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Venue: Goodison Park, Liverpool
FA Cup
 Saturday 18 February 2012; 3:00pm
2 0
 Drenthe (1')
 Stracqualursi (7')
Half Time: 2-0
Attendance: 38,347
Round 5
Referee: Michael Oliver

Match Report

Everton booked comfortable passage to the FA Cup quarter finals thanks to a blistering start that had them two goals up on Blackpool inside seven minutes, an advantage they could easily have extended further before the Seasiders were gifted a highly dubious 90th-minute penalty that veteran striker Kevin Phillips ballooned over to seal their fate.

With Landon Donovan denied his second swansong by a bout of flu, Royston Drenthe started on the right flank and the Dutchman took full advantage of the American's absence by curling home a beauty after just 49 seconds. Denis Stracqualursi, meanwhile, was guaranteed another start by Nikica Jelavic's groin problem and he grabbed his third goal of the season from close range off Drenthe's corner to kill the Championship side's challenge before it had a chance to grow legs.

With Steven Pienaar cup-tied, Magaye Gueye made a rare start wide on the left and he was instrumental in both goals as Everton flew out of the proverbial traps in this Fifth Round encounter at Goodison Park. The French forward collected Leighton Baines' pass down the left before crossing low to Marouane Fellaini. The Belgian, playing in Tim Cahill's advanced role behind Stracqualursi, controlled the ball with his back to goal before laying it off to Drenthe and he despatched it past Michael Gilks with aplomb from the right side of the box with a sweet left-footer.

And the Blues doubled their lead on their next meaningful attack when Drenthe won a corner on the Everton right and whipped the ball in to the near post. Gueye's glancing flick-on dropped into the six yard box where Stracqualursi prodded it home at the second attempt.

Blackpool were stunned but recovered their composure enough to try a few forays down their left channel, getting in behind the home defence on a couple of occasions but finding John Heitinga and Sylvain Distin in uncompromising mood.

They really only had a couple of opportunities before half time. First, when Phillips fired a direct free kick into the wall after quarter of an hour and then in stoppage time when Tim Howard palmed Silverstre's low drive behind for a corner.

In between, the Blues carved out three chances to extend their lead. In the 39th minute, Drenthe skipped to the byline and served up the first of three greate chances for Fellaini but the Belgian was denied by Cathcart on the line and Darron Gibson's low drive was also blocked from the rebound.

Four minutes before the break, Gueye picked out Stracqualursi with an excellent cross but the Argentine powered his header a foot over before Fellaini glanced Tony HIbbert's centre from the other side wide of the upright.

Unsurprisingly, with a comfortable lead, Everton took their foot off the pedal a little in the second half but were still unlucky not to add to their tally. Stracqualursi served up what looked odds-on to be number three for Fellaini but he and Gibson got in each other's way and the former's weak shot bounced wide off a defender.

And just before the hour mark, the mercurial but dangerous Drenthe unleashed a stinging effort that Gilks did well to push over one-handed. Unfortunately, Heitinga sent a free header off the resulting corner over the bar with his second goal of the competition served on a platter.

The Dutch defender's foul at the other end after 65 minutes almost gave Blackpool an entry back into the tie, however, when his foul set up another direct free kick opportunity for Phillips. Thankfully, though, he smashed his shot off the top of the crossbar.

As the game ticked into the last 20 minutes and the tie still firmly in Everton's grasp and Seamus Coleman already having replaced Gueye, it seemed like a good opportunity to give some playing time to the likes of Apostolos Vellios and Ross Barkley. Both players had to wait until the closing stages to make their entries, however, and Stracqualursi almost repaid his manager with a second goal off Baines's free kick. Hooking the ball goalwards with an out-stretched leg at the far post he almost surprised Gilks but the 'keeper parried his effort at point-blank range.

Fellaini would be denied again in the 80th minute when, at the end of a lovely move, he found himself unmarked at the back post off Stracqualursi's well-placed header but, having beaten the 'keeper, his shot was booted off the goalline by a fortunate defender. And the Belgian wasted his final chance to earn a reward for his efforts when he planted a header off Drenthe's peach of a cross over when he really should got sufficiently over the ball to get it on target and despatch it past the 'keeper.

