|Venue: Goodison Park, Liverpool||FA Cup||Saturday 28 January 2006; 3:00pm|
|McFadden (36')||Half Time: 1-0
|Attendance: 29,742||(Round 4)||Referee: Graham Poll|
Frank Lampard's second-half equaliser kept a below-par Chelsea in the FA Cup after an Everton side brought to its knees by injury and suspension had threatened to spring a Fourth Round surprise.
Already reeling from the loss of Matteo Ferrari, who failed a late fitness test on the hamstring he injured against Arsenal last weekend, the Blues were seemingly crippled by the news that James Beattie was now ruled out with a groin strain sustained in training the previous day.
With Alan Stubbs cup-tied and Joseph Yobo still away on African Nations Cup duty, Phil Neville was pressed into service as an emergency centre-back alongside David Weir. In midfield, Tim Cahill was suspended, so Simon Davies made his first start of the year and Leon Osman dropped back to right midfield. The striking crisis was addressed with Duncan Ferguson paired with James McFadden.
Chelsea, for all their superiority and their much-vaunted three-month unbeaten run, were curiously subdued for the first hour of the game. Unsurprisingly, they were easily the more composed of the two sides in the first few minutes, but as they lapsed into a pattern bordering on disinterest, Everton took the initiative.
Nuno Valente had a speculative early effort that dropped harmlessly wide and Davies's cross deflected awkwardly off Del Horno but Carlo Cudicini was able to change direction and smother the ball. Then, after Ferguson was fouled on the edge of the area in Mikel Arteta territory, the Spaniard's free kick was blocked by an arm in a wall that had advanced half the distance to the ball by the time he struck it. Of course, with Graham "friend of the top teams" Poll in charge, nothing was given.
At the other end, Maniche fired inches wide from 20 yards and Hernan Crespo had a tame shot gathered by Nigel Martyn. But it was Everton who continued to show the greater threat inside the box and Valente almost found Kevin Kilbane with a 35th-minute cross but it found the unknowing William Gallas whose header bounced straight into Cudicini's arms.
A minute later, though, everything came together. Ferguson laid the ball out to Valente and the improving Portguese defender swung in a peach of a cross that was met by McFadden unchallenged and he made no mistake with a firm header that gave the 'keeper no chance.
It was a lead that the Toffees took into the half-time break and one that didn't visibly spur the visitors into any more urgent action. Arjen Robben, their most dangerous player in the first period, did force a save by Martyn who beat his low shot away with his legs but it wasn't until McFadden was laid out by Cudicini, had to leave the field with a broken nose and David Moyes brought on Gary Naysmith in his stead that the tide began to turn.
Damien Duff and Carlton Cole came on in a double switch on the hour and Chelsea started to shift up a couple of gears. Crespo should have equalised two minutes later but spooned over from seven yards and he was a couple of feet away three minutes after that with a curled effort around Martyn. Then, Robben engineered space in the box but his deflected shot was, thankfully, parried by Martyn and Cole was unable to connect at the back post.
A minute later, though, the almost inevitable breakthrough came. A slick passing move ended with Gallas's pass to Lampard carving the home defence open with ease and the England midfielder took one step to the side before sliding a left-foot shot past Martyn to level the scores.
Although Everton were still operating with the same formation as when McFadden had been on the field, Osman having shifted into a more advanced role and an inspired Kilbane playing alongside Arteta in the middle, they appeared less equipped to find another goal. Kilbane did sting the hands on the 'keeper with a terrific shot from the edge of the box but the Italian gathered at the second attempt.
It wasn't until Victor Anichebe was introduced for a meaningless debut cameo after 88 minutes that the home side looked like something approaching dangerous again. Indeed, their best chance to steal the tie came deep into injury time when teenage sub, Victor Anichebe, knocked down for Ferguson but he scuffed a right foot shot wide.
