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Howard's way for Rafa

Rafael van der Vaart left Goodison Park convinced we'd have beaten Everton if Tim Howard hadn't denied him from point-blank range just before the home side's winner.

Rafael van der Vaart left Goodison Park convinced we’d have beaten Everton if Tim Howard hadn’t denied him from point-blank range just before the home side’s winner.

In a key moment after 73 minutes, Luka Modric darted to the right byline and drove the ball in low for Rafa, who timed his run perfectly to meet the cross 10 yards from goal.

The ball was slightly under his feet but Rafa managed to angle his effort on target only to see the home goalkeeper make a fine block on his goal-line.

Two minutes later and Everton grabbed the winner as Louis Saha fired at goal from 20 yards, Heurelho Gomes turned the shot away only for Seamus Coleman to nod the rebound into the empty net.

“It was a great action from Luka and normally that’s a goal,” reflected Rafa at Goodison. “It was a difficult ball to connect with because it was right under my feet, but it was really disappointing not to score.

“I think we would have won the game if we’d have gone 2-1 up, for sure.”


Rafa was electric as we recovered from Saha’s opener inside three minutes to have the better of the first half.

The Dutch playmaker was inches away from what would have been wonder strike from fully 35 yards – his volley from the left touchline drifting inches wide with Howard beaten – before heading home the equaliser from Peter Crouch’s assist after 11 minutes.

He then hit a spectacular bicycle kick a yard over from the edge of the box and had Howard scrambling to reach a 30-yard free-kick that arrowed just over.

It looked all set for us to go on and make it four wins in four over the festive period but the Toffees had other ideas and came out fighting in the second half.

They created more chances after the break and finally won it via Coleman’s header, ending our sequence of 11 matches unbeaten in all competitions.

“It was disappointing but in the end I think you have to say that Everton deserved to win the game,” added Rafa.

“It was frustrating because we all know that we can play much better. Everton played well in the second half but we didn’t keep the ball enough and that’s where we had problems.”