David Moyes named exactly the same starting XI as had beaten Spurs on this ground seven days ago, fewer than half of them starting in the regrettable B-team line-up chosen for that dreadful midweek capitulation at Anfield. Confirmation, for any still doubting that Moyes deliberately dropped most of his strongest players for one of the most important league games of the season, and had no regrets for doing so. Only a win today would come close to easing the pain of that lasting embarrassment... but it was not to be.
The game got off to a lively start with Sunderland coing out strong and putting Everton to the sword. The Blues responded in kind but were denied a penalty when Drenthe was blocked on the edge of the area. At the other end, a quick free kick took Everton by surprise and Bardsley drove a good low shot through a crowd of players, into the corner of Howard's net after just 12 minutes.
Everton were stunned but recovered with Drenthe making probing runs that were not really getting close enough. Fellaini slashed over in from distance but was guilty of giving the ball away too often. But Baines finally got some space to swing in a good cross that met Jelavic's head, and Cahill was alert to divert it in to the Sunderland net with his head for a vital equalizer.
Both sides kept up the pace but there were no further goals before the break, and the tie continued after break but at a somewhat less frenetic pace that dengerated into huff and puff when Moyes finally replaced the seriously flagging Drenthe with El Traca for the final 5 minutes.
Everton finally applied some pressure and created a couple of better chances, Heitinga forcing a vital save by Mignolet who somehow blocked Jelavic's close range follow-up.
In the end, the second-half was something of a non-event, which underlined Everton's perennial failure as an attacking side under David Moyes, lacking the guile to break down a stubborn Sunderland defence, and so to a replay that surely nobody in Blue wanted. A frustrating end to what could have been a glorious week.
Everton will have to go to the Stadium Light and win if they are to reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup after they and Sunderland battled out a feisty, full-blooded draw. Having fallen behind early on, the Blues recovered to level through Tim Cahill but although they dominated the remainder of the game, they couldn't find the guile to craft a winner.
Having rotated six players for the ultimately calamitous Merseyside derby on Tuesday, David Moyes reinstated the team that started against Tottenham last weekend and they found themselves in a good, old-fashioned knockout contest against a Black Cats side clearly instructed by Martin O'Neill to go looking for an early goal.
A couple of early corners for the vistitors and a wayward header by James McLean evidenced their early intent but it was Everton who came closer to scoring in the first 10 minutes when Seamus Coleman's driven cross fell a little behind Leon Osman who couldn't steer his header on target.
And the majority of Goodison was on its feets in the ninth minute when Royston Drenthe dribbled inside from the left flank before going down in the area under the challenge of Craig Gardner but referee Andre Marriner was non-plussed. Television replays would show that it was clear obstruction at the very least but Everton have never really been treated fairly under Mr Marriner and it wasn't about to start today.
Three minutes later, Sunderland took the lead when a quick free-kick wide on their right played short to Phil Bardsley caught Everton napping and the fullback drilled a low shot through a crowd of players and into the corner of Tim Howard's goal.
Everton responded, though, and after Marouane Fellaini had ballooned over from 30 yards and John Heitinga had wasted a direct freek kick that Nikica Jelavic would have been better off taking, they found the equaliser.
Leighton Baines whipped a tradmark cross in from the left, Jelavic rose to head goalwards and Cahill profited from being the right place at the right time to nod the ball on into the empty side of the goal to put the Blues back in the tie.
From then on, it was Everton's tie to win. Sunderland were typically competitive, tigerish in the tackle and resilient in defence but their threat as an attacking force was largely nullified by the impressive defensive duo of Heitinga and Sylvain Distin. Indeed, apart from having to pick the ball out his net, Howard had nothing to do.
Unfortunately, the home side visibly missed the intelligent probing of Pienaar and generally struggled to pick their way through a disciplined defence, leaving the aerial route as the dominant strategy. And it was from a 35th-minute corner that Cahill threatened to score his second of the half but Simon Mignolet made the first of a number of important saves to deny him, fisting the ball off the line and taking Heitinga with him.
With Pienaar in the stands, Drenthe was Everton's one unpredictable outlet and he came within a few inches of smashing home a spectacular free kick three minutes before half time. Unfortunately, his driven left-foot shot rattled off the top of the angle of crossbar and post.
The frenetic pace of the first period understandably dropped off in the second half but, as they retained the upper hand, the scales remained tipped in Everton's favour. Mignolet spilled Cahill's deflected shot six minutes after the restart as the Blues pressed and Coleman lashed wide after skinning two defenders on his way into the box, but clear-cut chances remained at a premium. That was until Fellaini's knockdown off a 57th-minute corner dropped to Cahill in front of goal but he could only side-foot tamely into the 'keeper's arms.
Though Everton's approach was fairly one-dimensional, you felt they always had a chance with Jelavic up front. In just his second start, the Croatian revealed many pleasing qualities that suggest he will be a fantastic signing, not least prodigious ability in the air which he demonstrated amply just past hour when he headed a Baines free kick inches over the bar.
