EVERTON were last night unlucky not to continue their impressive start to the season after Demba Ba’s last-minute equaliser saved a vital point for Newcastle.
The occasion was one that highlighted the evenly-matched strengths of both teams as Everton controlled the opening 45 minutes before Newcastle’s half-time introduction of Ba transformed the game’s dynamic to produce a draw that had previously looked beyond them.
The evening had begun with the most touching of tributes to the recently officially vindicated Hillsborough 96. In a stadium of heartfelt applause, two young children appeared in the kits of Liverpool and Everton featuring the number 96 between them as The Hollies’ hit “He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother” was played while the names of the 96 were displayed on Goodison Park’s big screens.
If it was a scene to overwhelm the spectators with emotion, the Everton players drew an energy from the atmosphere and produced as impressive a 45-minute performance as can be expected of them all season and it only took 15 minutes for Leighton Baines to make their dominance official.
The inspiring Steven Pienaar crafted a delicate flick into Baines’s path in Newcastle’s penalty area for the left-back to drill in the first below Steve Harper for the only goal before Ba’s arrival.
It was only four minutes after halftime when the forward collected a superb pass from Yohan Cabaye and equalised with a low left-footed finish but after Marouane Fellaini also had an effort ruled as offside and Victor Anichebe’s legitimate header wrongly judged to have not crossed the line, Anichebe then put Everton back in front by shooting low past Harper.
The match regardless remained open, before Ba equalised again by nudging past Howard at the last.