In the build up to the game, I was wondering how many of our injured players would make the cut and play. I was also wondering if Moyes would persist with Jags at right back. I was glad to see that all those remaining were deemed fit to play. Sad that Jags was starting at right back where we would lack any width as a result.
Boro started with Tuncay and Aliadiere up front. It was Boro that started the brighter with slick passing and good use of the width in midfield. Tim Howard came out a long way to meet a cross and didn't get enough of it. Arca crossed the ball back in but thankfully the ball was cleared by the defence.
Aliadiere was then teed up for a great chance inside the box but thankfully he got under it and hit it over the bar. The heart of our midfield with Neville and Rodwell was non-existent and we were resorting to hoofball, which was even more pointless than usual since Wheater and Huth were towering over Cahill and fouling the hair off Fellaini.
I can't believe how Fellaini was getting called for all tussles. Osman had an effort on goal and Fellaini himself had a header. Pienaar was working tirelessly with hardly any creative help. Howard came out to cut off a through ball and this time reached the ball comfortably.
From a corner, which Pienaar took, the ball came off a Boro defender and went across the face of goal. A cross was well headed towards goal by Fellaini, forcing Brad Jones to save well — low to his right. We were finally looking like we had a midfield and the possibility of a goal beckoned. Little did i realise that it would come at the wrong end.
From a clearance from our goal, Arca tracked back to get the ball and was chased by Osman. Osman then gave Arca the faintest of nudges that resulted in Arca going down as if hit by a speeding bus. Obviously a foul when it's against us! From the resulting free kick (from the left), the ball was headed out, but not totally clear.
Bates got the ball on the right and whipped in a mean cross and Wheater found himself unmarked (think it was your man, Mr Yobo) and headed goalwards. Howard tried in vain to push it out, but it was well past the goal-line and Boro were ahead. We went up the other end and tried to reply with Lescott but his effort was blocked off.
We went into the break one goal down and needing to score twice after the break — something that hasn't been too easy after the injury to Mikel. I was hoping that Moyes would give the lads a right kick up the backside in the dressing room. Was also hoping that Saha/Gosling would come on for Rodwell as he was just invisible in the first half.
Saha replaced Rodwell at half-time as I hoped. Cahill moved into a conventional midfield role. We were quick out of the blocks and no sooner had the game restarted, when Cahill crossed the ball from the right, Brad Jones started to come for the ball. As he did, he realised his error as Fellaini was quicker to the ball and headed it over Jones into the open goal. The crowd was back into it as we drew level.
No sooner had the game restarted, when the ball was crossed into the box by Ossie for Saha who tried an audacious overhead kick and missed it totally. Pienaar was on hand on the left to collect the ball and cross it back for Saha to outjump Huth and put us ahead. The crowd (and of course, my wife and me at home) went wild.
We didn't let up and wave after wave of attack continued. We then won a free kick just outside their box which Baines stepped up to take. He had stated last week how he wanted to fill in for Arteta for free kicks and he almost outdid him as his curling, dipping shot hit the crossbar with Jones a mere spectator.
Shots from Pienaar and Saha were indication that the tide had indeed turned at Goodison. Boro refused to give in and when they used the wings, always looked dangerous. They rang the changes but the goal failed to arrive.
There were a lot of nervous moments for us. One of them was when the ball was cleared from our area but hit Saha in the chest and fell kindly to Tuncay but he was closed down by Lescott before he could slot the ball into the goal. They also looked dangerous from set-pieces and from a free kick, the ball seemed to be straight at Howard for a routine catch but it somehow swerved a bit and Howard let it bobble off his chest. Thankfully, Lescott was there as always to clear.
Saha had a chance to put the game to bed when, after a lovely move down the right, the ball was cut back to the edge of the area by Jags, where with time and space, he blasted over. We held on for 4 minutes of added time and we're now on our way to Wembley.
The subsequent FA Cup draw revealed that we would play Man Utd in that semi-final at Wembley. I would have preferred Chelsea to be honest but it wasn't to be. Hopefully by then we will have Hibbo back and maybe even Vaughan.
All in all, a truly wonderful comeback, inspired by the manager (and Steve Round apparently) and completed by the lads. We must get the combination right as we play Stoke, Wigan and Pompey. After that, April will be a very tough month with the likes of Villa, Chelsea, City and now even Man Utd (Cup) lying in wait.
Player Performances:Howard: The windy conditions led to him bobbling one at the end. He also went walkabout right at the beginning but both times, our reliable defence got us out of jail. Not one of his better performances, surely.
Jagielka: Solid at the back. One good cut-back for Saha in the second half but it's obvious that's not his natural position.
Yobo: Would prefer him NOT to start but not much of an option now I guess.
Lescott: Immense. Both at the back and going forward. That stunning run of his right at the end was worth recording for later.
Baines: Great game once again. That free kick was evidence that we have a better option than Jags' wall basher.
Neville: Solid, passionate display by a man that I'm proud to call our captain.
Rodwell: Poor game and he will know it.
Osman: Much better than in recent weeks. Did well with his passing and tracking back too.
Pienaar: Our main source of creativity in midfield after Mikel got injured. Did really well I feel with his passing. Defensively, was like a little terrier snapping at the opposition's heels when they had the ball.
Cahill: Solid outing again and for once he didn't head the ball into the net but instead crossed it for Fellaini to do just that.
Fellaini: Needed a good game after a slight dip in form in the last few games and had just that. Is getting no favours from the refs, though. I thought that Huth would pull his wig off one time in the box! Subs: Saha: French, Fragile, Frequently injured, Fast, Fantastic... changed the game after he came on. Should have had at least one more goal though.
Gosling: Not on for long.
Note: Read that Moyes admitted wanting to give the lads a roasting at half time but Steve Round got there before him and got stuck into them. So, we are in unchartered territory now under Moyes and with the smallest squad yet I think. We need all the lads to stay fit (and far away from bone crunchers like Nolan, Pogatetz, Cattermole, etc) if we want to make a push up the league table and go further in the Cup.
The ref had a decent game to be fair other than the fact that he ignored almost every foul on Fellaini. Stoke this weekend and an old Blue in Beattie. Wonder if Moyes has forgiven him for his comments after leaving the club? Or was that Johnson who made the remarks? It doesn't really matter, does it? Onwards and upwards...COYB
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