Everton 2-2 Newcastle United
Monday 17th September, 2012
I've clocked up over 400 games since I started watching football back in 1996 as an eight-year-old boy. As a matter of principle regarding high ticket prices, overpaid players, all seater stadiums etc., I decided never to watch a Premier League match.
Temptation is a terrible thing. Using the excellent StubHub website, where season ticket holders can sell their tickets for certain matches which they are unable to attend, I got an absolute bargain. Main Stand, upper tier, half way line: £20. The face value of this particular ticket was £38.
I know £20 is still expensive in real terms to watch a football match, but for what promised to be a decent 90 minutes, I couldn't resist. Thankfully I wasn't disappointed.
Goodison Park is a cracking ground, make no mistake. It's old style charm has remained despite the conversion to all seater status. The stands retain an aura of times gone past, and the terraced streets surrounding the ground with snakes of supporters swarming towards the ground under the Merseyside evening made it all the more atmospheric.
The ground filled up, and by kick off 32,510 had made it into the ground, including an estimated 1,200 from Tyneside. Difficult to tell, but I was surprised that the upper tier wasn't open. I guess it is a fair trek on a Monday night.
After a wonderfully touching tribute to the Hillsborough 96 before kick-off, which proved that Merseyside is united on such matters, the game kicked off with Everton on the front foot from the start. Jelavic had the ball in the net after 3 or 4 minutes, but was ruled offside. He smashed his knee on the post as he went in for it, and despite trying to recover, he would only last until the 44th minute.
Everton continued to dominate an out of sorts Newcastle, and their reward came on 15 minutes, when Leighton Baines fired past Harper to raise the roof at Goodison.
That's how it stayed until the break, and you sense that Newcastle will feel lucky not to have gone in three goals down.
The game was end to end for the remainder of the half, and made for excellent viewing as a neutral.
A key moment came on 78 minutes, when every Everton supporter in the ground leapt to their feet to celebrate a second goal for the home side. Inexplicably, the game continued, and everyone looked around in bemusement. No goal. Victor Anichebe, who came on for the injured Jelavic, had a perfectly good goal ruled out. This spurred Everton on, and with just two minutes remaining, Goodison Park went wild when Anichebe fired one past Steve Harper to surely wrap up three points.
Newcastle were not to be beaten though, and Demba Ba struck in the 90th minute to silence the home fans but send the away supporters in the corner into delirium.
A hugely entertaining game, which has raised my opinions of the Premier League somewhat. It had everything. The touching tribute at the start, some meaty tackles, poor officiating, offside goals, goals that should have been goals, actual goals, and some excellent individual performances and some not so good (I'm looking at you Phil Neville and Leon Osman).
A cracking evening at Goodison Park, and I'm pleased I made the choice to visit.