Brilliant Everton edge closer to silverware

We head to the Etihad knowing what we have to do, and what a chance to get to Wembley. What a chance to win a trophy. Bring it home Everton. It's been far too long.

Paul Traill 07/01/2016 29comments  |  Jump to last
Everton 2 - 1 Manchester City

Arriving at the busy pub, Ste and I simply didn't know what to think about how the game was going to go, our only rather negative prediction being that we couldn't keep Manchester CIty out for the whole game. Well, that we didn't, but we were treated to a performance so encouraging that you really have to wonder how we are not riding much, much higher in the Premier League.

Still, the night was about the Capital One cup semi-final first leg fixture against Manchester City, a really tough task though we all felt more optimistic when we saw the team news in the pub, with Everton starting with the team that finished against Tottenham Hotspurs, on the outfield at least, whilst Joel Robles replaced Tim Howard in goal. With everybody happy with the team, on we went to the ground, the atmosphere strangely subdued, only noisy Manchester City fans in voice.

I wasn't exactly inspired with confidence when I watched Joel Robles head out onto the pitch with his teammates and almost fall over one of the junior mascots whilst he applauded the crowd. The teams readied up, Robert Madley, the best referee I've seen for some time, got the game under way as Everton attacked towards the Park End in the first half. Well I say attacked, the first 10 minutes were dominated by Manchester CIty as Everton struggled to live with the visitors, though we did generally have them at arms length I would suggest, though I also got the impression Manchester CIty had it in them to raise it a gear or two.

Still, Everton patiently got into the game and managed to get on the front foot, and, by half time, Manchester City had only really created two meaningful opportunities. One when Sergio Aguero just about evaded John Stones and got his shot away, with Robles slapping it out. The rebound was only half -cleared but thankfully came to nothing. The other opportunity came when Nicolas Otamendi headed just wide from a corner kick.

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At the other end, Everton built pressure and had the ball in the Manchester City net on three separate occasions in the first half, though two were chalked off for offside, the first when John Stones wellied home a Gareth Barry knock-down, and the second when Romelu Lukaku finished though even from the Gwladys Street, this looked offside. It was actually a bit of a surprise that the third goal wasn't disallowed for offside also as there was nobody within yards of unlikely hero Funes Mores when he put the ball in the net but the goal stood and Everton went into the break a goal to the good.

Leon Osman replaced the presumably injured Tom Cleverley at the break with Manchester City also making a change with Martin Demichelis replacing Eliaquim Mangala. With us a goal to the good I felt the Leon Osman substitution to be a sensible one and so it proved with a very astute display from our veteran midfielder. It was credit to Everton that we began the second half on the front foot and tried to double our money early in the second half with the crowd in good voice.

Despite our best efforts, the goal wouldn't quite come and it was always the danger that Manchester City might catch us on the counter-attack, and so it proved when Sergio Aguero surged forward and played a perfect pass in to Jesus Navas who finished well. Navas - isn't he widely mocked in some football quarters for his lack of contribution at Manchester City with just four goals in 83 matches? Typical then that he scores against us. Prior to that Robles had saved well from De Bruyne...I thought that was in the back of the net.

Luckily enough we were back in front before long when a fantastic delivery from Gareth Barry was met by the by-this-point injured Romelu Lukaku who headed in unmarked. You somehow knew he would have something to say in this game. The atmosphere electric. This was Lukaku's last contribution in the game as he limped off for Everton to make their third substitute of the evening. Roberto Martinez is often maligned for not using all his substitutions, so wasn't it just his luck that one of the few times he does, that we lose Seamus Coleman to injury and have to see the game out with 10 men. Thankfully we were brilliantly composed during this period and saw the game out hassle free. The applause that greeted the team at full time was fantastic and richly deserved.

We head to the Etihad knowing what we have to do, and what a chance to get to Wembley. What a chance to win a trophy. Bring it home Everton. It's been far too long.

