Midfielder suffered knee injury in final pre-season game
Darron Gibson faces an anxious wait to discover the full extent of a knee injury he sustained during Everton’s final pre-season friendly against Real Betis.
The Blues midfielder was replaced just before half-time at Goodison Park and afterwards Roberto Martinez confirmed he had suffered a “grade one ligament problem.”
Gibson will continue to be assessed by club medical staff but the injury immediately places him in doubt for the opening fixture of the Premier League season against Norwich City on Saturday, although Marouane Fellaini is expected to be fit for the trip to Carrow Road after being rested for the 2-1 win over Betis as he recovered from an infected cut on his leg.
ROBERTO MARTINEZ has already put his Catalan twist on a traditional Everton value – but the win over Real Betis reminds us that it will take time for his Goodison revolution to take shape.
Martinez signed off his first programme notes with “Solo lo mejor” and though “only the best” will be the mantra by which he will manage Everton, the pursuit of perfection will a be long one.
Certainly, it was never going to be found in Everton’s final pre-season friendly of the summer against the La Liga side yesterday afternoon.
The squad only arrived back from their demanding US tour on Friday afternoon and jet-lag played its part in this largely low-key outing.
Apart from Everton’s two goals, the odd flash of inspiration and the moments when tempers boiled over, this was textbook pre-season fodder.
Nevertheless, a fourth win of the summer was achieved and Martinez will be chuffed to have marked his first game at Goodison with a win.
Rightly, he praised the character shown by his players but also knows that Everton remain a work in progress.
Though some will read too much into this second gear Sunday run-out, most Evertonians are wise enough to be pragmatic in their assessment.
The hard work this summer was done across the Atlantic when most Evertonians were asleep, and though there were times during yesterday’s friendly that sent the supporters into a snooze, the game was never going to be a fair barometer to judge the forthcoming season.
There will be greater intensity and life about Everton at Carrow Road on Saturday when Martinez’s reign starts for real at Norwich City.
And there are certain to be some of the same mistakes that cropped up against Betis.
But there will be even more from the players who stood out against Betis, and Martinez will have had yet more time to work with the squad at Finch Farm.
Nikica Jelavic scored Everton’s first goal to take his summer tally to four and there were flashes of excellence from Kevin Mirallas and Seamus Coleman.
Tim Howard produced a string of fine saves to remind everyone that he remains number one following the arrival of Joel Robles, and Ross Barkley showed tantalising glimpses of his potential.
On the flipside, Everton were at times wasteful and against less forgiving opposition would have conceded more than just the one goal they did through Braian Rodriguez in stoppage time.
But pre-season is never perfect.
Until Jelavic’s goal sparked the game into life, the first half had been largely a textbook pre-season affair.
Most supporters spent the early stages of the game trying to catch a glimpse of Marouane Fellaini in the stands, the midfielder’s absence from the team sheet causing concern.
The Belgian was ruled out because of an infected cut in his lower leg and not because a move to Manchester United is imminent.
Comfortably, Betis were the more threatening of the teams either side of the goal and frontman Carlos Molina was denied on a couple of occasions.
First Howard, who became increasingly called upon as the half progressed, tipped over Molina’s drive before saving the impressive Nosa Igiebor’s effort.
Against the run of play, Everton scored through Jelavic’s close range effort and sparked a busy final 10 minutes of the half during which Betis cranked up the pressure.
Igeibor was again at the centre of the best that the La Liga side offered and his first-time effort at the back post brought a smart save out of Howard.
Molina was then sent clear by Igiebor’s weighted pass but just as he was about to pull the trigger, the determined Leighton Baines produced an expertly timed block.
The final 10 minutes of the half were in stark contrast to much of what had occurred in the previous 35 and also included a booking for Mirallas, who reacted angrily to Javier Chica’s pull-back.
Referee Howard Webb showed leniency in only cautioning the Belgium international, who lost his cool as Everton hit Betis on the counter-attack.
For a rather sedate friendly, there were conflicting moments when matters threatened to boil over.
Jelavic was the next Everton player to react to Chica after the full-back bundled the Croatian to the floor.
Tempers flared, the pair clashed but the referee swiftly restored order by pulling Jelavic away from the Betis man.
However, Bets goalkeeper Stephan Andersen ensured that the second half would continue to be lively as he fumbled Mirallas’ cross into his own net to double Everton’s lead just past the hour.
Jelavic should have made it 3-0 soon after but, off-balance, slashed at his attempt when one-on-one with Andersen.
A third goal would, in truth, have added a gloss Everton did not deserve as Betis again posed the greater attacking threat of the two sides after the break.
But Martinez knows Everton’s best is still to come.