On Wednesday evening, Steven Pienaar announced his retirement from all forms of football. It would be wrong not to send him on his way without tipping our hat, one last time, to some memories and moments of pure brilliance during his Everton career.
5 – Back heel flicks, dancing on the ball and ‘God is great’
It became a trademark move for Pienaar, run down the line to the 18 yard box, confront the full back, wait for Baines to over lap and knock the ball behind himself and roll it on to his partner in crime.
Along with his back heel flick, came his confidence when in possession. Particularly in his first spell at Goodison Park, Pienaar was at so much ease on the ball he’d dance whilst trying to out-whit a defender. It would raise ‘Ole’s’ from the fans and often make a joke out of the defender Pienaar was trying to beat. Lovely stuff.
That celebration. That iconic celebration that you could just see meant so much to our little winger every time he had the opportunity to display his message. His base layer shirt always had the same message “God Is Great” adorned across it. When he scored his playing shirt would go over his head to reveal his message. You could see the journey Pienaar had been on etched across his face every time he scored. Emotional in all kinds of ways.
4 – Man utd 4-4 Everton – Pienaar completes the comeback- 2011/12.
Quite simply, this game was a whirlwind. I was there, I still look back on it and can’t remember quite what happened or how! I remember all of the goals and I remember how Pienaar and Fellaini dominated United in the second half of the game. I remember instantly thinking upon Pienaar scoring the equaliser “he doesn’t half deserve that”.
It wasn’t a trademark Pienaar performance as Manchester United made it difficult, but what our left winger did better than most was turn up the pace when it mattered. His 1-2 with Fellaini going into their box, was sharp. Pienaar ran around three static United defenders, helpless to the movement around them, and pushed his way through to receiving Fellaini’s back heel return leaving the South African 1-on-1 with the keeper. Of course he knocked it in!
3 – The second coming announced with a goal vs Chelsea – 2011/12.
It would be wrong to ignore our fans apprehension at Steven Pienaar’s return to Goodison Park after his move to Tottenham. Our fans weren’t sure it would ever quite be as good as that first tenure and it wasn’t, but his goal on his return versus Chelsea got us all excited once again.
Maybe never quite recognised due to the resounding successful link up play with Baines, but Pienaar did form a unlikely partnership with Marouane Fellaini as well. Once more this link up with Fellaini proved a hit with Pienaar’s returning goal. Threaded through into the area by Fellaini, Pienaar pushed and jostled his way through Chelsea’s defenders to smash the ball into the roof of the net. We went on to beat them 2-0 that day! The return of one of our sons!
2 – AEK Athens in the Europa league, A drive from 30 yards- 2009/10.
Everton were 2-0 up by the time Pienaar stamped his mark on this game. But, he left a bigger print on it than anyone else that day with a ridiculous goal.
Pienaar had already assisted a goal for the Blues and with AEK Athens on the ropes, the South African stepped in and struck a driving shot 30 yards out from the Park end goal. It flew high past their diving goal keeper and Pienaar had ended the game for the away team in the first half.
1 – Arsenal away in the snow, Pienaar chips Almunia! 2009/10.
Vintage Pienaar. If I ever had to describe the man’s skill, ability and composure I’d instantly refer to this moment. Everton went a goal up through Leon Osman inside 15 minutes, soon after followed Arsenal’s equaliser.
The second half came and the snow fell heavily at the Emirates. Just when the game was in need of boost, Everton broke from inside their own half. Tim Cahill took the ball to the half way and played Steven Pienaar through with two Arsenal defenders chasing. Pienaar gets the 18 yard area as Almunia rushes out to try and close the wingers break away, but an audacious and balls chip over the keeper literally had heads spinning! Trademark Pienaar!
A remarkable career and one that Pienaar largely played out at Everton. Although we weren’t successful in gaining silverware during his time at our club, we did reach our last major final and Pienaar was integral to the journey.
Pienaar had ridiculous skill and his movement made it easy for everyone of his team mates around him to link up and create problems for the opposition. We’re yet to have a replica of that Leighton Baines/Steven Pienaar connection down our left side and we might not see it for a while longer yet. Thanks for being boss, Peanuts!