Bournemouth 0 - 2 Everton
The dream of a Wembley final and a trophy to lift what could otherwise be a season of frustration remains alive after Everton successfully negotiated a potentially difficult FA Cup Fifth Round tie to book passage to the Quarter Finals.
A fourth win in give games in all competitions represented a job well done for the Blues on the south coast and helped dull, for now at least, lingering pains from last weekend's defeat to West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League that had once again thrown up fears of another wasted year.
It also provided redemption for their capitulation on this ground in late November. Thanks to an excellent penalty save from Joel Robles and two second-half goals from Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku, Everton made sure with their second bite at the Cherries this season.
While the WBA loss had thrown the question of Roberto Martinez's long-term future at Goodison Park back into virtual and real-world pub discussions alike, it was the influence of fortune that has dominated much of the Everton-related talk in recent days. As if in response, Lady Luck relented a little today, offering Barkley's 55th-minute opener a little helping hand over goalkeeper Adam Federici, perhaps influencing the direction of Robles's dive when faced by Charlie Daniels from 12 yards, and diverting Junior Stanilaus's direct free kick off the defensive wall and maybe a foot wide of his post at a crucial period of the second half when it was only 1-0.
Ultimately, though, the Blues overcame what was an untidy first half and were strong enough overall on the day to push through to the next round on their own merits.
To his credit, the manager erred on the side of continuity, naming an unchanged line-up from last Saturday's exercise in attacking futility and left a trio of one-time first-team certainties in the form of Tim Howard, John Stones and Leighton Baines on the substitutes' bench. Just as encouragingly, he found no room in the dugout for Arouna Kone who made way for new signing Oumar Niasse, a player of whom the travelling fans would get their first glimpses, however inconclusive, with a 10-minute cameo at the end.
Though they would dominate the opening quarter of the contest, Everton weren't quite on their game, however, and the chemistry certainly didn't appear to be there between Barkley and Lukaku up top, while the deliveries from the flanks by Seamus Coleman, Aaron Lennon, Tom Cleverley and Bryan Oviedo left plenty to be desired as well.
Moments to excite the 2,000-plus travelling Blues were few and far between in the first 45 minutes but Lukaku provided the best of them when he burst down the left flank, cut along the byline and then tried to filck the ball past Federici but was foiled by the keeper's leg.
At the other end, Juan Iturbe's surging run and shot that flew wide and another even more wild effort by Stanislaus were the only real signs of intent from Eddie Howe's men until they were gifted the chance to take an undeserved lead eight minutes before the break.
James McCarthy, his finger already on the self-destruct button with a rash, late tackle on Iturbe that earned him an uncomfortably early booking in the 18th minute, visibly handled the ball trying to field a deep Bournemouth corner giving Martin Atkinson all the invitation he needed to point to the spot.
Robles anticipated the direction of the resulting penalty, though, and leapt to his left to push the shot away and watched in relief as the rebound was lashed into the side-netting.
Not surprisingly, Everton were better after the half-time interval and, after a Lennon volley had been deflected behind for a corner and McCarthy sliced a first-time shot well wide, Barkley gave them a precious lead. Collecting Cleverley's pass, he had time to measure a shot that nicked off Dan Gosling's boot and arced over Federici's flailing gloves.
Three minutes later, the 22-year-old looked to have served up the second for Lukaku who finished in typically clinical fashion but the Belgian was ruled marginally offside.
Had it been allowed, that 'goal' might have killed the game there and then. Having lost their previous two matches, both at home, in fairly convincing fashion, the Cherries weren't at their energetic best and they certainly lacked the kind of service from the flanks or the shooting accuracy that had brought them back from the dead in this fixture three months ago.
Nevertheless, in chasing that 1-0 deficit for the ensuing 20 minutes, they had their best spell of the game and they were unfortunate that Stanislaus's free kick was deflected the wrong side of the post from their point of view, denied by Phil Jagielka's crucial block on Glenn Murray's drive from the angle, and frustrated when Gosling planted a free header straight into Robles's grateful arms from six yards out.
Ritchie then swept a good chance wide after Joshua King had surged past the otherwise solid Ramiro Funes Mori and delivered an inviting cutback. But Everton underscored their superiority with a lovely move that eventually led to the corner from which Lukaku plundered the second. It started deep in their own half with the game's best player, Gareth Barry, and ended with Aaron Lennon collecting McCarthy's backheel, nudging it on the Barkley in oceans of space in the box and his shot taking a vital deflection off Eunan O'Kane's elbow.
Barry, who had led by example with an excellent display, would play a delicious role in creating the goal for Lukaku, as well with a deft flick with the inside of the boot to guide Oviedo's short corner into the striker's path in front of goal where he couldn't miss from five yards.
That was the cue for both he and Barkley to depart for a well-earned rest and Kevin Mirallas and Niasse to lead the line for the final 10 minutes or so in which the former would despatch one wayward into the away fans from 20-off yards.
It wasn't the most attractive victory of the season - although there were some lovely touches and moments to be enjoyed here and there - particularly in the first half, where things broke down to a frustrating degree in the final third, but they don't all have to be. Away from home in the last 16 of a cup competition, the result is of paramount importance; anything else is gravy.
Having escaped the setback of going a goal down thanks to Robles's heroics, Everton retained the conditions by which they could go on and win the game by what was a fairly comfortable scoreline, and progress to the last eight.
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