Player Ratings
Robles: Saved what he had to though with precious little balls played into the penalty area he didn't have the opportunity to command his penalty area as many are crying out for Tim Howard to do. Hard to fault him based on saves made though and he had no chance with the Manchester CIty goal. 7
Baines: A very good display of endeavour, defensive solidarity and attacking flair. Great to see him back at something like his best. 8
Funes Mori: A very good defensive display and a crucial goal. Well played. 8
Stones: Had a shaky start to the game with some aimless passes but he settled eventually and had a good, solid game. 7
Coleman: His season has been frustratingly stop-start. It seems that just when he's getting back to his best he gets another injury. Unfortunately he again had to limp off in this one. He can at least get a rest at the weekend, and fingers crossed it's nothing too serious and he can be back quickly. Had a good game otherwise. 7
Barry: My man of the match. An exemplary display from our captain and he will have enjoyed getting one over on his former club, particularly Manuel Pellegrini whom deemed him surplus to requirements at Manchester City. 9
Besic: Also brilliant, especially in the first half. His combination of tenacity and skill is a joy to behold and we have some player on our hands there. 9
Cleverley: Had a steady first half before substituted, presumably injured. 6
Deulofeu: Worked hard first half though was evidently exhausted come 68 minutes when he was substituted for Kevin Mirallas. 6
Barkley: Very good. Has progressed extremely well this season. Playing regularly in a settled position has probably helped. Is maturing well. 7
Lukaku: Not his busiest of games as he may have been carrying a knock but he still got on the scoresheet. He can probably have the weekend off now and rest up. What a season he is having. 7

Osman (for Cleverley): Great to see him play and he did well on the left hand side. Maybe Leon Osman has something left to give this season yet...maybe even a well-deserved trophy to cap off his years of service at Everton. 7
Mirallas (For Deulofeu): Got involved. Should get more minutes on Saturday. 7
Kone (for Lukaku): Was difficult for him to make an impact as soon after coming on we were down to 10 men. Should get more game time on Saturday. 6

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Reader Comments (29)

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Peter McHugh
1 Posted 07/01/2016 at 07:24:45
Proud to be a blue? Absolutely. I thought we were fantastic second half. I know we fuck around at the back but there was a couple of minutes when we were down to 10 men and played out from our right back slot which was unbelievable. Long term if all our players know they have to play this way and can seemingly come in - like Cleverly and Besic have - it's got to stand us in good straddle the future. This football is the way to win matches.

Obviously we also need to learn to defend - Stones who is fantastic still does schoolboy stuff - ie trying to charge down city player on edge of our box following our corner being cleared instead of sprinting back to half way line - but I'm less concerned about that - just thrilled with the football we're playing.

Mori is like Jekyll and Hyde, at times unbelievable bad but then at others looks like a proper defender.

I hope we can play fantastic and start winning games now.

Saegaran Kana
3 Posted 07/01/2016 at 09:36:37
Funis Mori will come good and we have a beast in Besic! Absolutely brilliant heart on the sleeve player. We were missing that command hence the massive goals against in the league. We'll come good. I think RM has his team ticking...
Sean Wafer
4 Posted 07/01/2016 at 11:00:01
Osman was absolute quality. Brilliantly exposed Martinez' incompetence in that he has barely played all season and then comes on and is so class.
Norman Jones
5 Posted 07/01/2016 at 11:40:21
LIke Sean above, I thought Ossie did splendidly last night . I've always had a soft spot for him and have been convinced that Martinez- and most TWers - have written him off prematurely.

From his introduction to the side in Moyes' first season, this local lad has always had something Barkley lacks - and that's an abundance of football intelligence. And in spite of his small stature that intelligence has been put to good use. He is undoubtedly a better left side option than Kone -but then, who isn't ?

My fear is that last night's injuries will do for us in the replay as whilst we have a myriad of players, many of them are no more than make-weights. In particular, I refer to the total absence of a deputy for Romelu.

But to all involved last night -well done !

