We all arrived ‘up for the cup’, all convinced this could be our year. We chatted and discussed the move - or not - to a dockside location. We have been promised much before so a bit of apprehension can be expected.
The teams came through showing three changes. Two enforced and one tactical that saw Holgate given a runout. No cause for alarm as Leicester had made more and their star men were absent. The walk up was completed in light rain and you could tell it would not be a full house as the queues at the Goodison road eateries had lesser than usual patrons. Ah, gone are the halcyon days of cup day meaning big rosette, wooden rattle and a box to stand on.
In the ground in time for Z-Cars and also the introduction of our only signing to date, a Mr Lookman from down London way.
At kick off there was a fair sized crowd in and ready to roar us on to the next round and that’s where it started to go wrong, not at first because we started well and had a very entertaining first half with Everton being the better side but having to be wary of fast Leicester breaks. In that first half we had Lukaku putting a shift in and early doors he got clear down the right and sent a daisy cutter across goal that Barkley just failed to connect with. That was a good chance with the keeper rooted. Valencia was looking speedy and linking with the marauding Baines and between them they gained a couple of corners as well as keeping Leicester on the back foot.
Plenty of attacking from us but without any end product or even a near end product as the ball went across the box with no one near enough to capitalise plus either a poor ball in or a misplaced pass and we had managed to silence our own crowd which had the large Leicester contingent goading us with that library stuff. This thing about moves going wrong from our own doing was epitomised by a quick counter attack which had the visitors' defence caught in no–man’s land. Valencia sped goal-wards with Lukaku in close attendance and free for a clear run on goal but, alas, the Ecuador striker put far too much pace on a simple pass and the keeper came and gathered. Groans and sighs were the order.
We were on top though and Holgate and Coleman were prominent but the standard of crosses from these two left a little to be desired. Big Ron had a right rant at Holgate after the defender appeared to bottle a tackle. Leicester attacked when they could and the lad Gray was showing pace and strength and it was no surprise when he used these qualities to break quickly after Coleman and Holgate had gone too far forward together. He closed in on goal but Joel came out, got his angles right and saved at the expense of a corner which was cleared.
The half wore on with attack and counter attack but no matter which team broke the moves always seemed to peter out or suffer from too many passes. We did get caught before the break when Leicester broke two on two and Williams did a fine job in slowing the move down and then Baines executed a fine tackle to see out the danger.
Just before the half time whistle Lukaku had the chance of the half when Valencia got a cross in that had Schmeichel stretching to palm the ball away but only managed to set up Lukaku at the far post for what looked like a regulation nod home but somehow after rising well he managed to put the ball well wide. 50-pence head came to mind. Eventually it was shown on the big screen and it looked no better on there.
Most were agreed we had much the better of that half and but for our inability to score it could have been game over.
The players returned for the second half and the manager had taken off Holgate and put on Deulofeu. I wondered if it was after the spat between manager and player in first half. Deulofeu had his first run and cross and presented Lukaku with what would have been a tap in but the liner had immediately signalled offside.
The half was following the pattern of the first with us in command but having to be mindful of some quick counters. A lad called Musa was on for an injured player and he looked big, strong and pacey and from a run forced us to concede a corner from which Morgan headed goal-wards and Joel was alert and gathered.
The hour mark was reached and the game took a massive change from that minute. First Deulofeu showed his dribbling skill and electric pace when he beat his marker and then powered along the bye line and delivered a hard low cross that gave Lukaku a tap in. The relief around Goodison could be felt. Here we go, we thought; we are on top they will have to come out so we may be able to add another couple on the break.
Ha! The very opposite happened. Leicester suddenly found two extra gears and went for it with pace and power and a big slice of determination. Within two minutes they were level when that man Musa races down the left put in a cross for Gray whose effort was parried onto the post by Robles but in a flash both Musa and Gray had followed up and forced the ball over the line before Robles could knock it away.
Within a further two minutes Mirallas had stung Schmeichel’s hands with a good shot and that man Musa had marauded down field swapped passes with Drinkwater and fired home for a wonderfully worked goal made easier by some woeful defending. From 1-0 and coasting to 2-1 down and looking sorry for themselves really tells the story of the game.
Many started to leave as Leicester all of a sudden seemed to have all big strong players operating at pace whilst we were trying hard but without being able to complete a move forward. Were Deulofeu had been the player he was when he first joined us he had now reverted to the frustrating over-playing man.
The game was played out and a few boos could be heard on the whistle. It was a big disappointment to us all and on the way out the talk was of the board getting in our transfer targets quickly.
Having sat through that it is obvious we need to get a few good players in because, for whatever reason, the players we have can’t give us what we need. I heard Koeman had more or less demanded the board act and get his targets in and don’t haggle over a few million quid. I think that’s how a lot of fans feel after all the money we hear about now in the club.
