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Venue: Goodison Park, Liverpool
FA Cup
 Tuesday 1 March 2011; 7:30pm
0 1
Half Time: 0-1
Mills (26') 
Attendance: 29,976
Round 5
Referee: Andre Marriner

Match Summary

Cahill and Fellaini were ruled out injured, and Beckford incredibly arrived over two hours late, due to a traffic jam following an accident on teh M62, so the successful 4-4-2 formations that showed such positivity against Sunderland at the weekend, with consequent reward, was abandoned in favour of the tried but perhaps not-so-trusted 4-5-1 (or more correctly perhaps 4-4-1-1, with the diminutive Osman playing "in the hole" behind Louis Saha).   Jack Rodwell returned to takeover from Fellaini as the defensive midfield spoiler.  Beckford on the bench possibly with a groim problem, and Anichebe, also possibly carrying an injury

Reading kicked off in front of a rather quiet Goodison Park and looked to attack from the off, Distin doing well, but a good ball in was at least played on target by Shane Long, saved by Howard.  Everton's early passing in the final third looked shody at best,  allowing Reading to easily hold them off.

Bily won a free-kick in a decent position that Arteta and Baines discussed and Baines delivered it superbly to the far post where Leigertwood did well to keep it off Rodwell's head.  Everton got a second opportunity when a defender handled Baines's scuffed cross but Arteta took the free-kick (why?) and could only drive it all-too predictably into the two-man defensive wall.

More pressure and a good cross from Osman sat up for Coleman but his downward header was misdirected and bounded up over the crossbar.   It was mostly Everton pressure but Reading did get down the Everton right and get a cross in that Howard needed to collect.  Osman got into a good position at the other end but his shot was too easy for McCarthy to gather a shot that would turn out to be the only one on target by Everton in the entire half!  Bily made a good run that promised a lot but could do nothing at the end of it as he ran harmlessly into two defenders.

Reading got a corner that was defended well, Arteta breaking right but it was not fast enough to beat a Reading defence that got back in numbers.  Kizahanishvili caught Osman, who needed treatment, while the Reading player was booked.

Bily delivered a superb cross that evaded any Everton players as the Blues struggled to get close enough to the Reading goal to fashion a decent scoring chance. Reading came up with a very dangerous move where Jagielka had to throw himself  at Leigertwood's shot to deflect it wide.

From the corner, a hopelessly weak  intervention by Osman in defence set up Mills to drill the ball through a crowd and into the back of the Gwladys Street net for a shocking lead to the visitors, much against the run of play.  A dreadful piece of defending by Distin then allowed Kebe to run through one-on-one with Howard, who brilliantly saved a certain second goal.  Everton looked totally rattled by the reserve as Reading surged forward with renewed belief.

Rodwell got himself booked for a really stupid lunging tackle out wide left that gave Reading another opportunity to create more havoc un the stuttering Everton defence.  When they did finally break, there was no attempted shot form the crab-like passing, until Baines overhit his cross.

Everton really struggled to reassert control of the game, with same pattern of toothless attack exemplified when Saha tried to shot and sliced it amazingly along the edge of the box to Baines.  Everton's football deteriorated even further before the break as possession was squandered cheaply and heads went down shamefully. 

Saha finally a good free-kick that would be an ideal opportunity for Baines to reproduce his Chelsea magic but no, it was left for Arteta to power into the wall and away for a corner by Baines that Osman headed weakly over the bar under pressure from a defender.  Boos at half-time were fully justified for a complete powder-puff first-half performance from a thoroughly impotent Everton side.  What would Moyes do to change this horrific scenario around?

Coleman and Bily were the ones to be sacrificed for a somewhat bizarre 4-3-3 formation with Beckford and Anichebe alongside Saha up front.  And Saha soon fed Beckford fr his first chance but the shot was really tame, as if he was playing with, yes, a groin injury.  Meanwhile, Anichebe was already rolling around in agony, claiming he had been stamped on.

Areteta finally shot form distance after a lot of encouragement for the crowd but it as deflected wide,  Anichebe then had a poke but his shot was feeble and wide.  "Shoot on sight" was perhaps part of Moyes's half-time peptalk?

Reading got free-kick that was executed superbly and flew a foot or two past the angle of Howard's goal.  Beckford was the next one to collapse from an elbow in the ribs and lay sobbing on the Goodison grass... he eventually got up very very slowly.

Arteta and Baines did good work in the corner and Baines finally got a superb cross that seemed headed right for Beckford's head but it miraculously evaded him.  Rodwell put in a decent ball that Anichebe should have headed down to Beckford's feet but it was mis-directed and the chance went begging.

Baines dd get a decent ross in but Beckford's header was simply hopeless, no direction or power. It was beginning to look painfully like one of those games were Everton could try all night but never score. Baines went in the book for a soft half-challenge. 