Chelsea also had their chances, most notably for Lampard who screwed an effort left of goal when he should have done better and Robben saw another low drive beaten away by Martyn's legs.
Under the circumstances, this was a terrific result for Everton, but they might look back at a missed opportunity afforded them by the Londoners' lacklustre display. With Arteta again subdued and Davies also off-key, it was, surprisingly enough, Kilbane taking the game to the opposition and putting in one of his best performances of the season. Had everyone been as up for it, the Blues might have recorded a victory they then would have deserved.
As it is, they're still in the draw for the next round and Keith Wyness can look forward to more cash to put towards his almost non-existant profit margins with a replay at Stamford Bridge. The hope, of course, is that a few more players will be available in 10 days' time because it certainly doesn't look as though the transfer window is going to yield any more new signings... if you can count Alan Stubbs as a new signing.
Martyn 7 — Made some good saves but was stranded somewhat for the goal
Naysmith 5 — Didn't really contribute much
After Everton had escaped the New Den with their presence in the FA Cup secure in the first match of the previous round, David Moyes said that, when Millwall were leading, he "feared for our Wembley dream."
You couldn't help but wonder how he envisaged getting to the Final with just one decent striker and the division's worst goalscoring record.
The same applies three weeks later, except that with the sale of Marcus Bent he's down a further striker and, having ditched Per Krøldrup, looks likely to be able to field just one recognised central defender for the visit of virtually invincible Chelsea. If that doesn't put the fear of God fear for our supposed Wembley dream into you, I don't know what will.
Still, overcoming Jose Mourinho's outrageously expensive outfit would, of course, remove one large obstacle to going all the way in a competition in which we haven't progressed beyond the Quarter Finals since winning it 11 years ago.
The injury sustained by Matteo Ferrari in an awkward slip against Arsenal last weekend will be causing the manager the most stress this week. At the time of writing he remains highly doubtful and with Alan Stubbs cup-tied and Joseph Yobo captaining Nigeria in the African Nations Cup, it means that David Weir is the only fit centre-back.
So, much conjecture among the fans about who could be deployed in the middle in an emergency. Nuno Valente? Phil Neville? Duncan Ferguson?! Not a decision I would want to make.
In midfield, Tim Cahill is suspended but Simon Davies, who has missed the last month because of an ankle injury, is available. He could deputise for the Australian but Cahill's absence means that should Neville be pushed into defence, there will be a hole in midfield that could be filled by Kevin Kilbane, with James McFadden or Gary Naysmith deployed wide left.
With all of our selection problems, it's hard to see how we can possibly win this one. It's going to take another display like the triumph over the Gunners or, at the very least, a battling display akin to that which earned a point against Chelsea at Goodison earlier in the season.
The Londoners themselves are unbeaten in all competitions since November and will are gunning to win the only trophy they have yet to win under Mourinho.
I’d almost forgotten what 3pm kick off’s on a Saturday afternoon felt like as its been far too long since I last went to one. This made it very relaxing getting to the pub at a reasonable hour and with plenty of time before kick off. With what can only really be described as a patched up team the best we all realistically hoped for was to go down, but go down fighting.
When we got to are seats it was even more of a shock to find that Beattie wasn’t playing either. This cocked things up even more and basically demanded a big performance from the Big Yin. With Yobo, Ferrari, Stubbs, Cahill and Van Der Meyde al unavailable, we knew we were up against it. McFadden was in up front alongside Dunc with Neville unsurprisingly the man given the responsibility to fill in at centre back alongside captain Weir. Speaking of responsibility, we had an irresponsible referee in Graham Poll. I knew it was him by the way he so theatrically placed the ball on the centre circle spot before the game. God he loves the limelight.
We kicked off towards the Park End and there was a distinct lack of atmosphere inside the ground I thought. Chelsea hadn’t filled their end and there was a let of empty seats towards the back of the Gwlady’s. Not a lot happened in the opening exchanges which rubbed off on the crowd a bit I think. It was a bit flat.