However I do wonder if our manager could not have been expected to get more out of the players he inherited. I understand he has a preferred way of playing but could he not have adjusted it a little to find a way with what he has got?
I am disappointed now but we have City on Sunday so I will look forward to better times.
See you at the fat van for breakfast.
UP THE BLUES
Holgate, Davies, Barkley and Valencia are in the starting line-up for Everton with three centre-backs as they take on The Foxes in this season's FA Cup 3rd Round.
Lennon and Calvert-Lewin are out injured, and Idrissa Gaana Gueye has departed to the Africa Cup of Nations. Jamie Vardy is not included for Leicester City who give a debut to their new signing, Wilfred Ndidi.
Leicester kicked off but Everton took control and won the first corner after a good spell of early possession. Barkely took it but Funes Mori's shot came to nothing. At the other end, Ulloa and Gray combined and came close with a flicked header
Lukaku played a great ball across the face of goal but it evaded Barkley who was the closest. Lukaku again tried to drive into the area but was blocked. Barry gave the ball away and that allowed the Foxes to build again.
Everton continued to press and forced Huth to give away another corner but nothing came of it. Leicester tried to break but Baines prevented their progress and broke well but Valencia's touch was poor; however, another corner from Barkley but it ended up as a break for Leicester. Davies tracked Gray well and drew the foul.
Ndidi took a shot that was blocked by Williams, but it led to a fantastic break with Lukaku set to run in on Schmeichel but the ball from Valencia was poor and a great chance was gone.
Gray got free and ran at the Everton goal with Funes Mori failing to to delay him and Robles needed to make the save.
Lukaku got Coleman forward but the move broke down and Leicester counter-attacked but Ulloa pulled up with what looked like a hamstring problem, Ahmed Musa replacing him.
Valencia could not get much change out of Huth, but Barkley was stronger and got Everton forward for another corner that Barkley took, Williams flicking on to Funes Mori but he waited for it to bounce and ended up skying the ball high over the bar.
Lukaku and Holgate tried to combine but it broke down and Musaa was fouled by Williams. Holgate shielded the ball back to Robles allowing Everton to build again. Davies did well to win the ball back but the move came to nought.
A cross came in from Baines that seemed to be in Schmichel's range but he palmed it on to Lukaku who headed it just wide. Another corner resulted from the second ball. But Barkley's corner bounded straight through. Another Everton attack saw Lukaku win the ball back from Ndidi and Coleman played it back for Lukaku but the Big Man's strike was over the bar.
Into added time before the break, with Davies trying to get forward down the right and Holgate combining with him, crossing in for Valencia but it broke down and Musa tried to break, unable to get away from Barkley. Everton turning the screw a little before half-time.
Gerard Deulofeu replaced Holgate after the break and soon put in a great ball for Lukaku who had moved too far behind the Leicester defence and was called offside.
Chilwell won a corner off Coleman, comfortably claimed by Joel Robles. Everton won another corner at the other end that once again Barkley swung in to the near post but it went out for a throw-in. Another poor touch from Valencia ended the Blues move.
Barkley played in a good chance for Valencia but it was blocked. Better pressure from the Blues winning yet another corner, this time Deulofeu but just as poor to theh near post and it set up a dangerous Leicester attack with Musa breaking fast but Baines was back to block Simpson's shot.
A Leicester corner was delivered well by Gray toward Morgan at the the far post but Robles commanded the ball well. Everton attacked brightly with Deulofeu adding some excitement but unable to create a clear chance as the Blues pressed for the first goal.
Williams broke well and Deulofeu played in a good-looking ball but Valencia fluffed it again and that was his final action, Mirallas on in his stead.
Everton looked to build again but a poor touch from Lukaku but Deulofeu took the initiative, skinning Chilwell, and setting up Lukaku for a tap-in and the opening goal. Classic Deulofeu of old.
Leicester came close from a corner. Then Gray scampered down the left, and Musa somehow got the ball into the Everton net despite Baines's block, the ball hitting the post before Robles appeared to punch it into his own net!
The game came to life, Mirallas being denied before Gray at the other end came close. And it was Leicester who incredibly got the next goal, Musa firing home off a ball from Drinkwater, to turn the tie on its head. Koeman's response was to exchange Barkley for Kone, a lst and now desperate throw of the dice to stay in the FA Cup.
Kone and Mirallas tried a one-two that didn't work, Mirallas getting frustrated with Mendy. Gray, who had been a problem for teh Blues was replaced by defender Fuchs as Ranieri looked to hold their lead and knock the Blues out at the first hurdle.
