Mirallas keeps Everton's Euro bid on course
Everton remain in the hunt for a Champions League place after a superb solo goal from Kevin Mirallas clinched a 1-0 win over Stoke on Saturday.
Thanks to Mirallas's moment of inspiration in the first half at Goodison Park, David Moyes' sixth placed team are only four points behind fourth placed Chelsea in the battle to qualify for Europe's elite club competition.
After spending much of the season comfortably in mid-table, Stoke are now only four points above the relegation zone.
Stoke's ability to trouble teams from long throws is well documented, but Everton still seemed unprepared as an early panicked clearance fell to Robert Huth.
The German's header was well saved by Tim Howard and Stoke's luck was out as Jon Walters saw his follow-up come back off the crossbar.
Everton appealed in vain for a penalty when Leon Osman's shot struck Marc Wilson on the arm.
Moyes' men were gradually working up a head of steam and Nikica Jelavic headed straight at Asmir Begovic from a Leighton Baines cross.
The hosts' spell of pressure paid dividends in the 28th minute thanks to a fine individual goal from Mirallas.
When Howard punched a cross clear, the ball fell to Mirallas on the halfway line and the Belgian forward skipped away from Steven Nzonzi and eluded Geoff Cameron's challenge before guiding a cool finish past Begovic.
Stoke's response featured a disallowed goal as defender Ryan Shawcross saw his close-range effort ruled out for offside.
Tony Pulis's team threatened again through Walters, who cut inside before unleashing a shot that Howard did well to keep out.
Everton were playing three centre-backs in a bid to nullify Stoke's direct, aggressive tactics.
But Huth was still allowed far too much space to meet Glenn Whelan's free-kick early in the second half and the former Chelsea defender almost took advantage with a header into the side-netting.
Stoke caused more chaos in the Everton defence from a Wilson cross, but again the visitors missed their chance as Ryan Shotton headed over from close-range.
Everton finally sprang back into life through Jelavic, the Croatian striker winning a free-kick which he then curled just wide from 20 yards out.
Cameron Jerome went close for Stoke in the closing stages, but the forward's curling effort went wide in the last throw of the dice from the visitors.