Everton 3 - 1 Swansea City

The scoreline may have been slightly flattering but Everton advanced to the FA Cup Sixth Round with a 3-1 victory over Swansea City and a date with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium next month.

Lacina Traore made a goalscoring debut for the Blues, taking less than four minutes to make his mark, but it was his replacement, Steven Naismith who ended up being pivotal, taking full advantage of an ill-advised back-pass by Neil Taylor to restore the lead after 64 minutes and then earning the penalty from which Leighton Baines sealed the win.

Roberto Martinez's side are through but it was on the back of a strange performance that never really got going despite occasional moments of brilliance. Indeed, the tie was very evenly balanced after an hour had elapsed, with Everton struggling to consistently impose themselves on the visitors, but they gratefully accepted Taylor's gift and then one from Ashley Richards's foul on Naismith to establish the momentum they needed.

It was credit to Swansea's threat on the counter and some sloppy distribution in their own half from Everton that the Blues were unable to relax and settle into the dominant passing game that they like to employ these days. They had been given a scare inside two minutes when Pablo Hernandez released Alvaro Vazquez into the clear with worrying ease but the striker allowed himself to be forced too wide by Joel Robles, leaving Roland Lamah too much to do from the angle and the 'keeper saved.

The platform from which Martinez's men should have been able to take commanding control was formed just two minutes later, though, when Ross Barkley was fouled by Wayne Routledge wide on the Everton left and Baines swept a free kick into the heart of the Swans' area. Sylvain Distin got a head to it, was able to collect a fortunate rebound off a defender and then seemed destined to lash the ball home from eight yards out. Instead, with the ball just a little to far ahead of him to make proper contact, he prodded it towards Traore who swung back one his long legs to heel it home via the defender on the line.

Barkley then went on the first of two trademark surging runs but dragged his shot wide, as he would do later in the half, and Kevin Mirallas ended an equally impressive run into the box by overrunning the ball at the crucial moment as Everton looked for a second.

Instead, though, they were pegged back by Swansea in the 15th minute when Taylor, enjoying some of the uncharaterstically large pockets of space that were opening up around the Blues' back four, was allowed to chip a cross to the edge of the six-yard box. It was too high for Distin and Jonathan de Guzman arrived in front of Baines at the perfect moment to head past the stranded Robles to level the tie.

Despite not being fully in their rhythm, Everton remained the more dangerous of the two sides in the final third, though, and a brilliant move in the 23rd minute so nearly provided them a second goal. Steven Pienaar's delicious flick down the line was ideal for Baines on the overlap and when he timed the return ball into the box to meet the South African's run, Pienaar's deft first-time shot looked destined to arc majestically into the far corner but bounced off the woodwork instead.

Three minutes later, Everton counter-attacked down the right and Coleman's low cross found Mirallas but he swept his shot wide when he really should have worked Gerhard Tremmel in the Swansea goal. The Belgian would force a save from the 'keeper seven minutes before the break when he was fouled in the "D" outside the area but he despatched his direct free kick to the side of the goal where Tremmel was stationed and it was a fairly routine parry to push the ball away to safety from Swansea's point of view.

For the first quarter of an hour after half-time, Everton seemed to be searching for some inspiration as they found chances few and far between. Barkley tested Tremmel with a low shot that he gathered at the second attempt but there was a growing unease among the home fans, particularly as Swansea's pressing of the back line when the Blues' defence had the ball, was prompting frequent errors and rushed clearances. That, combined with Robles's curious refusal to control a number of back-passes that came his way before slicing them awkwardly in all manner of directions, didn't help foster much confidence that Everton were the better side destined to sweep into the next round.

Martinez's changes on the hour mark proved to be the difference. He withdrew Traore, who hadn't offered much since his goal, in favour of Naismith and replaced Barkley with Leon Osman but it was a combination of players who had started the game that carved out a great chance to retake the lead just four minutes later. Coleman ended a great move with another accurate cross from the right that picked out Pienaar at the back post but he could only steer a header wide.

