Belfast Telegraph

Neville welcomes Pienaar return

Everton captain Phil Neville believes Steven Pienaar is back to his best at a club that loves him.

The South Africa playmaker caught the eye with a goalscoring return to Goodison Park in Saturday's 2-0 Barclays Premier League in over Chelsea. Pienaar, 29, rejoined the Toffees on loan on last month's transfer deadline day after a frustrating year on the fringes of the Tottenham team.

Neville said: "It was a great performance from Pienaar. He is obviously back doing what he does best at a club he enjoys playing at. I don't think he realises how well thought of he is here. When he was at Tottenham I don't think there was a day that went past when we didn't speak about him."

"He added: The combination between him and Leighton Baines on the left-hand side - there is no better combination in English football at the moment. He has had a good return. He was man of the match at Wigan last week and probably our best player, along with Denis [Stracqualursi] yesterday."

Pienaar fired Everton into a fifth-minute lead against Chelsea before Stracqualursi, with his first Premier League goal, secured a win which piled on the pressure for visiting boss Andre Villas-Boas 18 minutes from time.

The result maintained Everton's recent revival after another sluggish start to the season.

The Merseysiders, who beat title-chasing Manchester City in their previous home game, are now unbeaten in five league matches as well as through to the FA Cup fifth round.

Neville believes the spark for that good run was provided by a good January transfer window when, after more than two years of frustration in the market, manager David Moyes was able to strengthen significantly.

Darron Gibson and Landon Donovan - albeit the latter only on a short-term loan - arrived early in the month before the late captures of Pienaar and striker Nikica Jelavic, who missed out through injury.

Neville said: "At the training ground there is a bounce in everyone's step, the manager is bouncing and the players are all confident. There is a real competition for places now and no-one is guaranteed a place. All of a sudden you are thinking we are beginning to look like a powerful squad again and that is why the performance levels have been raised."


From Belfast Telegraph