Kone got forward and tried to bulldoze his way through Simpson but he was crowded out and failed to get the ball to Baines. Everton tried to build through Davies and Deulofeu but the ball was lost. Baines was next to try and get through, then Funes Mori fouled Musa and his name went into the book.
Mirallas drove forward and fired in a great shot that looked like it was goalbound but Casper Schmeichel had different ideas, touching it behind for a corner. It was getting frenetic now as the Blues were trying everything they could to penetrate the Leicester defence as the visitors were backs to the wall.
Deulofeu got frustrated and pulled a shirt to give away a silly free-kick and Everton entered panic mode as the seconds ticked away, Everton winning a corner off Chiwell. Deulofeu swung it in and Williams was up for it, another corner, that Kone tried to reach. Davies was then foulked by Kapustka. Barry tried to reach the free-kick and head home but he could not as the match went into 4 minutes of stoppage time.
Kone seemed to have a chance but went for the extra pass instead of shooting. Kone and Deulofeu tried to construct something but it ended with over-elaboration that went behind. Kapustka had a shot at the other end that Robles saved and tried to get the Blues forward again but Mirallas fouled as time ran out for the Blues efforts and a massive post-mortem on the cards as they are thrown out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle by the reigning Premier League Champions.
Just when things were looking up
The week had been a good one. Starting the year with an (admittedly not so comfortable) 3-0 victory over Southampton followed by a positive AGM meeting, an exciting young prospect signed up and another highly regarded player apparently on the way, you hoped we could continue the good feeling with a cup run. I even dared to dream about winning the FA Cup. I mean, we must be due one. It's only been 22 years since our last one after all.
Picking up Ste and parking up in plenty of time for the game, as we went to the ATM at the Shell garage I saw The Barlow Arms out of the corner of my eye. The pub sits adjacent to a now closed down pub we used to sometimes frequent, The Westminster. We thought we'd give it a go and were impressed with the layout and atmosphere in the place. Though we only stayed for the one before meeting the other guys in The Brick, we shall return.
Catching the team news in the pub, we were all happy enough with the starting XI. The back three worked well at Leicester City on Boxing Day and so it made sense to try it again. As the game got underway it became bizarrely apparent that Mason Holgate was deployed at right back with Seamus Coleman further ahead of him in midfield. It made little sense. The idea of the three central defenders, two wing backs bombing forward, a midfield three of Barry, Davies and Barkley, with Valencia playing just off Lukaku sounded good. It's a shame we didn't get an opportunity to see it, and come half time we had nothing to show from the team.
A bit more determination from Ross Barkley from Romelu Lukaku's centre might have produced an early goal, and with another opportunity, Romelu Lukaku also failed to react quickly enough and headed well over and wide when the ball came back to him quickly from a Schmeichael save. At the break it was 0-0 but with the Premier League champions (well backed by their noisy following) getting the better of it, Demarai Gray coming perhaps closest when thwarted by Joel Robles who came off his line to block. "We might as well just turn up at half time" said one of the fellas. "We only turn up for the second half under Koeman".
This once again proved the case after the break. A half time change introduced Gerard Deulofeu for Mason Holgate and made us more attacking. Valencia, though busy, was a bit hit and miss in and around the penalty area. He seemed to up his game just before he was substituted and hit a speculative overhead volley high and wide. He was replaced by Kevin Mirrallas who should have started the game. He has scored in his last three starts against Leicester City so it would have made sense to give him another go in this one. Off the ball you had to chuckle at Leicester City's supporters chant of "YOU'RE SHIT! AHHHH" as Robles took a goal kick.
Mirallas had nothing to do with the goal however. This was all down to brilliant wing play by Gerard Deulofeu who beat Ben Chillwell before squaring for Romelu Lukaku who just couldn't miss with his 12th goal of the season.
Though just a few minutes between the goals, we appeared comfortable, yet Leicester City's goal came out of nothing. A ball down the channel which dissected the off-form Seamus Coleman, and was fired at goal by Ahmed Musa. We haven't had a lot of luck with rebounds off the post lately! Though you credit Musa for reacting quickest, Joel Robles was a little unlucky to see his punch clear rebound off Musa and bundle into the goal. The game level and it had become the real cup-tie we had all hoped for, albeit with the result about to get worse.
Kevin Mirallas, who was probably the only one who looked like scoring for the remainder of the game, fired at goal from distance but Schmeichael beat it away. Shortly afterwards we found ourselves behind when Musa again scored following a nice move by Leicester City, but with very passive defending by Everton.
With twenty minutes still remaining I was pretty confident we'd scramble a replay and keep our cup hopes alive but it wasn't to be. The effort to force the game was there, but our quality of play in the final third wasn't and we became more rugged and desperate as the game rolled on, with Kevin Mirallas again coming the closest with another distance drive, this one very well saved by Kasper Schmiechael.