A minute after that, though, Naismith pounced. Anticipating a poor attempted back-pass from Taylor near the touchline, the Scot intercepted the ball intended for Tremmel and slid it under the advancing 'keeper before wheeling away in celebration as it crossed the line of the empty goal. It proved to be a pivotal moment in the contest.

Mirallas passed up a great chance for a third when he ballooned Coleman's cross over the bar but when Naismith seized on more indecision in Swansea's defence and latched into a loose ball, he was felled in the box has he toed it past Richards. Referee Kevin Friend pointed to the spot and Baines made no mistake from the resulting penalty.

There was time for a late but largely unproductive cameo for Gerard Deulofeu, who was provided some more playing time in his quest for match sharpness, and the Blues played the last couple of minutes plus stoppage time with 10 men after Naismith was forced off with a suspected concussion after colliding with Jordi Amat's shoulder but the result was now beyond doubt.

Far from vintage but the result was all-important and the Blues progress to the tie of the Sixth Round against the Gunners on the weekend of 9 March. While it's true that you have to beat the best to lift the trophy, Martinez will surely have been hoping for a home draw at least but he showed plenty of ability in last season's FA Cup to plot the downfall of supposedly superior opposition and will take his charges to London with confidence.

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Anthony Flack
591 Posted 17/02/2014 at 06:36:02
Ha ha re the replica shirts, you might be wrong unless they have "the African Brett Angell" printed on them.
Christopher Timmins
592 Posted 17/02/2014 at 06:45:11
Flattered this week but less than flattered by the scoreline last week. The second weekend in March may determine whether we make it back to North London later in the year. Last two league games at Arsenal ended in draws, hopefully, the team can replicate their performance of pre Christmas.

Bottom line is that the season remains very much alive!

Jim Bennings
621 Posted 17/02/2014 at 10:15:26
Play Naismith where he was signed to play and where he has played most of his career and we will see a better player. Every goal he has scored for us has been well taken, that was no easy chance yesterday and you could have imagined Traore or Lukaku trying to round the keeper and botching it up.

With regards to Traore, I don't want to be too critical, it's his first game and his fitness is not there yet, but let's be honest: he is only going to be here for a few months anyway, he has come to help the team out and score a few goals.

I was a bit concerned like everybody that he didn't seem very mobile and his inability to win headers was somewhat mystifying given his size, so let's hope if he is given the go-ahead to face Chelsea next week he has become a bit more accustomed to what will be required as a Premier League striker.

It's not really like we are asking that much, just work hard, press the ball, jump when you're trying to win headers and make sure when that final whistle blows that as a striker you can look yourself in the mirror and say that you gave the opponent a really hard time; nobody is expecting hat-tricks, just put in a decent shift.

Kevin Tully
626 Posted 17/02/2014 at 10:26:28
Jim - I think both Naismith & Osman are more suited to playing the last half hour from the bench, that's if we can get Lukaku back to some sort of form.

Barkley, McGeady and Deulofeu all need minutes on the pitch, so it will probably be a couple of weeks before we see those players back to their best. It's seems difficult for inexperienced players to get back up to speed in the Premier League after injury, so we have to show a little patience. Traore doesn't look like he is too arsed, and may well be waiting to get back to his club.

I get the impression Martinez actually approaches games with his subs as part of his game plan, rather than using them to rescue losing situations.

We will witness better performances, but I am quietly confident we can push on from here. It would be a shame if the season finishes with a whimper from here on in. Quietly confident about Arsenal, they will have their minds firmly fixed on the PL.

Declan O'Shaughnessy
629 Posted 17/02/2014 at 10:40:47
Jim, in fairness to Traore I thought the one thing he did do yesterday was work hard. Too hard if I'm being honest. He spent the first 20 minutes or so running around like a lunatic, including sprinting back to clear balls and make tackles in his own box! You could see he was going to run himself into the ground before the half was out, and Martinez pulled him and Barkley aside in the first half to try to impose some tactical discipline in them. It worked, to some degree, with Traore, because he stayed much further forward after that. But his inability to control a ball, or win a header, was very, very worrying.

