Everton rise to the occasion under Goodison's lights

Thanks to an impressive performance that blended patience, tenacity, skill, organisation and a heavy dose of character the Blues will take a slender but precious lead to the Etihad in three weeks' time.

Lyndon Lloyd 06/01/2016 31comments  |  Jump to last
Everton 2 - 1 Manchester City

When Everton were handed what was, on paper, the most diffcult route to the Capital One Cup Final in the draw for the last four, the obvious feeling was that they had to win the first leg at home to have the best chance of negotiating their way past Manchester City. Thanks to an impressive performance that blended patience, tenacity, skill, organisation and a heavy dose of character the Blues will take a slender but precious lead to the Etihad in three weeks' time.

The sight of Romelu Lukaku limping heavily away in celebration may take some of the elation out of watching clips of what proved to be the winning goal on the night a simple but emphatic close-range header by the Belgian off Gareth Barry's peach of a cross over and over but Roberto Martinez's belief that he didn't suffer anything serious means that there will be quiet anticipation among Evertonians that the team can see the job through in the second leg.

All three of Martinez, Barry and Phil Jagielka not to mention the back office who had adorned the large sign on the side of the Main Stand with some classic cup moments from Everton's past had done their bit in the media and matchday programme to build up the atmosphere before the game and Goodison Park didn't disappoint, particularly once the Blues had begun to get a grip on the game in the second half of the first period and the possibility of a first home win at the Grand Old Lady since November emerged.

If there was a final piece to that pre-match jigsaw, one that might ensure a bear pit-esque reception for Manchester City, it came with the announcement of Martinez's starting XI which, with Joel Robles in goal, Gerard Deulofeu on the right and Muhamed Besic in the centre, met most Evertonian expectations given the personnel available. Substitute, perhaps, a fit Jagielka for Ramiro Funes Mori and an in-form Kevin Mirallas for Tom Cleverley and he might have satisifed the vast majority but this was, arguably, the ideal meld of the pragmatic with the artful, the defensive imperative weighed against the Blues' attacking instincts.

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And yet, it was Funes Mori, a player over whom a few questions marks have been raised in recent weeks as the gloss appeared to come off his surprisingly easy transition to life in the Premier League, who was in the right place and the right time to turn home the opening goal on the stroke of half time after Everton had had two goals correctly chalked off for offside. Looking more assured in a back line that, as was the case against Tottenham on Sunday, held its shape and appeared more disciplined that in previous matches, the Argentine was excellent on the night and his second goal for the club provided the perfect platform for the second half.

The 24-year-old was not alone in impressing. Indeed, there wasn't a player in royal blue who didn't rise to the challenge of meeting the League Cup favourites, but the midfeld linchpin formed by Barry's partnership with Besic was integral to Everton's victory. Both were imperious in the Blues' engine room the veteran Englishman constantly moving, breaking up City's attempts to knit together their trademark passing moves; the combustible young Bosnian firing on adrenaline and a new lease on life following his injury frustrations, chasing, tackling, probing forward, laying off intelligent passes, and even pirouetting his way elegantly past a clutch of flourescent City jerseys in the centre circle at one point before starting another attack.

The start was slow as both teams sparred in the early stages without really landing any punches and the Blues tried to find their passing range and accuracy. City had the better of the first 20-odd minutes with a few slick moves aimed at releasing David Silva or Sergio Aguero into the danger zone but they were comfortably dealt with. Everton, meanwhile, began to assert themselves as the half wore on, forcing a corner and a couple of free kicks in dangerous areas, one of which ended with John Stones converting Barry's header back across goal, only to have his effort ruled out for offside 10 minutes before the break.

The danger posed by the expert marksman Aguero was ever present but the hosts largely managed to keep him at arm's length in the first half, until he popped up in the box and was foiled first by Stones's lunging block and then Robles's parrying save from the Argentina striker's snapshot. Leighton Baines had the chance to mop up as the ball fell to him but he sliced it straight back to Aguero and was saved by Funes Mori who stopped what was a tamer effort near the goal line.

The half was heading towards an acceptably goalless conclusion when Everton scored in stoppage time. Cleverley's corner from the right skipped through to Ross Barkley on the edge of the area and he drilled a terrific shot on goal that Willy Caballero did well to parry. It fell straight to the alert Funes Mori, however, and fired it past the goalkeeper before tearing away to execute a gleeful celebratory knee-slide.