A chance came to Osman but he was half-asleep and his first touch was hopeless but it did get a corner that was delivered well by Arteta to the near post, an area completely devoid of blue shirts!  A break looked on for Everton from a Reading corner but Anichebe's crucial pass was behind Saha instead of in front of him , and Reading attacked again.  From the clearance, the ball seemed to fall for Beckford but he shot tamely wide.  

Into the last 20 minutes and the pattern of the second half had not been much different from the first as Everton looked to be pretty much out of ideas, with clear-cut chances virtually non-existent against a solid Reading defence that was determined not to yeild.

Meanwhile, Tabb looked to seal it but Neville got enough on it to deflect his chip behind for a corner. Saha got a half-chance from a corner but it was an impossible task through a crowd for Reading defenders in their goal area.

Almost a breakaway saw Saha cross deep and Beckford nod back an inviting ball for Osman but McArthy was out quickly to anticipate and block his crucial shot

So along things plodded, Baxter coming on for Neville as the final throw of the dice from David Moyes. Hopeless stuff really. 

Michael Kenrick

Match Report

Just when you think this tortuous season couldn't plumb any new depths, along comes a winnable home tie in the FA Cup against lower-division opposition a gilt-edged opportunity to reach the quarter finals and Everton find a way to shoot themselves in both feet with a performance of belief-defying ineptitude.

The scenes of wild celebration at Stamford Bridge 10 days ago? All for nothing in the final reckoning and, in the harsh light of this evening's display and the death knell it represents for the season, all a bit embarrassing. Some springboard that proved to be...

There would be no salvation from the boot of Leighton Baines this time although that left peg was at times the sum total of Everton's attacking repertoire against an organised Reading team that defended stoutly for almost the full 90 minutes only despair as the team's last hope for silverware and, in all likelihood, Europe evaporated into the Merseyside night, lifted on a chorus of angry boos from supporters who are reaching the end of their rope.

That Brian McDermott's outfit grabbed what would prove to be the winner completely against the run of play mid-way through the first half will come as no comfort for Evertonians who saw their team's composure and cohesion fall apart in the wake of the goal. The players will be accused of lacking fight in their attempts to claw their way back into the tie and while they were certainly lacking in spirit when the chips were down, ultimately they were undone by a shocking lack of ideas and craft that really does raise grave fears for what's in store between now and May.

Having taken the game by the scruff of the neck in the early going, it seemed to be only a matter of time before the Blues would make the breakthrough and continue their march along the road to Wembley. Despite playing in the less than enterprising 4-5-1 formation, a decision Moyes is believed to have made based on Jermaine Beckford's fitness rather than the striker's late arrival at the ground due to traffic problems on the M62, Everton's domination of the opening 20-odd minutes was near total, with Mikel Arteta stroking the ball about purposefully in midfield, Seamus Coleman offering an outlet down the right and Baines the ammunition from the right.

But yet again they seemed unable to fashion anything meaningful with all that possession. For the watching faithful, a frustrating sense of deja vu as attack after attack broke down on the edge of the opposition area, a scenario that has played out time and time again all season long no matter who has been pulling the strings. But a couple of openings were fashioned during the home side's spell of early superiority, the best of them falling to Seamus Coleman at the end of the nice move down the left flank. Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, in a moment of inspiration in an otherwise wretched personal performance, chipped the ball over the defence to Leon Osman who controlled it and lofted a tempting ball to the back post but Coleman headed too firmly downwards and the bounce carried it agonisingly over the crossbar.

After Osman had seen a tame left-footer saved and Leigertwood had had a piledriver blocked by Phil Jagielka's lunge, Reading took the lead from a corner from their right. After the initial kick wasn't cleared by an Everton jersey, the ball fell to Matt Mills and he slammed it through a crowd of players and past Tim Howard. 1-0 but nothing to panic about at this stage of proceedings.

Visibly rattled, though, the Blues almost compounded that defensive lapse with an even worse one, Sylvain Distin suffering a moment of madness where he was easily robbed by Kebbe who raced towards the box to take on Howard. Thankfully, he shot too close to the 'keeper and the American beat it away superbly for a corner.

Once they did retain the initiative, Everton resumed their ineffective search for a goal, with no one seeming able to pick the lock of the Reading defence or having the confidence to just put their laces through the ball when space opened up outside the box. That left the avenue of Baines swinging dangerous crosses in from the left, which seemed like it might eventually yield dividends but all too often they found a Reading defender's head and were cleared.

Two opportunities from direct free kicks in decent areas were spurned by Mikel Arteta as both times his shot deflected off the defensive wall but the second effort at least earned a corner which Osman flung himself at a minute before half-time but the ball flew off the back of his head and an inch over the crossbar to ensure that Reading went into the interval ahead.