I don’t know how it happened but Everton seemed to hustle there way into things a bit and the crowd then began to play their part. Kilbane (of all people!) was probably the main instigator of all of this with some brilliant chasing and harrying along with some very good running with the ball. He wasn’t afraid to take players on and Chelsea actually seemed quite scared to put a tackle in on him. Maybe he felt less pressure in a cup game. This got a lot of the other players into the swing of things and Everton were now knocking it about as if they were actually the champions. Chelsea seemed a bit rattled. The crowd got more vocal.
Next thing I know, a peach of a cross from Valente found someone at the back post. The delivery was perfect, the sort of cross strikers dream about, and the ball buried into the corner of the net. Nobody around us seemed to know who’d scored at first (I thought it was Kilbane!), but then someone said McFadden which was enough confirmation for me. Great stuff from Everton. This teed up an excellent atmosphere in the Lower Gwlady’s with chants of “We shall not be moved” and “Were no the march”. It now felt like an FA Cup tie.
The players had a bit of a buzz from this and continued to knock it around well. Gallas had had enough of this and decided to take matters into his own hands by recklessly crashing in on McFadden. He had to come off to get treatment. With Everton down to ten men, I was wondering why Moyes was not putting anyone on to replace him as he looked in trouble. Then the board went up and just as I was expecting a change, the ref had indicated three minutes of stoppage time. The first half had passed by so quickly. Everton held firm until the break and left the field to a well earned standing ovation.
At half time “Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne” (according to the match announcer) made a quick appearance and some fella came about as close as I’ve seen anyone to hitting the bar in the half time competition.
Carlton Cole had come on in the second half as Chelsea changed it and went 4-4-2. McFadden was back out as well so I guess the gamble had paid off. I guess it was inevitable that Chelsea would pile on the pressure in the second half and it was some onslaught of are goal so we can’t complain about the draw. Crespo missed two good chances (one an absolute sitter) and Terry nodded over from close range (under heavy pressure from Weir though) before Lampard scored with a low drive after being fed through by I think Gallas. The goal was well-earned and hard-earned by Chelsea. This isn’t to say Everton were playing badly, it just highlights how good Chelsea are. Martyn also made a couple of very good saves in the midst of all this.
Prior to this Everton had a penalty claim turned down when McFadden collided with a combination of Gallas and Cudicini when chasing a bouncing through ball. The penalty was debatable so was probably the right decision not to give it, but the impact of loosing McFadden was disastrous enough, particularly with a broken nose. This meant an enforced reshuffle. The crap and unfit Naysmith on to replace him with Osman pushing up front alongside Dunc, and Kilbane in the middle. This was a shame because Kilbane was having a stormer taking on Glen Johnson. His job was really a piece of piss after that as Naysmith is not tall, strong, quick, skilful or above all a winger. Maybe he’d have been better putting him in the middle. He did put in one good ball though which was superbly nicked off Osman’s forehead by Terry with a brilliant defensive interception.
Once Chelsea scored they took their foot off the gas somewhat but still looked threatening. Everton also had a go. I wanted Moyes to stick Anichabe on a bit sooner than he did to maybe unnerve them a bit. With a few minutes to go he replaced Davies as Everton went for the kill. The tried, with the closest they came being a Ferguson volley which drifted about a yard wide. It was a gallant attempt from a difficult chance. The whistle blew not long after this for full time.
Overall, Everton did very, very well and I was very proud of the boys in blue yesterday. I reckon Chelsea will have been happy with a point and although it now looks as though we’ll be going out as I can’t see a win at Stamford Bridge, at least we’ll go down fighting. They seem to have found that resilience again now, and we’ve got to carry this into Tuesdays game at Wigan and the two home games coming up against Man City and Blackburn. There all winnable but as we all know, we never do things the easy way and I just refuse to count my chickens just yet as I’ve been let down far too many times this season.