Everton really have been proving all the critics wrong this season.
After managing two consecutive victories against Wigan Athletic and West Ham United at Upton Park—both with star player Marouane Fellaini sidelined due to suspension—the Toffees fell to Chelsea last weekend, despite scoring in the first minute of the match.
Therefore, there was understandably not much expectation for an away victory against Newcastle United, who have struggled this campaign after finishing in fifth place last season. Still, New Castle are a tremendous goal threat and their fans can create a phenomenal atmosphere at St. James' Park.
After poor marking allowed Papiss Cisse to score early in the match, Everton equalized through a spectacular, howitzer-like free kick from Leighton Baines moments before halftime. They then won when Victor Anichebe scored only minutes after entering the pitch for Steven Naismith.
The Liverpool-based club now sit in fifth place and will visit Cheltenham Town in the FA Cup Third Round on Monday, January 7th.
GK- Tim Howard (7) The U.S. international did not have much to do throughout the match, but was confident in his goal, held onto the ball well and denied Papiss Cisse in the second half after a deflected effort came close to the goal.
RB- Phil Jagielka (6) While he is a natural centre-back, Jagielka was called upon to deputize at right-back for the third consecutive match due to injuries. The English international was a strong presence in the back, despite being beaten by Gabriel Obertan on a few occasions and not providing much of an attacking threat on the flank.
CB- John Heitinga (6) The Dutch strongman has looked like a shadow of the footballer who won Everton's Player of the Season award last year. While he did well to hold down Shola Ameobi, Heitinga was slow out of the back and appeared unsure of himself when Newcastle pressed high up the pitch.
CB- Sylvain Distin (7) Although Distin turned 35 years old last month, he still has enough pace and strength to challenge any striker in the Premier League. The Frenchman was caught flat-footed on the bounce that led to Cisse's goal, but he did well in assisting Baines to control the Senegal international.
LB- Leighton Baines (8) Once again, the left-back proved why Ashley Cole should blush at the claims he is the best in his position for England. Baines scored a wonderful free kick and saw another denied by Tim Krul. He also provided a consistent threat down the left flank alongside Steven Pienaar.
RM- Steven Naismith (5) There was a lot of promise around Naismith's free transfer from Glasgow Rangers over the summer. Still, despite scoring three league goals this season, the Scotsman was typically unthreatening on the right flank, failed to get to the ball on multiple occasions and was often at fault for slowing down the counterattack.
CM- Phil Neville (5) The captain returned to feature in central midfield after missing the loss to Chelsea. Neville played the destroyer throughout the match and failed to provide much creativity from midfield. However, his presence did seem to bring confidence to the side as they rallied to win from one-nil down.
CM- Leon Osman (6) Little Leon, otherwise known as the Scouse Iniesta, was caught up in messy midfield play for much of the match. Still, the 31-year old brought composure and his short passing allowed Everton to slowly build their way into the match and win countless set piece opportunities.
LM- Steven Pienaar (7) The former South Africa captain was his natural self along the left-flank, switching with Baines to control wide play. His crossing was not perfect, but he linked up well with Marouane Fellaini and gave James Perch headaches all match.
AM- Marouane Fellaini (7) Fellani, Everton's leading scorer with eight goals, returned from a three-match suspension and failed to provide the attacking threat that was evident earlier in the season. However, he dominated aerial play with his towering headers and powerful chest play. After Anichebe came on for Naismith, the Belgian dropped deeper into midfield and kept Newcastle from playing through the middle.
ST- Nikica Jelavic (5) The Croatian international looked lost for much of the match. While he did chip in with a vital assist on Victor Anichebe's winner, Jelavic is desperately out of form and needs to begin scoring again if he wants to continue leading the line for Everton.
RM- Bryan Oviedo (6) He may have only appeared as a late substitute, but Oviedo brought energy when the Everton threat began drying up and appears set for a big future at Goodison Park.
ST- Victor Anichebe (7) The Nigerian international scored only two minutes after entering the match. He provided strength and was a threat in the box, but he suffered a slight head knock which seemed to slow him down for the latter part of the match.