So far, so great, but Martinez's gameplan suffered a potential dent at the interval when Cleverley was unable to continue into the second half with a recurrence of a calf injury. He was replaced by Leon Osman without too much disruption or real diminishment of the energy in midfield. Indeed, Everton retained a foot on the pedal in the first quarter of an hour after half time, their attacking intent underscored by a succession of offside calls against them in the final third, a Besic drive from distance that was wel gathered by Caballero and an awkward Deulofeu cross that the goalkeeper had to bat away from danger.

Later in the half, Barkley out-muscled Nicolas Otamemdi superbly and forced a good save by his near post from Caballero with a shot from the angle before dancing his way past two or three defenders but then being denied at the last by the goalie's dive at his feet.

In between, however, Manuel Pellegrini's men had offered intermitten reminders of how delicately the tie was poised at 1-0 and Aguero had Evertonian hearts in their mouths when he swung at a loose ball in front of goal but, improbably given his talent, sliced it high and wide of Robles's goal. Silva than released the forward down the channel but Aguero was well tracked by Baines and Funes Mori, the latter blocking his shot behind for a corner. And Robles pulled off his finest moment of the night with 20 minutes left with a sprawling one-handed save to deny Kevin de Bruyne.

City did level, though, a few minutes later when they expertly picked the Blues off on a counter-attack following a corner. Kevin Mirallas, recently on for Deulofeu who had provided energy and plenty of running but failed to impact the game where it really mattered, was dispossessed inside the visitors' box and a ball forward sent Aguero away with Coleman and Besic in pursuit. He turned the Irishman easily, committed Besic as well and then waited for Jesus Navas to arrive before sliding him in to sweep a left-footed shot past Robles and into the far corner.

Everton have lacked composure at times this season but they have rarely been short of character when needing to respind to conceding goals and, true to form, they had responded quickly and incisively within two minutes, eradicating any notion that City had turned the tide in the way they did at Watford at the weekend. The ball was worked from Mirallas on the right flank through Besic and Baines to the left and when his pass was laid off by Barkley, Barry curled in an inch-perfect ball for Lukaku to nod firmly home to send Goodison back into rapture.

He would be replaced by Arouna Kone after trying to run off an ankle knock he had picked a minute or so before his goal and he was qiuckly followed into the bench by Coleman who suffered what turned out to be a calf injury, one that left Everton to play out the final seven-plus minutes with 10 men, Martinez having used all his permitted substitutes by that stage. The manager had called this week for more maturity from his players in closing out matches from winning positions and it was to their credit that the Blues did so so effectively with depleted numbers.

That capped what was a laudibly composed and effective performance from an Everton side that looks like it has come of age since its humbling by Stoke at the end of last year. The likes of Silva, Yaya Toure and, to a lesser extent, De Bruyne, have attracted much criticism for their subdued display but huge credit must go to the Blues for hustling them out of their stride and refusing to allow them to play.

Martinez will feel he actually indicated as much in a post-match interview that his team might have scored more with a bit more nous in the final third and the late loss of Coleman might have tempered Everton's ability and daring to go in search of a third goal but, as it stands, they're well positioned heading into the second leg where an away goal of their own would only enhance their prospects of making their first Wembley final in seven years.

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Jim Bennings
1 Posted 07/01/2016 at 07:48:51
First goal at the Etihad will be crucial, we have to put all of our eggs into the League Cup basket now!!

We will need to score, but Manchester City have shown time and again this season that they are very very vulnerable defensively themselves.

Paul Kelly
2 Posted 07/01/2016 at 07:57:28
Immense performance, credit to the players and manager. Thought Barry and Besic were outstanding, Besic was absolutely everywhere, Barkley was slated by someone on another thread, thought he was terrific too.

What a way to silence the away hordes, within two minutes as well and that passage of keep ball after Coleman went off was sublime.

Worried Seamus' injury could comeback to haunt us otherwise it was a good night, half way there lads.

Tommy Coleman
3 Posted 07/01/2016 at 08:08:27
Controlling the game with 10 men in the last few minutes showed me that the players have learnt a composure lesson.

We're going to need a similar performance in the 2nd leg.
Well done Blues.

Ajay Gopal
4 Posted 07/01/2016 at 08:42:05
While, by most accounts, this was a brilliant performance and result, there is still a lot of work to be done. We would have played City one more time on 13th in the league. Pellegrini is a wily fox - he and the players would have identified our main threats and weaknesses, but then so will Martinez. It will be fascinating tactically - the 2 games on 13th and 27th.
Terence Leong
5 Posted 07/01/2016 at 08:43:00
Wow, I didn't know that we had to play about 7 minutes with 10 men. Against a side like City, it would have felt like an eternity.
So, kudos to the team for maintaining the discipline and the shape to see out the win!
Rick Tarleton
6 Posted 07/01/2016 at 09:58:18
I hope this now means that Martinez is convinced that Besic, is and should be one of the first names on the starting sheet for most games.
Brent Stephens
7 Posted 07/01/2016 at 10:12:50
Concede a goal at City and we're really under the cosh and chasing the game, given that the City away goal will count double if all level after ET. So, let's get at them from the start, as we did last night after a cautious start. We get the first goal and they have to get two just to take it into ET, with them fearing conceding that second away goal for us that would put us in the driving seat. Positive from the start, lads.

