletdinov. The Russian could have added a second in injury time but fired narrowly wide from close range.