Firstly because that would just be enough in theory to buy his right foot. Secondly, because Everton FC wouldn’t put a price on him – he’s simply too important. The left-back scored the stunning free-kick which got them back into the game against Newcastle last night, then formed part of a rearguard which snuffed out the hosts’ later efforts to salvage something. And his contribution could be priceless in the end, as resilient Everton recorded an impressive win to move right back into the mix for Champions League qualification. In the process David Moyes’ men became Premier League history makers.
They’re now the first team to both score and concede in 16 consecutive games, yet they’ve lost just twice in that milestone sequence. Their ability to keep clean sheets may remain a distant memory, but Everton’s overall capacity to shrug off setbacks and put points on the board remains their calling card this term. It was a triumphant finale with a disastrous start. Newcastle’s tendency to hit long balls should have been no surprise, but Everton failed spectacularly to deal with their first one after just 65 seconds.
Goalkeeper Tim Krul aimed a long punt forward, and when John Heitinga mis-timed his jump to deliver a clearing header, the ball bounced and Papiss Cisse was unmarked and able to loop a simple header over Tim Howard. The early advantage electrified the hosts and they began to peg the visitors back with a string of attacks, which required some last-ditch defending around Everton’s six-yard box. Yet they might have quickly hit back when Baines, who passed a late fitness test alongside Steven Pienaar, forced Krul into an excellent diving save with a central free-kick from 20 yards. Better was to follow from him.
The Blues began to assert their greater ability on the ball, mounting a further series of probing attacks as Leon Osman and Pienaar took up dangerous positions in the final third, but ref Martin Atkinson was affording Everton little protection from a series of fouls. Despite that it was Newcastle who almost doubled their lead on half an hour when Phil Jagielka conceded a free-kick with a clumsy challenge on Gabriel Obertan, and from Vurnon Anita’s delivery, James Perch got above Heitinga and flicked a header onto the post. If the Newcastle defender was unfortunate then, he got lucky moments later when he clipped Pienaar as the midfielder raced into the penalty area but the South African stayed on his feet and Krul sprinted from his line to save with his legs. But Everton were not to be denied.
With half-time approaching, Marouane Fellaini – back causing havoc for opponents after his suspension, won a free-kick from Fabricio Coloccini and Baines stood over the ball from 35 yards. Most perhaps expected the England defender to cross, but instead he unleashed an unstoppable pile driver which almost obliterated the back of the net.
If a more sweetly struck set-piece is dispatched during this campaign it will surely be goal of the season.