For the second straight home game, Everton salvaged a 1-1 draw with a last-gasp equaliser from a full-back. After a poor first half against Jose Mourinho’s Man Utd and a woeful misjudgement from Maarten Stekelenburg to hand them the lead, the Blues regrouped, reformulated and finally picked up a deserved point in the 88th minute when Leighton Baines slotted home a penalty.

Everton's Leighton Baines earns a point for his side against Man Utd by firing his penalty past David De Gea.

Everton have a serious issue with motivation. Whether it’s a reflection of Ronald Koeman’s managerial ability, an indictment of the players’ professionalism, or a hangover from the Roberto Martinez’s era, it’s a real and present danger for the Toffees. Never able to smother teams, Everton are forced to play catch-up. They start games like they’d start a kick-about in a waiting room.

With Kevin Mirallas, Tom Cleverley and Ramiro Funes Mori in for Aaron Lennon, Ross Barkley and Phil Jagielka, Koeman hoped to resuscitate his lifeless side. It didn’t work. Just like last week at Southampton, Everton failed to muster a first-half shot on target. Also like last week, they fell behind to a calamity as Maarten Stekelenburg had a moment of mental abandonment.

As Zlatan Ibrahimovic ambled forward to gather Anthony Martial’s pass, he was likely as confused as anyone to see Stekelenburg rushing towards him like an erratic, lone linebacker. The hit-and-miss but ultimately inadequate Dutch keeper turned a nothing opportunity into a great chance. Ibrahimovic duly responded with a smart chip which, via the bar then post, a touch of spin and some nonsensical hesitance from Funes Mori, eventually broke the deadlock.

For the fifth game in six, Everton had conceded the first goal and required fiery instruction from Koeman at half-time to make them competitive. Like the Swansea game, the Blues improved significantly after the break and ought to have translated their dominance into victory. While still operating at a fairly poor level, the manner of the fightback deserves more credit than has been forthcoming from supporters.

Star-struck officiating

Ibrahimovic became the second Man Utd player to avoid a deserved red card after swinging his foot into Seamus Coleman’s face in cowardly and unnecessary fashion. Following on from Marcos Rojo’s equally yellow-bellied two-footed lunge on Idrissa Gueye, and Michael Oliver’s decision to allow Man Utd players to constantly waste time and take throw-ins from wherever they pleased, Everton were entitled to feel hard done by.

Man Utd's Marcos Rojo gets away with a two-footed lunge on man of the match Idrissa Gueye of Everton.

Within a minute, Coleman and Yannick Bolasie had to be withdrawn through injury. Despite that, Oliver’s rare star-struck outing, and Man Utd’s increasingly defensive approach, Everton dominated the second half, regaining possession quickly, racking up six shots on target and firing up the crowd. When the equaliser arrived late on, there was a hint of poetic justice to it.

Jose Mourinho was so miffed about Everton’s direct approach (78 long balls compared to Man Utd’s, ahem, 79), he brought on aerial expert Marouane Fellaini to thrust his towering afro at everything that came his way. Immediately undone by neat footwork from man of the match Idrissa Gueye, the ex-Toffee foolishly conceded a penalty. Baines, who missed one of his two failed Premier League spot-kicks against David De Gea and bottled the chance to take another against him in last year’s FA Cup semi-final, righted those wrongs with a calm, powerfully struck spot-kick.

Everton had their equaliser but all told, that’s not something to be particularly content with against an average Man Utd side. There remains a tremendous amount of problems for Koeman to tackle. The only players to have scored in the last four games have been full-backs. Barkley’s been so poor he couldn’t even get on against Utd, and Bolasie – Everton’s bright spark so far this season – may face a significant spell on the sidelines.

Everton's Romelu Lukaku put in another well-below-par shift against Man Utd.

Romelu Lukaku put in the kind of half-arsed shift that would seemingly confirm he has no subscription to the Daily Mail Online. Jamie Carragher revealed the statistical extent of Lukaku’s poor work ethic on Friday. During another below par outing in which he completed 10 of 25 passes, won six of 12 aerial duels, had no shots and sprinted minimally, Evertonians in attendance repeated Carragher’s sentiments in much coarser language.

When he wasn’t time-wasting in a manner Everton fans have witnessed Stoke, West Brom and Sunderland keepers do so in the past, De Gea made some fine stops, not least from Mirallas, to keep Utd ahead. Mason Holgate and Enner Valencia, who both impressed off the bench, came close with headers whilst Gueye also tested the Spaniard.

However, consecutive 1-1 draws at home is nowhere near sufficient after three straight away defeats. All in all, the Blues have won just six of the last 24 Premier League games which is astonishingly bad. Yet again, it feels like there’s not much to build on, merely the next game on the horizon when the opportunity to build comes along again.
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By Chris Smith
Follow me on Twitter @cdsmith789  

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