No South Yorkshire troubles this time around on the FA Cup as Everton comfortably outplayed Sheffield Wednesday to set up a fifth round home tie against Wycombe Wanderers… providing they dispose of Spurs.
Round Four of the FA Cup saw the Blues draw a home tie against 1966 Cup Final opponents, Sheffield Wednesday, as they hoped to continue along the road to May date at Wembley Stadium.
An awful lot of water has flowed under the bridge since that glorious day with Everton now with Carlo Ancelotti at the helm and Wednesday under the temporary managership of Neil Thompson, the South Yorkshire club having dispensed with the services of Tony Pulis.
The big news for Evertonians ahead of the game came when Carlo Ancelotti confirmed that leading scorer Dominic Calvert-Lewin was fit and would be back in the line-up, although this news was tempered by the manager advising of others not able to play. “We have Dominic available for the game, unfortunately, we have some players out like Gbamin, Allan, Delph, Digne, Iwobi and Nkounkou. Iwobi and Digne will be unavailable for only this game – they will be available for the game against Leicester. The other players are in good condition and are ready to play this game and to compete. This competition is really important for us.”
Having mentioned Gbamin, he expanded further saying, “With Jean-Philippe, he is following his individual programme, like Allan and Delph. I think soon he will be able to train with us. But we don’t want to put pressure on him because he was out for a long time and when he comes back he has to be ready.” And taking the proverbial one game at a time approach he added, “I want to put out the best line-up possible because we don’t want to think about Leicester, that comes after this and we want to move on in this competition. We know how important the FA Cup is in this country.”
Having promised to play a strong eleven, he submitted his team sheet reading: Olsen, Coleman (c), Mina Holgate, Godfrey, Doucoure, Gomes, Rodriguez, Sigurdsson, Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin.
Wednesday haven’t played a first team game since they knocked Exeter City out in the third round two weeks ago due to Covid causing game postponements. The effects of the pandemic interrupting some good form under interim manager Neil Thompson who has seen his side record three straight wins and four in their last five games since the club sacked Tony Pulis after one win in ten games of his shot tenure.
Relishing the chance to pit his wits against Premier League opposition, in his pre-match press conference Thompson noted, “We’re chomping at the bit after the break we’ve had. This is a diversion from the Championship and we want to continue our momentum. Going to Goodison Park is a great challenge for everyone. We will be there to enjoy it and play on the front foot. Nothing better than pitting your wits against the best teams.”
He sounded a very realistic point when he added, “If you are beaten by better players and the better team on the day, that’s football. But you should never be beaten by someone working harder than you and it doesn’t matter what division you are in. We will be going there giving it all, nothing less than 100%.”
Wednesday have been monitoring the fitness of Massimo Luongo and Julian Boerner, who have returned to training after a lengthy spell away from action, and with on-loan Jack Marriott and Izzy Brown available, Thompson also had recent signing from Aston Villa, winger Andre Green eagerly looking to make his debut.
In the end he weighed up all his options before naming his starting eleven: Wildsmith, Urhoghide, Brennan, Boerner, Galvin, Bannan (c), Pelupessy, Reach, Harris, Green and Paterson.
Our referee for this ridiculously timed kick-off was Graham Scott.
An early passing move involving Rodriguez and Sigurdsson led to a Richarlison shot being blocked and cleared, Wednesday countering to win a corner as Olsen palmed a stinging shot from Reach to safety in a bright opening by both sides.
Everton nearly opened the scoring in the eighth minute as Coleman played a one two with Rodriguez to flight a cross to the back post for Richarlison to head, Wildsmith tipping his effort onto the crossbar and over for a corner than came to nothing. Everton on the front foot saw Gomes find Richarlison wide left and he wasted no time in firing a ball across the face of goal but just too far in front of DCL.
The Blues were denied an opening goal in the 12th minute as Rodriguez threaded a delightful ball into the path of Richarlison and he slotted coolly only to be disappointed to see the offside flag raised against him.
Wednesday debutante Green tested Olsen, cutting in off the left flank to fire in a right footed effort, the Blues keeper dealing with it comfortably. Lovely one touch passing by the Blues involving Gomes, Rodriguez and Sigurdsson saw the ball worked into the area for DCL to turn and shoot, Wildsmith equal to it, but a smashing move by Everton.
