Everton fail to boost top-four bid
Everton wasted a chance to boost their challenge for a top-four finish in the Premier League as Swansea held on for a 0-0 draw at Goodison Park on Saturday.
David Moyes' fifth-placed side would have moved within one point of fourth-placed Tottenham with a victory, but the visitors delivered a composed display to frustrate the Toffees in front of Spain coach Vicente del Bosque, who was in England to check on the form of influential Swansea forward Michu.
Del Bosque stated before Christmas that Michu will be handed a place in his squad for the friendly clash with Uruguay at the start of February, recognition for the outstanding first half of the season enjoyed by the 26-year-old.
The former Real Madrid boss will have left Merseyside equally impressed by Spanish centre-back Chico Flores and the other Swansea defenders as they kept Everton at bay.
Playing almost exclusively on the counter attack, the visitors came closest to breaking the first half deadlock when Nathan Dyer intelligently played Michu clear, threading a pass between two Everton defenders after 35 minutes.
Michu instantly attempted an audacious chip, from 20 yards, which the Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard did well to push onto his crossbar via a fingertip save.
That opening aside, the game was one of almost exclusive Everton domination, although Swansea defended the chances with relative comfort.
Steven Pienaar sent over an accurate ninth minute cross which the lively Nikica Jelavic placed just the wrong side of the left-hand post, then Leighton Baines' corner was met by a twisting header from Jelavic, with full-back Dwight Tiendalli required to clear off the Swansea line.
Just before the half hour, Ashley Williams made another goal-line clearance for the visitors, this one from Victor Anichebe's effort after Marouane Fellaini had nodded down a Phil Jagielka through-ball.
The second half opened in similar fashion with Everton midfielder Phil Neville making a rare foray close to the opposition goal and winning a corner after Michel Vorm saved his effort at the foot of his near post.
Anichebe also threatened, rising powerfully to meet a left-flank Baines corner and heading just over the Swansea goal.
Pienaar almost managed to play Jelavic clean through, at the end of a neat passing move by Everton, but Swansea's defensive organisation was first-class and the Welsh side looked well capable of ending the home side's run of having scored in 18 consecutive Premier League games.
The home crowd's growing frustration saw them join Jelavic in appealing loudly for a penalty after the forward went down following contact with Williams, an appeal which referee Phil Dowd rejected.
Seamus Coleman's deep cross from the right was headed goalwards by Jelavic and controlled by Fellaini on his chest, just two yards from the line. But the Belgian international was unable to turn and more solid defending cleared the threat.
Del Bosque had seen enough, leaving his seat in the Goodison directors' box after 77 minutes, and it proved the right call as the match petered out.