Everton booked safe passage to the Calring Cup 3rd round with what was in the end a comfortable win over Sheffield United. A sucker-punch from Richard Cresswell after 27 minutes had the alarm balls ringing but when Cresswell turned Jack Rodwell's low shot into his own net just two minutes later and goals by Anichebe and Arteta put the Blues into a commanding half-time lead, the result was never in doubt. A slower second half was lit up by a rasping Osman shot off the post but Everton coasted into the draw for the next round.
David Moyes made five changes to the team that started against QPR on Saturday, with Victor Anichebe leading the line after Jermaine Beckford was rested because of a knee strain and Tim Cahill missed out due to illness.
Marouane Fellaini and Mikel Arteta, both of whom made substitute appearances at the weekend, both started this time around, Tony Hibbert came in for Phil Neville at right back, Sylvain Distin dropped back to the bench, replaced by John Heitinga in central defense, and Jan Mucha made a rare appearance in goal.
Jack Rodwell, who struggled on the right wing against QPR was moved inside and enjoyed a much better game.
Though this was a potential cup banana skin, Everton seemed keen to avoid an upset with a purposeful start to the game that saw Fellaini, the energetic Ross Barkley and Anichebe all test ex-Everton 'keeper Steve Simonsen with shots from around the edges of the penalty area.
But they succumbed to another frustrating lapse in concentration at the back when Phil Jagielka misjudged a ball forward and Heitinga couldn't reach Stephen Quinn's cross, allowing Richard Cresswell to slide in to hand Sheffield United the lead with their first meaningful attempt on Mucha's goal.
Thankfully, the response from the home side was immediate. After Leighton Baines had fired a free kick into the wall, the Blues kept possession and eventually Rodwell forced the equaliser in via a deflection off Cresswell.
Five minutes later, Osman surged forward into the Blades' half before feeding Barkley and when the 17 year-old's cross found Anichebe, the striker prodded home his first goal in over a year to send a wave of relief around Goodison Park.
2-1 became 3-1 a few minutes before the break when Barkley was the provider again, this time cueing up Arteta who drove a precise shot inside the post from the edge of the box.
Though Everton pressed further in the second half and Simonsen had to be at his best to deny Barkley his first goal for the senior side, Moyes's side were able to take their foot off the pedal after half time and bring on Louis Saha for the last 25 minutes and then, in a double switch, throw Neville and Jose Baxter into the mix as well. Somewhat disappointingly, Apostolos Vellios was left on the bench.
Osman hammering a shot off the post in the 75th minute and Anichebe dispossessing Francois, only to then be dispossed himself when he delayed his shot and the defender closed him down, were the closest the Blues came to extending their advantage but Moyes was rightly pleased after the final whistle had ushered his side safely into Saturday's Third Round draw.
Everton get a quick opportunity to atone for Saturday's weak performance against Queens Park Rangers with a midweek Carling Cup 2nd Round tie against Sheffield United at Goodison Park.
The Yorkshire side were plying their trade in the Premier League four years ago but have since tumbled into England's third tier. They've made a good start to the season and sit third in League One, level on points with leaders MK Dons, as they attempt to bounce back the Championship, offering a springboard from which to claim a top-flight scalp by exploiting what appears to be low morale at Goodison Park.
Whether off-the-field distractions caused by the Club's financial problems had anything to do with the disappointing start against QPR, David Moyes will know that he has to concentrate the minds of his players as they look to skirt a banana skin in a competition that has often been unkind to the Blues over his 10-year tenure.
Last season's defeat at Brentford was Everton's latest early exit from the League Cup but a home tie against lower-division opposition should be just the right kind of game for the Blues to get back on track. In his David Moyes's pre-match press conference acknowledged the difficulty of the tie against a side with their tails up and nothing to prove as the underdogs.
Moyes's selection will depend on the fitness of the three players he used as substitutes on Saturday and fresh concerns over Tim Cahill and Jermaine Beckford.
Criticised heavily for not naming Marouane Fellaini and Louis Saha in his starting XI against QPR at the weekend, the manager explained after the game that neither player nor Mikel Arteta was deemed fit enough to start but an extra three days might be enough to see one or all three enter the picture for a starting berth against the Blades.
Cahill reportedly fell ill since the weekend and Beckford and picked up a knee strain meaning that both will face late tests before the game. Injured duo Seamus Coleman and Magaye Gueye are ruled out, meanwhile, and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov is still suspended from the red card he picked up in the final game of last season against Chelsea.
Clearly, this is a massively important game for Everton, not just because the Cup represents an avenue to Moyes's first trophy and Europe but also because of the repercussions a shock defeat would have on team and supporter morale.
A victory, no matter how slender or scrappy, would be the first step to steadying the ship ahead of the trip to Blackburn on Saturday.
|Premier League Scores|
|Premier League Table|
|2011-12 Reports Index|
|SHEFFIELD U (4-4-2)|
|Flynn :32' (56' Porter)|
|Harriott (74' McAllister)|
|Cresswell (60' Bogdanovic)|
|Subs not used|