Tom Bowers
6 Posted 07/01/2016 at 11:49:16
Let's not get carried away with Osman.
Coming on as a sub. is okay in the second half but that's it.
He's had his day as a starter but will probably start against Dagenham.
He's always had skill but could never tackle and he's not going to cut it in the prem. now.
Norman Jones
7 Posted 07/01/2016 at 12:00:58
Tom, he's not the only one who can't tackle, though, is he? Some bigger fellows are a bit shy in that particular art!
Sam Higgins
8 Posted 07/01/2016 at 12:15:04
WTF does RM have to spout off in such ridiculous fashion about our players after a victory? Barry the greatest person since Jesus! Just call it how it is man – he had a good game!!!
Brian Mahoney
9 Posted 07/01/2016 at 14:05:11
I have to say we look a completely different team with Besic in. He has been absolutely outstanding in these last two games and Barry is back to the form if not better than his first season with us.

As for Osman, he is best used as a sub as he’ll never hack the full 90 minutes now especially in the Premier League.

Like most of us are thinking what is our Plan B if Lukaku is injured. I doubt he’d have played on Saturday anyway.
Jim Hourigan
10 Posted 07/01/2016 at 14:18:10
Sorry, Osman was not class, he drifted into the centre constantly (where he prefers) and left Baines exposed. His lack of pace is alarming, he was slow last year now he’s pedestrian.

What did City do once they realised he’d been brought on? Put the speedster Navas on to try and get down our left side – no coincidence, it was the opposition manager spotting a weakness.

He can play against Dagenham but please God not in the Premier League – sorry, but he has been a good servant who has had his day.
James Flynn
12 Posted 07/01/2016 at 15:32:25
Ossie's performance didn't brilliantly expose anything.

The likelihood is that he's 19 games + the Cups away from finishing his playing career at Everton. Roberto's playing the guys he's counting on for next season. Doesn't mean he is misusing Leon Osman or doesn't realize what Ossie's good at. Leon was the only Blue played in all 38 games Roberto's first season, after all. His time is nearly up; no more to it than that. Happens to every player.

Tony Cheek
14 Posted 07/01/2016 at 16:54:19
Robles done well. His diving save to his left hand bottom corner was world class and kept us in the game in a nervy period. Osman is class and always has been. Grossly misused under Moyes management as a winger when it was obvious he should have been in the middle.

Yes, maybe he is coming to the end of his career, but Everton as a club will be worse for it. A great character, like every club needs, and an honest hard working professional. I, for one will miss him being around!
Christopher Timmins
15 Posted 07/01/2016 at 17:09:08
Great to witness one of our best performances in years last night. The manner in which the team controlled the last 12 minutes or so with 10 men had to be admired.

Let’s hope we have a full pick to choose from for the return tie as we have every chance!

Peter McHugh
16 Posted 07/01/2016 at 18:07:58
Robles looked good last night except for the goal. I'm not blaming him for the goal but his positioning was poor and meant he stood no chance of saving it. Strange how he isn't getting a run out to see why he can do.
Jay Harris
17 Posted 07/01/2016 at 18:31:14
I have to agree with JIm Hourigan re Ossie.

He used to be one of my favourite players but the Prem is too fast and too physical for him now.

You could see the gaps in front of Bainesy once he came on.

The second leg will be difficult due to our inability to keep a clean sheet but at least we've got our noses in front.

Special mention for Barry and Besic who were huge last night and I thought Barkley sparked all the danger up front.

Ray Roche
18 Posted 07/01/2016 at 18:39:37
Jim Hourigan #10

" What did City do once they realised he'd been brought on? put the speedster Navas on to try and get down our left side - no coincidence"

Wrong, Jim. Navas came on for the completely ineffective Delph. They were a goal down and brought on a forward. Nothing to do with Osman. You're not the bleurt who sits behind us in the Lower Gwladys are you. The one who slags Osman off even when he's not playing?

Eddie Dunn
19 Posted 07/01/2016 at 18:42:46
More positives than negatives for a change. I can overlook Martinez's faults if he can serve up a trophy .
Besic is just fantastic.
Martin Mason
20 Posted 07/01/2016 at 19:43:13
Wonderful night, one of those where the whipping boys silence the boo boys.