Wednesday won a second corner as Harris got to a ball and forced Ben Godfrey into conceding the set piece, Doucoure with a clearing header prevented any possibility of danger. At the other end, persistence by DCL saw him win a second corner that the Owls failed to clear and eventually conceded a third that Sigurdsson flighted to the back post, Boerner with the clearing header. Gomes sprayed a ball wide right to Rodriguez to feed DCL whose attempted backheel to find Sigurdsson sadly didn’t come off.
Just before the half hour marl, the possession and pressure from the Blues eventually tolled as Gomes and Sigurdsson exchange passes on the left before Gomes went for the bye-line and whipped a powerful, low cross for Dominic Calvert-Lewin to arrive perfectly at the back post and score.
Everton were passing the ball around confidently, two more crosses not producing before a smart move saw Coleman cross to find Rodriguez to set up Sigurdsson, the Icelander curling a shot wide of the target. Into the last five minutes of the first half and Doucoure released Coleman down the right to slide a cross that went just beyond Richarlison under pressure from Urhoghide. Coleman then blazed a shot well wide of the target as the skipper went looking for a second goal before the break.
Coleman conceded a late corner that Richarlison headed clear and one added minute was signalled before Everton took their one goal lead to the warmth of the dressing room after an entertaining 45 minutes that to be fair, Wednesday had played their part.
Half Time: 1-0
Wednesday with a change for the second half, Windass replacing former Villa winger Andre Green who’d taken a knock late in the first session. Both sides were trying to work openings but cancelling each other out until Rodriguez exchanging passes with DCL released Coleman down the right flank, his cross saw nobody in the area to capitalise on the move.
A free kick for a foul on DCL saw Rodriguez float the ball, Reach taking the pace off it and denying Godfrey the chance to net at the back post. Gomes picking up a loose ball fired a shot wide as Everton began to get back on top and the next attack saw Richarlison feed DCL to shoot for the top corner, Wildsmith making the save at the expense of a corner. Everton won an immediate second corner that Sigurdsson swung in, the ball eventually coming to Doucoure who sliced his shot wide.
Sigurdsson won another corner with a shot deflected wide as the Blues looked to put the game to bed and the set piece saw just that, Rodriguez flighting the ball to the near post where Richarlison rose to flick a header beyond the reach of Wildsmith just before the hour mark.
Wednesday reacted to falling further behind with a double change with Brown and Penney replacing Galvin and Paterson.
Barely three minutes later and Wildsmith with a fine full length dive denied Richarlison after he’d played a one-two with Rodriguez and from the resulting corner, it was an all Columbian third as Rodriguez found Yerry Minafor a towering header to put the game to bed.
Everton were hungry for more goals and a neat chipped ball from Rodriguez saw a DCL effort turned behind for yet another Everton corner that Wednesday defended successfully. Everton made a change on 66 minutes, Bernard coming on to give DCL a rest ahead of Wednesday’s Premier League fixture against Leicester. One minute later, Wednesday sent Dele-Bashiru on to replace playmaker Barry Bannan.
Ben Godfrey picked up a yellow card for a clumsy challenge on Harris and then Gomes brought down Brown to give the Owls a free kick in a good area on their left. Windass fired a shot that took a slight deflection but Olsen saw it all the way and held it comfortably.
A good block by Mason Holgate on a shot from Windass as Wednesday kept trying to get forward and the Blues made a double change on 75 minutes, Anthony Gordon and Jonjoe Kenny replacing Richarlison and Ben Godfrey respectively.
Bernard taking a ball from Doucoure cut in off the left flank only to see his shot blocked and cleared, and Wednesday made another change, on loan Jack Marriott replacing Adam Reach for the final ten minutes of the tie.
Rodriguez found Bernard, his partially blocked shot falling to Jonjoe Kenny, his effort clearing the crossbar by some considerable margin.
History was made in the 85th minute as Thierry Small became Everton’s youngest ever player as he replaced James Rodriguez and Tyler Onyango came on too replacing Andre Gomes.
The Owls won a late corner on their left that saw them make half-hearted appeals for a penalty as Bernard tumbled into Brennan, and they eventually won a second late corner as the 90 minute mark was reached with three added minutes signalled. Nothing of any note ensued in the additional time and a thoroughly professional performance from Everton saw them cruise into the fifth round.
Full Time: 3-0
Get involved in the post match discussion in GrandOldTeam’s Everton forum.