Simon Hermansen
8 Posted 07/01/2016 at 10:48:49
Lots of plaudits for Besic, Barry etc, and rightly so, but hats off to Joel Robles who sits on the bench week in week out, smile on his face (surely wondering how he isn't getting more chances with flappy between the sticks), and then comes in and gives an assured and alert performance.

Although I thought he could possibly have read the play for City's goal better, and come off his line quicker, the save down to his left from De Bruyne (I think) was superb.

It was also obvious that the defence looked less shaky with him behind them.

Will RM finally see sense ...?

Jim Bennings
9 Posted 07/01/2016 at 11:38:10
Robles looks everything that Howard has not been this past 2 year's!!

He's a big powerful physical presence.

Does anyone else think that De Bruyne shot in the second half would probably have beaten Howard?
He's not as tall as Robles is he, I think those extra few inches helped Joel stretch for the fingertip save.

I'd have him in every week but no, Mr Circus Act will be back next Wednesday at City in the league won't he?

Graham Mockford
10 Posted 07/01/2016 at 11:50:25

I agree, Robles has done enough to show he can be trusted and deserves his chance. Whether Roberto sees that I doubt.

However let me get this off my chest. I only have one word for supposed Evertonians who actively go onto Tim's Twitter account to troll him....... despicable.

Brent Stephens
11 Posted 07/01/2016 at 12:02:20
Tim should know what to do with his Twitter account - drop it.
Michael Polley
13 Posted 07/01/2016 at 12:17:10
Powerhouse performance from the lads. Need to score in the 2nd leg. COYB !
Jim Bennings
14 Posted 07/01/2016 at 12:22:53
Agreed Graham,

I've never subscribed to that online halfwit bullying behaviour!

Get a life!

Michael Polley
15 Posted 07/01/2016 at 12:37:18
Robles for me. Howard is a liability now, but unfortunately Martinez can’t see that. What’s the betting he will play the next league game against City – joke!
Conor Skelly
16 Posted 07/01/2016 at 13:09:38
Best performance of the season last night, baring maybe Southampton away. Definitely our most valuable performance in terms of where it gets us and and what Martinez should learn from it. Joel has to play from now on. Besic has to play against the good sides who have top attacking mids. Ask Eriksen.

Going into the league game with City I’d keep Joel in nets but play some of the fringe player’s. I wouldn’t play Rom, gerry, Ross or Stones in the City league game. Give kev and lennon a game. Get Jags on there along with Galloway. Even play Naismith if he’s still there.

I want most of our players to go into the return leg off the back of a victory and not a defeat, so saving our best eleven for the cup game is imperative to keeping the belief high (against City). Time for some squad rotation starting this weekend in the FA Cup. A marquee signing would be very welcome too but that’s just being spoilt.

Barry Pearce
17 Posted 07/01/2016 at 13:30:27
I really feel for Robles, doesn’t matter what he does good or bad,Howard, unless Martinez has a change of heart will be playing against City next week, so wrong.
Victor Thompson
18 Posted 07/01/2016 at 15:32:12
I am an Arsenal supporter but I was very impressed by Everton last night. Young Besic was my man of the match and clearly you have another star on your hands. I don’t understand the abuse Barkley has been getting - he is another star and could go to any club.

I heard Pellegrini lamenting the penalty they should have had but the fact is at that point Everton were playing them off the park. Even when they were down to 10 men Everton still stroked the ball around. I am afraid that despite his goals recently, YaYa Toure is not fit enough for the premiership. His shuffle around the pitch is becoming a joke.

Joe Duffin
19 Posted 07/01/2016 at 16:10:17
Whilst everyone is singing about Robles performance, which no doubt the save he made from DeBruyne was world class, he didn't really have a lot to do.

The save against Aguero in first half, his kicking was poor (do they not teach goalkeepers to kick the ball straight rather than slicing through it?), and I personally think he should have been further off his line for the goal – in fact if his starting position was better he should have been at the ball before Navas.

Anyway, not to detract from an excellent all round performance – I particularly loved the keep ball in last 10 mins, with only 10 men!