As the game wore on, though, and the Blues visibly tired from the tempo they'd tried to maintain, they gradually ran out of ideas. Moyes replaced Coleman with Magaye Gueye, which allowed Drenthe to switch from the left to the right flank, but the Dutchman's frustration at the litany of fouls on him that went unpunished by the fouls probably pushed Moyes into substituting him for Denis Stracqualursi with five minutes to go. Drenthe's failure to track back after being dumped on the turf further upfield by an apparent foul earned him a rocket from his captain and likely tipped the manager's hand.
Without him, though, and Osman struggling to have any influence on the game, the last vestige of creativity was gone from the side, leaving aimless punts towards the Sunderland box as the primary tactic in the closing stages. It almost worked with one last chance with a couple of minutes of the regulation 90 left on the clock.
A corner from the left eventually fell to Osman on the far side of the penalty area and when his dinked cross found Heitinga's head, Mignolet had to dive at full stretch to paw his goalbound effort away to prevent it sneaking inside the post. Jelavic pounced on the rebound by the 'keeper made another smart save with his chest.
And that was more or less that, the Blues forced to contemplate going to the northeast where the pendulum swings towards Sunderland and their impressive home form under Martin O'Neill. Certainly an opportunity missed and with it came the uncomfortable realisation that for all Moyes's proclamations midweek that he has real depth in his squad, there was no one capable of taking this game by the scruff of its neck and creating the winner that would have won this tie. Certainly, there was no one you could really point to on the substitute's bench as being a game-changer.
Attentions now turn to the midweek clash with Arsenal back here at Goodison where another high-tempo, determined performance will be required to extend the Blues' tremendous recent record against the top five clubs on home turf. Beyond that, a replay at the Stadium of Light will loom in 10 days' time, offering further congestion to a packed March fixture calendar.
Player Ratings: Howard 6, Neville 6, Heitinga 8, Distin 8, Baines 7, Fellaini 7, Osman 6, Drenthe 7 (Stracqualursi -), Coleman 7 (Gueye 6), Cahill 8, Jelavic 8
The Quarter Finals of the FA Cup. With a trip to Wembley as the prize for the victors this was always going to be a big game but in the aftermath of the derby debacle at Anfield on Tuesday night, Everton's clash with Sunderland this weekend has taken on an entirely different and unexpected dimension.
It's ironic that the man who struck such a chord with Blues fans on day one with his "People's Club" proclamation should have marked his 10-year anniversary in charge at Goodison Park by damaging his stock so badly with a sizeable proportion of the fanbase.
Few actions by Moyes over the past decade have angered fans to such a degree as his decision to make six changes to a winning team at Anfield, not to mention, of course, his astoundingly blasé post-match interview after the crushing defeat. What was clear from his comments, however, was that the manager, in his quest to finally land a trophy after 10 years in the job, had definitively made the FA Cup his priority. The further irony that it was an ill-advised selection decision in the League Cup against Chelsea, namely dropping Tim Howard for a very ring-rusty Jan Mucha, that probably cost him a chance at silverware in the competition earlier this season might have been lost on him.
Truth be told, while the most wounded of Blues won't ever forget what transpired on Tuesday, they'll probably forgive Moyes if he can steer his team to victory in the Final in May. It's just that he has arguably heaped more pressure than was necessary on this Saturday's occasion and it's up to him and his players to rise above the rancour and book passage to Wembley with victory at the first attempt.
With Steven Pienaar cup-tied, the obvious course of action for the manager to take would be to simply reinstate the team that started against Spurs last week. Restoring the Heitinga-Distin partnership and putting Nikica Jelavic back into the starting XI should be the very least Moyes does but it would be a surprise if the likes of Leon Osman, Tim Cahill, Royston Drenthe and perhaps Phil Neville didn't find their way back into the team for the visit of Sunderland.
Darron Gibson is the only other confirmed absentee as he recovers from a knee injury so there will be plenty of depth on the bench.
The derby defeat represents Everton's only defeat in their last 10 games in all competitions and, as such, could be regarded as a bump in the ever-smoother trail that the Blues have been blazing since the turn of the year. The psychology of the players and home faithful will surely have been affected, although another home tie — the Blues' seventh successive home draw in the cup this season — and their recent record over Sunderland can only help on that score.
In their last four home games against the Mackems, Everton have a 100% record, scoring 14 goals and conceding just one and Moyes has yet to taste defeat against Sunderland. His record against Martin O'Neill is poor, however, with just win in nine but that solitary victory came in the FA Cup Quarter Finals against Aston Villa three years ago.
Having set his stall out to go all out for the FA Cup, Moyes now has to deliver with outright victory in front of a packed house at Goodison. It's a must-win game in many respects, one that will set the tone for the next few weeks of the season.
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