Sweet Smith strike stuns Toffees

A difficult week off the pitch for Everton was matched on it as their delayed Premier League start began with a 1-0 home defeat to QPR.

Last Updated: 20/08/11 at 20:06 Post Comment

Smith: Scored only goal

Smith: Scored only goal

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In the days preceding kick-off in Saturday's Premier League clash, the Merseyside club had been in the news as their financial plight came under the spotlight once again.

So tight are the finances at Goodison Park - chairman Bill Kenwright admitting they cannot borrow any more money from the bank and desperately need a new owner - that manager David Moyes has not been able to sign anyone this summer.

With a number of senior first-teamers still not fully fit, Moyes' resources were stretched even thinner and QPR - who this week were taken over by airline boss Tony Fernandes - took full advantage to snatch a narrow win.

Tommy Smith scored the goal just past the half-hour - securing their first points of the season - in what was probably the visitors' only real chance to inflict Everton's first home defeat since December.

It was also the visitors' first top-flight away win since February 1996.

In fact, the last time QPR beat Everton 15 years ago they did so with the help of the likes of Ray Wilkins and Mark Hateley.

But the early focus was not on the past but the future as, with Mikel Arteta, Louis Saha and Marouane Fellaini on the bench, Moyes gave a debut to 17-year-old Ross Barkley.

The teenager, who has been at the club since the age of 11, did not disappoint as he gave many of his more experienced team-mates something to think about.

Despite his depleted resources Moyes will wonder why his team dominated throughout but the closest they came to scoring was Leighton Baines' first-half free-kick which crashed against the crossbar.

Smith had given an early warning of the danger he posed with a low snap-shot half-volley which flew narrowly wide of Tim Howard's right-hand post.

Everton took control after that with Jack Rodwell having an appeal for a penalty turned down after a challenge from Matthew Connolly.

But it was the performance of the debutant Barkley which was drawing all the attention.

Midway through the first half a driving diagonal run from left to right saw him twice feign to shoot before he was brought down by Fitz Hall.

Baines' free-kick cleared the wall and had goalkeeper Paddy Kenny rooted to the spot but cannoned back off the woodwork.

Barkley's confidence continued to grow as he sprayed crossfield passes around seemingly at his leisure, also curling a low 25-yard shot just wide.

However, Everton's early dominance began to wane and from QPR's first real spell of pressure they took the lead.

Phil Jagielka, a target for Arsenal, carelessly gave the ball away to Alejandro Faurlin and it was quickly transferred to Akos Buzsaky in the inside-left channel whose low cross perfectly picked out Smith.

The winger's first touch took the ball out of his feet and with marker Jagielka out of position he coolly slotted his shot past Howard's outstretched left hand and into the far corner of the net.

After that it was all Everton up until the break with the previously quiet Tim Cahill suddenly finding himself at the centre of everything.

Having been tripped by Hall, the Australia international appeared to be pushed as he challenged for Baines' free-kick but when the ball was crossed back in by Jermaine Beckford, Cahill missed from close range at the far post.

Cahill and Beckford could both have equalised with headers just before the break while Rodwell tamely chipped into Kenny's arms a couple of minutes into the second half.

It prompted the introduction of Arteta and then Fellaini, whose replacement of Beckford did not meet with wholehearted support from the Goodison Park crowd.

However, it almost paid instant rewards as Fellaini teed up Cahill, now playing as a striker, for a narrow-angle shot from the right which Kenny turned behind.

Barkley continued to look one of Everton's better players and fired a low drive wide before his deflected shot after cutting in from the right was well held by Kenny as QPR held on quite comfortably.

A return to full fitness of their major stars will improve things for Everton, but any hopes Moyes had of getting off to a good start for once were ended by the Londoners.

The Toffees boss admitted yesterday finishing in the top 10 would be a tough task this season. On the basis of one match, he may be right.

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