Obviously concerned by the toothless nature of his forward line, Moyes took mixed action at half time with the positive move of hooking Bilyaletdinov and introducing Beckford offset by the dubious wisdom of withdrawing Coleman and throwing on Victor Anichebe. And so it proved that the industry and unpredictability of the Irishman was replaced by the petulant vacuousness of the Nigerian on the right flank, effectively tying one of the team's arms behind its back.

Still, the introduction of Beckford looked initially as though it would be enough. Within two minutes of the restart, the striker had linked superbly with Louis Saha and picked up the return ball as he overlapped into the area but his low left-footed shot was comfortably saved by Alex McCarthy, who would save his more heroic act for later.

Arteta then finally took up the invitation to shoot, raking a decent effort wide from 25 yards before Anichebe let loose with an awful left-footed effort that he dragged wide from a similar distance. Granted, they were having a go but as an increasingly ragged performance wore on, the more desperate and one-dimensional Everton became and Reading had their moments to seal the tie at the other end, not least when Ian Harte flashed a free kick inches wide of Howard's right-hand post and Tabb saw a goalbound shot deflect narrowly behind off Phil Neville.

The closest the Blues came to forcing a replay they hardly deserved came as the game moved into the final quarter of an hour. With 13 minutes left, McCarthy missed his punch off a Baines corner, Saha fired goalwards, only for the ball to strike Beckford and deflect behind for a goal kick.

A minute later, the Frenchman's trickery took him down the left channel where he whipped in a deep cross that Beckford headed neatly back across goal where Osman arrived unmarked to crash a first-time shot goalwards, one that seemed destined to bulge the net until McCarthy flipped up an instinctive arm to bat the ball away to safety from Reading's point of view.

A penalty claim on Harte as his arm visibly brushed his arm inside the box was waved away by referee Andre Marriner and Jack Rodwell blazed over from 25 yards, but as the clocked down and then into five minutes of stoppage time, Everton had abandoned all vestige of intelligent approach play, choosing instead to belt it forward with no plan and no result. That lead to the inevitability of another embarrassing cup defeat and the players leaving the pitch to a cacophony of boos.

The comparatively lowly victors from Berkshore, on the other hand, were warmly applauded off by both sets of fans as reward for a job well done. McDermott's men simply wanted and deserved it more than their supposedly superior hosts and it is they who will meet Manchester City or Aston Villa in the next round.

For Moyes and Everton, just ominous question marks and yet another post-mortem to endure on another awful display. Though the triumph over Chelsea in the last round and the weekend win over Sunderland had temporarily offered hope that the debacle at Bolton would be the nadir of the season, this defeat and the utterly insipid nature of the performance that caused it has dredged up all the fears and concerns that Moyes is incapable of getting his players to either perform to their ability or work as an effective unit with any consistency.

Certainly, with Marouane Fellaini now out for the season and Tim Cahill on the sidelines for three weeks, the manager found himself almost completely devoid of options after he'd made his first two substitutions. There was no one on the bench to whom Moyes could turn to save the game and Jose Baxter had just a few minutes at the end in which to translate his enthusiasm into anything meaningful.

His midfield was bereft of imagination and guile; Osman, so effective against Sunderland, was largely anonymous, perpetuating his reputation for annoying inconsistency; Bilyaletdinov made a mockery of his international pedigree, particularly with his near total inability to provide any sort of defensive cover for Baines; Coleman, while not as productive as usual, at least provided a threat down the right and could count himself unfortunate to be subbed as early as he was; and Rodwell demonstrated that he does yet have the experience to carry an under-performing team on his shoulders.

That paucity of options to change up his personnel and bench under-performers is going to be a constant problem for Moyes between now and the end of the season, particularly if injuries continue to mount up, so how the rest of the season pans out is going to depend on whatever effect his motivational style can have on the players and then the players' own pride and attitude.

For the supporters, the frustration of not knowing whether Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde will show up on a given week will make the Premier League run-in a nervy experience. It would be easy for things to spin out of control in a crisis of confidence over the remaining 11 games and with the club still too close to the bottom three for comfort in terms of points, there's not much margin for error. Hopefully the team can respond in the same way they did against Chelsea and Sunderland when they travel to the northeast to take on Newcastle this weekend... they're going to have to.

Lyndon Lloyd

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< Sunderland (H) Newcastle (A) >
EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Neville :59' (88' Baxter)
  Baines :64'
  Rodwell :35'
  Coleman (46' Anichebe)
  Bilyaletdinov (46' Beckford)
  Subs not used
  Cahill (injured)
  Fellaini (injured)
  Barclay (injured)
  Silva (loan)
  Vaughan (loan)
  Wallace (loan)
  Yakubu (loan)
  Yobo (loan)
READING (4-4-2)
  Khizanishvili :22'
  Leigertwood :44'
  McAnuff (79' Robson-Kanu)
  Hunt (86' Church)
  Subs not used

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