Martin Atkinson was up to his old tricks...giving Leicester City everything, not punishing their blatant dive and handball and not really totting up their time-wasting well enough, surely the four minutes additional time should have been longer, but this is all moaning rather than genuine excuses. We could have played for the rest of the evening and probably not scored again. We were poor today. We could have done with an easier fixture to kick off our campaign, such as Plymouth Argyle at home let's say, but we got the home draw against a team we're above in the league so it's difficult to whinge too much really.
Ronald Koeman's complaint about his players defending is valid, though his public complaining to the board to get things done is not in my opinion. These things should be kept private, not public. Also, what message does this send out to the players we already have? Many of them have under-performed throughout the season and are capable of better. If you know the manager can't wait to get rid of you it can't inspire much confidence. He should be trying to make the best of what he's got until he can bring new players in, not publicly complaining about a board who, to the best of my knowledge will shortly have parted with the best part of £33 million, comfortable more than anybody else this January, to sign players for him. Signing the players you want takes time. You've got to make the most of what you have in the interim. Ronald isn't really doing that.
Still one Evertonian was happy enough with the result. With three successive home game this month, my German wife has been patiently waiting upon this result, and subsequent FA Cup draw to see who we are going to play on the weekend of 28th January so that we can plan a trip back to Germany to see the in-laws. Naturally I'm less enthused about the trip. I arrived home after the game to see an eager Katja with laptop open on Ryanair's website.
"So, Germany on the 28th then?" she asked.
Robles: His indecision at distribution was maddening. Otherwise he didn't do badly. Unlucky with one goal and helpless with the other. 6
Baines: My man of the match. He was excellent in the tackle and did OK going forward. 8
Funes Mori: I always feel he's got a mistake in him and can be rash. Very hit and miss for me. In this game he was miss rather than hit. 5
Williams: Similarly hit and miss. Also, miss rather than hit for me in this one. 5
Holgate: Didn't really do anything wrong, more substituted as a victim of Koeman's puzzling tactics to begin the game with. 5
Coleman: His worst game in some time. He had a real stinker. 4
Barry: He'll never be short of effort but it's difficult to deny his difficulty in getting around the pitch any more. He had to play today really as we had nobody else fit. Against Southampton he came on late and helped us see out the game well. When injuries clear, Gana returns from the African Nations Cup and new signings arrive he'll surely become more of a bit-part player. As he's contracted with us for another season yet, we should really try to tie him down to coaching. He must have a lot to offer. 5
Davies: He did very well. I love his enthusiasm and his willingness to take the game to the opposition. He's full of fight and can expect many more games throughout the rest of the campaign. 7
Barkley: I thought Ross was doing pretty well and with us 1-2 down with 15 minutes left I turned to Ste and recommended "should we just take Barry off and bring on Kone and just go for it?". I was very surprised therefore to see Barkley taken off as he and Davies were working things well between them. It was time to throw caution to the wind and trust Davies and Barkley to take on the responsibility of tracking back when they had to. It was cup football and we had nothing to lose. I'd rather have gone down giving it everything and who knows, we might still be in the hat had we have tried. 6
Valencia: Didn't do too badly but I thought that Mirallas introduction was a good thing. 6
Lukaku: Busy at times and could do more yes but I share his frustrations. He doesn't get enough service. Get the ball to him more and he'll score more goals. If he feels he's going to get the ball more, he'll probably move more and get us more goals. There's things he can work on for sure, but he needs the support in attack, and he's not getting a lot of that. 6
Deulofeu (for Holgate): He did brilliantly for our goal but, despite plenty of effort, that was all he did. Great to see what he can do, we need to see that with consistency. His showing highlighted everything that is right and wrong about Deulofeu's performances. 6
Mirallas (for Valencia): He should have started the game. If players tend to do well against a certain opposition you should play them every time. Look how Lukaku plays against West Ham. Think Ian Wright, Les Ferdinand and Ian Rush against us. Their tails are somehow up against certain teams and Mirallas' was when he came on and was the most likely to score. Should have began the game for sure. 7
Kone (for Barkley): Poor outgoing sub and a poor incoming one. Clueless at times in fact. As one of the lads at the game said, could Niasse really have done worse? While I'm at it, and just for the sake of a little rant, I also saw Aiden McGeady and Steven Naismith make noticeable contributions in their cup games over the weekend, both against Premier League opposition. You can argue that neither are the long term answer, and you'd be right. However the former can beat a man and the latter can score goals. Neither would be bad options off the bench at the moment but McGeady has been neglected entirely when he wasn't all that bad, whilst Naismith was sold by Martinez when he is miles better and more capable than Kone or Niasse. 4