How to lose an FA Cup final in the way that hurts the most.
Everton have just written the playbook.
In a game where finishing was the decider in a profligate game, Manchester United have sent Everton out of the FA Cup.
Off the back of a crushing Derby defeat, with a team cobbled together with bits of string, we looked the part. United came out and dominated possession, grabbing control in the midfield and outfighting and outthinking us with some clever movement up top. Rooney pulled the strings from a deeper than usual midfield position.
The first genuine chance of the game came to Lukaku, a long ball bounced awkwardly between defenders and Lukaku was the one who committed to win the ball, chesting it beyond the last defender and going through on goal. A heavy touch committed him to take it past the keeper, which he did assuredly, getting the ball on target only for Rooney to race back and clear off the line.
Despite some pressure and half openings from United, again it was Lukaku who had another good chance to put us one up.
Cleverly turned a ball around the corner putting him through on goal, a heavy touch again taking him wide with just the keeper to beat. A comfortable save for De Gea to make.
They went up the other end, and with Martial giving Besic a torrid time all game, it was no surprise the goal was produced by him. A swift one two out wide left Besic scrambling, Martial getting to the byline and cutting back for Fellaini to scuff into the back of the net.
1-0 and we didn’t look like getting back into it, Joel required to make saves as United applied the pressure through till half time.
The second half again started much the same, United putting on the pressure with seemingly no way back, and little fight from the boys in Royal Blue.
However, a lovely ball around the corner from Lukaku found Lennon and Ross in space against just 2 United defenders.
Ross was played in and tackled by Fosu Mensah just as he primed to shoot, going down in what can only be described as a soft penalty.
Lukaku stepped up, running up and smashing it to the left, telegraphing where he was going to hit it. De Gea got down to his right and with a strong right hand, made a fine save.
Instead of heads going down, this seemingly reinvigorated Everton as though a switch had suddenly gone on in their heads. Suddenly we were fighting harder and pressing harder, creating chances of our own accord again and again. We were angry, and playing like we meant it. We fancied it
No matter what though, the ball would not go in the back of the net.
Cleverly in particular, as well as Lukaku was guilty of squandering several clear cut opportunities.
Lennon came off for Deulofeu, who made an immediate impact, a good passage of play leaving Deulofeu in space on the edge of the box. A trademark whipped ball into the front post had Smalling in all sorts, and he was only able to deflect the ball past the outstretched arms of his keeper.
An ascendant Everton were now level, with 15 minutes regulation to play.
Our assault on the United goal continued, first Deulofeu going close with the ball inches away from Lukaku to tap in. Then a telling intervention again from Fellaini left Lukaku in wonder as to how he had not scored, with a block just as he pulled the trigger on the 6-yard line.
Hope became heartbreak, as the clock ticked down towards the end of extra time the waves parted for Martial, who slotted the ball clinically into the back of the net. In a day filled with chances not taken, the chances that were taken mattered.
Hopefully a new season and a new manager will bring better things for Everton.
MOTM for me was Stones, was sterling in defence and really gave his all on the pitch, was a driving player as he brought the ball out from the back with intensity and impetus