Blackpool's attempts at heroics came in the dying minutes, first when Howard denied Lua Lua with a superb finger-tip save that diverted the forward's impressive drive onto the outside of the post, and then when Bednar was inexplicably awarded a penalty for what referee Michael Oliver determined was a foul by Heitinga.

Any chance that the Tangerines had of staging a dramatic injury-time finish evaporated, however, when Phillips sent his spot kick over the crossbar without even forcing Howard to make a save.

So a fairly routine home victory that brings Everton to within a win of returning to Wembley, the scene of one of their most exciting moments of 2009 and also their biggest disappointment. That year a thrilling semi-final win on penalties over Manchester United put them into the Final where they wilted in the May heat and couldn't hold onto their early lead.

David Moyes will be hoping for another favourable draw in the last eight as he plots a return to the national stadium and an opportunity to make right on that crushing disappointment of three years ago.

Player Ratings: Howard 8, Hibbert 7, Heitinga 7, Distin 7, Baines 7, Neville 6, Gibson 7, Drenthe 8*, Gueye 7 (Coleman 7), Fellaini 8, Stracqualursi 8

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Summary

For his sixth consecutive home cup tie of the season, David Moyes was forced to go with Drenthe and Gueye as his wingmen, with Landon Donovan denied his Goodison final by a bout of flu. Fellaini would play up front, almost as a second striker alongside Stracqualursi, rather than in the hole occupied to such minimal effect in recent months by Moyes's first-choice favourite, Tim Cahill, who was out injured. Coleman returned to the bench along with a young lad called Barkley and big striker, Joo Silva, recalled from his season-long loan back home in Portugal.

Everton started brilliantly, a good move down the left seeing Baines feed Gueye who advanced and crossed in classic style, Fellaini setting up Drenthe for a lovely curled shot that had Goodison rocking in the sunshiine on the first attack inside 48 seconds!!!

The Blues followed that up by scoring in the 7th minute, Stracqualursi poking home from close range at the second attempt off a top-class Drenthe corner that was glanced on by Gueye as Blackpool's defence appeared transfixed. Anticipation of a rare Goodison Goalfest was palpable...

But Blackpool forced their way back into it a little after the early maelstrom, winning a dangerous free-kick that Phillips drove into the Everton wall. Then Howard had to come out and make a desperate block on Taylor-Fletcher as he went to shoot off a dangerous throughball from Taylor that sliced through the Blues defence. Taylor-Fletcher came off worst in the clash and was replaced by Bednar after extensive treatment that ended with him being carried off on a stretcher.

Everton put together another couple of pacey attacks that both deserve goals, Drenthe again pushing forward and feeding a great ball to Gueye but Gibson stole it off his foot and made an awful mess of a great chance. Then Gueye got forward down the left and played in a top-notch cross that was just a foot or so too fast for Stracqualursi to convert. Great attacking football!!!!

But Everton played part of the first half in less adventurous manner, resorting to the dreadful plays from advanced positions all the way back to Howard for the pointless big hoof that hands over possession! Maddening.

They got into better mode before the break, putting in a couple more worthwhile attacks that almost came off: Fellaini having a feirce drive shot deflected wide, Stracqualursi heading a great cross just over the bar, and Drenthe curled a lovely free-kick just over the angle.

At the other end, Howard had to stretch for a Sylvester grass-cutter that earnt a corner which led to a couple more that Everton defended solidly through to the break.

Fellaini had what looked like two good chances on 50 minutes but could not wrap his foot around it, one a great set-up by Stracq that Harris somehow blocked for a corner, and off the Drenthe short corner, Neville's cross fell nicely for a volley the Big Belgian got all wrong.

Seamus Coleman made a welcome return, replacing Magaye Gueye, who had played well. Drenthe, full of energy, powered a fantastic drive to the top corner that forded a good save for Gilks. Off the corner a free header for Heitinga squirmed over the bar.

