I, along with many others, watched Everton play West Brom on Monday evening and was surprised indeed to witness Kevin Mirallas, rather than Leighton Baines, take a penalty for the home side.
The Belgian stubbornly picked up the ball and proceeded to take a frankly awful spot-kick with the score stuck at 0-0, which is how the game ended. Let me be clear right from the start; I’m aware I’m an outsider, and may perhaps be unaware of certain circumstances on the night, but Mirallas’ behaviour would have been frowned upon in children’s football, let alone in the Premier League.
Baines is the club’s penalty taker. He has scored 15 of his last 16, and I truly cannot understand why Mirallas thought that he would be the better candidate to convert what turned out to be Everton’s best chance in a combative draw.
It is clear to see that Everton, by their own high standards, are not having a strong season. For a club who finished fifth last season, and were pushing for Champions League qualification for long stages, to be languishing only four points above the drop zone is, frankly, a very real problem.
Everton’s participation in the Europa League would appear to be hindering their league form, and with the club facing Thursday evening games played in Russia, for example, this is perhaps unsurprising.
But it is for this reason that Mirallas’ behaviour last night was so important. Steven Naismith and Roberto Martinez may have tried to play the incident down in their post-match interviews, but there must have been real anger in the Everton dressing room at half time.
For, with the club being awarded a penalty just before half-time, having been unable to break a 0-0 deadlock against a resolute West Brom side defending in typical Pulis-esque fashion, why would Baines not take the penalty?
Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher were particularly critical of Mirallas on MNF, and it is perhaps telling that the Belgian winger did not re-appear for the second half, even if an injury was the supposed reason.
Everton are only four points above the relegation zone, and this is no joke. But Mirallas’ decision to break team rules and take a penalty, which could have proven to be decisive, was.