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Everton down Royals to return to winning ways
Everton shrugged off their sloppy recent form to beat struggling Reading 3-1 at Goodison Park on Saturday and give their hopes of European qualification a shot in the arm.
The Toffees' victory had a strong Belgian flavour to it, with Marouane Fellaini heading in the opener shortly before half-time, and Kevin Mirallas ending the contest midway through the second half with a low finish past Stuart Taylor.
In between, Steven Pienaar scored a brilliant second goal, while Hal Robson-Kanu pulled one back for Reading towards the end.
That was a rare blotch on the day for David Moyes' side, who were able to put their disappointing defeat at the hands of Norwich City last weekend behind them to strengthen their grip on sixth place in the Premier League table.
Meanwhile, Reading's revival at the start of the New Year is becoming a distant memory, with a third defeat in a row leaving them in the relegation zone.
The Royals had enjoyed a bright start to the afternoon, with Adam Le Fondre almost giving the visitors a 20th-minute lead when he fired off the bar from 12 yards after Everton failed to properly clear a corner.
It was a difficult opening to the game for the hosts, who had Slovakian goalkeeper Jan Mucha starting a Premier League game for the first time in the absence of the injured Tim Howard, and lost Phil Jagielka to an ankle injury after just five minutes.
However, Everton, who had lost three of their last four Premier League meetings with Reading, did slowly take control of proceedings to finish the first period on top.
Mirallas then had a powerful shot beaten away before the opener arrived 41 minutes in.
Fellaini found Seamus Coleman on the right wing and advanced into the penalty area, where he headed home the Irishman's cross from close range for his 12th goal of the season.
Taylor then turned a net-bound Fellaini cross over the bar just before the interval, and Jelavic missed a great chance to increase the lead in the 53rd minute when he stumbled yards out with the goal gaping.
The all-important second goal arrived in the 59th minute, however, and was well worth the wait.
Fellaini turned creator this time, feeding Pienaar on the right, with the South African stepping inside Ian Harte and Jobi McAnuff and letting fly with a thunderous left-footed strike from 20 yards that was into the net before Taylor even saw it.
Mirallas fired wide moments later before getting the third on 66 minutes when he slotted low inside Taylor's near post after exchanging passes with Pienaar.
Reading did salvage some pride, and deny Mucha a clean sheet, when substitute Robson-Kanu rose to head home Harte's precise cross from the left seven minutes from time, but Everton were comfortable winners in the end and can look ahead to next week's FA Cup quarter-final against Wigan with confidence.
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