I thought McCarthy was terrible yesterday and was one of the main problems with the team. Time and time again he refused to show for the ball, or do anything with the ball when he got it. He kept knocking it straight back to whoever tried to pass to him, and never tried to do anything creative with it. I know he's primarily there to break up opposition attacks, but in the system Martinez wants to play, the holding midfielders have to take responsibility and be brave on the ball. Barry, for the most part, does this, but McCarthy yesterday seemed scared.

Our centre backs still aren't comfortable receiving the ball under any kind of pressure. For that matter, neither is Baines. When 3 out of your 4 defenders don't really want to receive the ball, it makes passing it out from the back difficult once the opposition press high up the pitch.

Having said all that, I thought Martinez reorganised well at half time yesterday, and we were much, much better in the second half.

Raymond Fox
633 Posted 17/02/2014 at 10:49:23
Naismith seems to be the only one at Everton who is always on the defender's shoulder looking for the through pass. He's definitely better employed as a sub though, coming on when their defenders are tiring a bit.

I pretty much also agree with Declan's observations above.

Colin Glassar
638 Posted 17/02/2014 at 11:23:29
My estimation of Naismith has gone up enormously this season. Last season, he was played mainly as a winger and, sometimes, defensive mid. Now, Roberto has him playing down the middle where he's far more effective and happier. But I do think he's most effective, like Ossie, as an impact sub. He's ice cold in front of goal.
Michael Brien
652 Posted 17/02/2014 at 13:09:02
Regarding the "tailing off" of some of our results recently – I would like to see the likes of Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool and Man Utd coping with such an injury list. To his great credit, Martinez hasn't made a great deal of it – can you imagine that obnoxious, disrespectful creature who manages Chelsea acting like that? No doubt he would be moaning all the time.
Steve Higham
664 Posted 17/02/2014 at 13:52:28
A very dour game yesterday which was won by the much maligned Naismith. It was noticeable that most of team didn't play with the same attitude and vigour as Naismith yesterday. No pressure on the opposition when we didn't have the ball all very half-hearted.

Does anyone have any ideas why Ross Barkley is so lacking in form? Was he brought back too soon after his broken foot or is he just a young footballer still leaning his trade having a dip in form? I think the lad is brilliant but want him back to the form he was showing prior to the QPR game.

Harold Matthews
674 Posted 17/02/2014 at 14:22:27
Good to see Naismith in and around the box. He'll never be an Aguero but he always works his socks off and, given the right service, will score goals.

As for Traore. Guus Hiddink liked him enough to sign him and he has scored goals in the Champions League against some of Europe's top defenders. Against Roma he scored one and twice hit the woodwork. In the Europa League, he scored a beauty against the RS, flicking the ball over a defenders head before lobbing the keeper.

Judging a lad who is returning from injury and has not played since last season is ridiculous. Almost as stupid as those 2nd half high hoof balls when he was blinded by the sun. This lad has a great left foot and will score goals but, right now, Martinez is only concerned with getting him fit and helping him adjust to the Everton football philosophy. Unlike Lukaku, he has no big ideas and if he eventually comes good he'll want to stay.

Colin Glassar
676 Posted 17/02/2014 at 15:24:52
Nothing to add to your post really, Harold. Except to say that Naismith is thinking of changing his name, by deed poll, to Ronaldo Pele which would make him better than Aguero.
Harold Matthews
702 Posted 17/02/2014 at 17:49:08
Colin. Thanks for the chuckle mate. haha.

Oh yeah. Must add. Just been listening to Talk Sport discussing Mr Webb’s non-penalty decision. How dare he. The RS are up in arms. A national scandal.

Anyway, a kopite just rang in to say that Webb is not the top referee. That honour can only go to one man. Mark Clattenburg. Mr Red himself.

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