Too many exceptional performances to mention again. The goal against was typically Everton being left wallowing on a fast counter attack but there's a very good team in there with for me Barry, Barkley, Baines and Besic exceptional. We look so much better with a fit Besic in the team and he should become a very valuable member of the side.

I see us as underdogs in the second leg but win or lose I hope that this very good step up in form isn't a false dawn as many before have been. I don't care if we don't win cups, I'd exchange a good league run for the rest of the season any day.

Mike Oates
21 Posted 07/01/2016 at 21:10:03
Life’s not black and white, its' grey, Ossie wasn’t brilliant nor crap; he came on, does what he does best, linking play up, getting people into free space and every now and then playing a killer pass. But what he can't do is to play wide and get up and down the pitch for 90 mins. Baines was more exposed as Ossie drifts into the middle, same as Barkley, Naismith used to do when they played out wide last year.

I would love to see Pienaar again as he does stay wide, brings Baines into the game far more than anyone else but IF he ever comes back, he too will not be able to cover Baines as well as a Tom Cleverley can do.

On the other side Deulofeu is so exiting going forward, works well for Lukaku and just about does a little defending to help Coleman out, but he’s clearly in for his ability to create. Ossie just hasn’t got that creativeness, pace Martinez needs/wants in his teams.

Martin Mason
22 Posted 07/01/2016 at 22:31:58

Leon has limitations mainly based around his size and strength but he did a good job yesterday in what was a great team performance. Surely it is unfair to blindly criticise a great Everton stalwart who has played very well against a top side within the limits of his ability? It was beyond belief to still hear criticism of the exceptional Ross Barkley who runs everything creative in our side and has worked very well in ironing out his weaknesses. The best midfield player in the UK and among the best in the world who is fast becoming a very creative box to box player with the potential to score 20 a season.

At least we don’t get the lazy, no-first-touch criticism of Lukaku now who is rightly being recognised everywhere for his devastating play. It was always there the problem was us fans couldn’t cut him the slack or the slack needed by other players who come into the side as unfinished articles needing game time to become the finished articles.

In terms of playing talent we have it in spades with perhaps 4 current players who could push or exceed £50 Mil at current prices. One day I wish we could develop flexible strategies that can complement our devastating attacking play which could hold a lead or provide a little more protection when we have 8 or 9 men in the opposition area. Very creditable for us to have thrown off the Moyes shackles and go for wins but it can’t be totally incapable of defending credibly against a break.

The 10:10 spell last night (10 minutes with 10 men) after Coleman went off was like classic training ground football which City didn’t have an answer to. We also probably don’t have an answer to what happens if Lukaku is inured or god help us sold but we are progressing even allowing for the maddening reverses that only EFC seem to be able to conjure up.

Make no mistake we have some very good players and are one of the best attacking teams in the EPL, I still rate RM as a totally blinkered strategist and a blathering idiot but I remain hopefully positive about him. I would hope that a top team comes in for him but I think were stuck with him for the journey which could even include a possibility of relegation. Our biggest worry is having so many good players and limited financial resources to keep them and build on what we have.

Anthony Dwyer
23 Posted 08/01/2016 at 01:02:37
Seems Ossie is the current topic. I feel it’s a fair time to throw my two bobs worth in.

I was disappointed with Roberto for bringing Ossie on, especially as he had younger more leggy attacking options (mainly Mirallas). That said, I do think he played really well.

Ossie has a great knack of dropping into pockets of space and allowing himself to turn or carry the ball over short distances, even with his lack of pace.

This is something Ross could take note of to help push his game on a little. This is not a dig at Ross, as I’m a huge huge fan of his. It's merely an opinion that, when Ross is not in possession, he could be found a lot easier in attacking positions if he learnt the art of playing between the lines a little bit better.

Anyways, it clear that Ossie can’t play often, especially at Premier League level, but he is a good little player to do 15 -25 minute cameos at times.

He has been a good player for the blues during his time and has always been a loyal Evertonian; for that I’m grateful.

This though should be his last season as a player; maybe he could be a coach or something but his squad number needs passing on to another.