Steve Carse
20 Posted 07/01/2016 at 16:27:09
Joe, how should his starting position have been further off his line? Aguero had the option of going it alone; Robles had to try and position himself for both options. As it is, even if he had gambled and moved more to be positioned better for the option taken, the through ball was so precise and so perfectly weighted that he'd have stood no chance of getting close enough to have prevented the goal being scored.

Don't get me wrong, Robles, like Howard, has a mistake in him waiting to happen and I doubt if he's a good enough keeper for the long term. But to call him over this goal is extremely harsh.

Mike Powell
21 Posted 07/01/2016 at 16:49:38
I am one off Martinez's biggest critics but I've got to hold my hands up and say he got his tactics spot on last night.

I thought it was are best performance of the season. Everyone put in a shift but Barry, Barkley, Besic and Lukaku were outstanding. I just hope our injured players are back for the second leg.
Joe Duffin
22 Posted 07/01/2016 at 16:55:33
When I watched it last night on Sky, and the ball was played through, I just thought he was too far away to make any serious contribution to save it – my first thoughts were he should have been charging out much quicker when the ball was slotted through – as you say, it was a cracking through ball. However, I also agree that Howard should be replaced, just not sure its Robles.
James Marshall
23 Posted 07/01/2016 at 16:56:16
I never rated Barry, and when we signed him I was underwhelmed. I’d seen him play for other team and not really taken any notice of him until he played for us – the first time I saw him for us in the flesh I was amazed and how wrong I’d been and he’s just got better. The guy is a class act, a proper footballer and quality pro. Nobody works as hard, and nobody has his class in everything he does.

Without him we’re nothing – he really is the glue that holds us together.

James Stewart
24 Posted 07/01/2016 at 17:02:32
Robles was in no way culpable for their goal. Coleman has to make the foul on Aguero as soon as he beats him. We are still far too nice as a team, the danger was obvious and Coleman has to take a yellow there for the team and stop the counter.
Eddie Dunn
25 Posted 07/01/2016 at 17:42:33
I agree, James, Coleman should have done the dirty. The break was most damaging as Baines had been taking the right wing corner and was out of position. Coleman was deputising for him, but only Coleman, Funes Moris and Besic were on the chase, with Barry in the slipstream.

If only Mirallas had been taking the corner, it would never have happened. Clever teams are waiting for these openings and we need to be more streetwise if we are going to progress.
Jay Harris
26 Posted 07/01/2016 at 18:36:33
With Seamus likely to be out for 4 or 5 weeks it is time to get Sam Byron for that backup RB position.
Oliver Molloy
27 Posted 07/01/2016 at 21:40:15
The Incredible One has got me believing again, and I desperately want us to get to the final to meet and beat the team I absolutely detest.

That really would be incredible!

Tom Bowers
29 Posted 07/01/2016 at 21:47:00
Obviously it will be tough at the Etihad but whilst they know Everton are very dangerous and can score on the break they also know they only need one goal to go through.

Everton’s quest is simple, get a goal first and Man City will be up against it. However, I would dearly loved to have had Macca available for this one

Fred Charters
30 Posted 07/01/2016 at 21:58:25
Just watched the Sky catch up of the 1966 Special re England’s World Cup win. I was at Wembley with my brother Alan but time fades ones memories and I could not believe how great Bobby Moore was!

Want to say that in my opinion John Stones is Moore reincarnated. He is only 21 but has all the attributes that Bobby Moore had – all he lacks is more (no pun!) experience. Let’s all enjoy him while we can!
Oliver Molloy
31 Posted 07/01/2016 at 22:09:26
Tom, away goals only count after 120 mins I think. There would be extra time if the score was one-nil to Man City after 90 minutes.

McCarthy in for Besic would be a backward step for me, Besic really has taken his chance. Besic offers so much more as he demonstrated last night.

Yes he takes more chances , but he looks a leader and inspires players... When have you ever witnessed McCarthy pass the ball forward and drive up the pitch like he does? He doesn’t quite have the engine that McCarthy has – yet!

Nicholas Ryan
32 Posted 08/01/2016 at 14:11:49
Jay 26 .... while Sam Byron might be useful.... I think Sam Byram would be even better!
James Thornhill
33 Posted 08/01/2016 at 15:12:47
The 2nd half against Tottenham & the Man City game have restored some of the crumbling faith I have in Martinez, If we do okay against Man City on Wednesday we will have to pull something out the bag for the cup game.

Something tells me they were a bit shell-shocked by our performance last Wednesday & the next leg will be a total different game.

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