At the other end, Bednar won another clever free-kick, backing into Heitinga, but Phillips thankfully drove it straight at Howard. Another Phillips free-kick was a humdinger that glanced off the far angle of the Gwladys Street goal as Blackpool did their best to unsettle the comfortable home side.

A final throw of the dice from Ian Holloway: a double substitution with 20 mins left, to see if Blackpool could get something after dominating the second half as Everton returned into their familiar defensive shell, happy with a defendable two-goal lead, a really poor Drenthe corner summing up the mindset of "we have what we hold". Even when they did produce a decent counter attack, Coleman went on one of his trademark runs and cut a perfect ball back to Stracq who lazily shanked it high, wide and horrible.

Into the last 10 minutes and Coleman at least was having some fun, and another great run set up Fellaini at the far post but his shot beat the keeper only to be blocked away off the line. A fantastic Drenthe cross came in from the left, set up perfectlyfor Fellaini to nod the ball over the bar!!! Incredibly sequence of misses by the big man.

Young Ross Barkley was then introduced for his 2012 debut in place of Gibson, as Everton put more pressure for a rousing end to the match,a great Baines cross falling for Coleman at the far post that he drove in but it would have gone wide if not saved by Gilks. Vellios then replace Stracq for the last few minutes.

A fantastic Lua Lua strike in the dying minutes forced a fingertip save off Howard that glanced off the post. Then Bednar again conned the ref, fouling Heitinga to win a very bizarre penalty that Phillips, with hearts apounding, justly blasted over.

In the end, it was a comfortable and 'professional' win. It could have been a monsoon of goals for the big crowd (38,347) after the initial flood... but this is Everton and a big win with more than two goals is a very rare thing these days. 6th Round here we come!

Michael Kenrick


Match Preview

Everton have the FA Cup quarter finals in their sights as they entertain Championship side Blackpool in another home tie in front of a Goodison faithful yearning for a return to Wembley and an opportunity to make right on the disappointment of 2009.

Unbeaten now in six games in all competitions, the Blues have come a long way since the debacle against Bolton at the beginning of last month but they might have to do without both of their two wing threats.

Steven Pienaar is cup-tied and a bout of flu could put paid to Landon Donovan's second swangsong. With the postponement of the Anfield derby, this was supposed to be the American's last game before he returns to LA Galaxy but David Moyes has confirmed that he is doubtful because of illness.

That could provide an opportunity for Seamus Coleman to make his return to first-team action after recovering from a thigh injury, while Royston Drenthe and Magaye Gueye wlll be in the frame to start on the other flank. Ross Barkley might also figure in the manager's thinking after being frozen out of senior action for the past few months.

Nikica Jelavic is fit again, though, after missing the win over Chelsea with a stomach strain but he will probably have to be content with another spot on the bench given Denis Stracqualursi's form.

Elsewhere in the side, Phil Jagielka has resumed training as he takes the final step in his rehabilitation from medial knee ligament damage but he, along with Leon Osman and Jack Rodwell, will be looking at March for possible returns to action.

A home tie against lower-division opposition provides the Blues with a great chance of making the last eight which could end up being an all-Premiership affair if results fall as expected.


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< Chelsea (H) QPR (A) >
EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Gueye (57' Coleman)
  Gibson (81' Barkley)
  Stracqualursi (89' Vellios)
  Subs not used
  Donovan (sick)
  Anichebe (injured)
  Cahill (njured)
  Duffy (injured)
  Jagielka (injured)
  Jelavic (injured)
  Osman (injured)
  Rodwell (injured)
  Abdullayev (loan)
  Bidwell (loan)
  Garbutt (loan)
  Nsiala (loan)
  Wallace (loan)
  Yobo (loan)
  Baptiste :82'
  Angel (71' LuaLua)
  K Phillips
  Taylor-Fletcher (22' Bednar)
  Ince (71' Dicko)
  Subs not used


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