Tony Abrahams
24 Posted 08/01/2016 at 11:07:37
Thought it was a sensible substitution after I thought about it, simply because it enabled us to keep playing the way we had been before the break.

Osman like Cleverley is a very disciplined footballer, and he showed this the other night by keeping us simple and providing the cover, that our left backs have been sadly missing all year.

If he kept drifting into the centre Jim, all the better, even if I never saw it like that myself. He won a few tackles, let Sagna have a couple of kicks, and most importantly, he made sure we were never exposed down our left side.

Barry and Besic, rightly get a lot of the plaudits, but I think the reason we won the game, is because we had a much more defensive balance to the team the other night. So well done to Cleverley and Osman, for doing the dirty unselfish work in a position they would probably not wished to have played in!

Barry Pearce
25 Posted 08/01/2016 at 13:12:57
Ross played well with the ball. I just wish he'd do a bit more closing down when he's not in possession.

Jim Hardin
26 Posted 09/01/2016 at 03:46:12
Tony Cheek,

Robles was decidedly average at best. He failed to come for corners and in fact retreated to his line as the corners were coming in. He was responsible for the goal. He read the situation too late and came out too late. He then incredibly stayed on his feet and let the player slot home a rather soft and easy goal.

His save in the first half was a poor deflection into our 6 directly into danger in front of an empty goal, because he was so deep on the post (it was behind his right shoulder) that he could only deflect it around his left shoulder. He should have had his body behind it given the flat angle and distance of the shot.

Danny Kewley
27 Posted 09/01/2016 at 05:42:19
Thought Besic was outstanding and gave the whole team a "lets get stuck in " attitude. Here in Mill Hill, London, I’m not kidding – everyone was saying how brilliant the game was and hope the Toffees go all the way!
John Hughes
28 Posted 09/01/2016 at 07:19:01
Jim (#26)...

Robles responsible for the City goal! I think that he could've done a little better but he certainly was not responsible for it; it should have sorted long before it got to him. Do you think the next President of the USA would have done any better? I don’t think so!
Bobby Thomas
29 Posted 09/01/2016 at 08:48:32
Peter #16 & Jim #26

Agreed. Thought Robles got his angles all wrong for the goal it may as well have been an empty net. The save low to his left was class.

Sean Roberts
30 Posted 09/01/2016 at 18:25:47
I thought Robles did OK for a player who doesn’t get much of a chance.

For me he was a little slow for the goal as I think he could have come out to narrow the angles or even intercept the pass that lead to the goal, but that’s just my opinion and that’s what makes football great. We all see things differently.

One thing we should all agree on though was it was a good result and has given us a great chance of reaching a final !!! Cmon you blues
Jim Hardin
31 Posted 09/01/2016 at 18:54:57

Absolutely I think Howard would have done better. The proper defense in that situation, coming out and going low, was exactly what you experts on here criticize Howard for. Well you got your wish, a goalkeeper who stayed on his feet and let a very easy goal go in.

Robles moves like a giraffe on ice and has to anticipate more quickly and get out sooner to make up for his lack of speed. When he hesitates and then comes out, it is disastrous.


Agree to that. Would love nothing better than Man City to lose three in a row to Everton (well except for Liverpool losing three in a row to us), regardless of who is in goal or the centerback pairing.

Not a huge Besic fan but Barry - Besic allows Cleverley to go out wide (maybe Pienaar now) on the left and this changed the whole shape of the formation and kept their right back and a midfielder occupied and stretched wider, opening up the middle more. Kone has done well but he is always too far into the middle for me. COYB!

John Hughes
32 Posted 10/01/2016 at 11:47:27

I am not an actual expert just an ordinary guy who buys his season ticket and goes and supports his team and has an opinion on aspects of the game but – having watched Gordon West and the best of all, Neville Southall, plus Nigel Martyn – I don’t think your blinkered view on the Howard & Robles scenario stands up.

At the moment Howard, is just not on top his game; so, in my humble opinion, Robles needs to get some game time and prove his worth.

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