Everton Logo

Everton 1 - 2 Aston Villa

Half-time: 1 - 2

Aston Villa Logo
FA Cup 1999-2000 – 6th Round
4pm Sunday 20 February 2000
Goodison Park, Merseyside
Att: 35,331
« Derby County (h) Ref: Dermot Gallagher West Ham United (a) »
[1999-2000 Fixtures & Results]

5th Round 

[FA Cup Results]
Nick Barmby Home advantage should have been a key factor at this stage of the once great FA Challenge Cup but, with the draw favouring Everton yet again, they just could not break down a resolute second-half defensive blockade by Aston Villa.  A full house in the old stadium provided the armchair TV punters with a pulsating atmosphere in this massive game which Everton dominated in terms of possession and territory, but to no avail.

Walter Smith managed to produce yet another team selection surprise just when you may have thought he had a settled side, Dunne and Ball making way in aggressive 3-5-2 formation that saw Xavier and Collins joining Barmby, Hutchison and Pembridge in midfield.  

Joe-Max Moore deserved his place ahead of Francis Jeffers, and scored a clever goal to bring Everton level after they had gone behind to a silly goal that Myhre allowed to bounce in off his body.  The killer blow came on the break from Villa when Merson was allowed to run through and fire at Myhre, who could only parry the ball for a soft Carbone tap-in.

Walter Smith did make some brave and attacking changes in the second half, switching to 3-4-3 with Jeffers replacing Xavier, and then adding enigmatic winger Danny Cadamarteri in place of Mark Pembridge.  

But Everton lacked the guile and inventiveness needed to break down a rock-solid Villa back-line, despite Richard Gough hitting the post with a tremendous 85th-minute shot.  


EVERTON: Moore (21')
Aston Villa: Stone (16'), Carbone (45')
   LINEUPS  Subs Not Used 
EVERTON: Myhre; Unsworth, Gough, Weir; Pembridge (74' Cadamarteri), Barmby, Collins, Hutchison, Xavier (65' Jeffers); Moore, Campbell.
Unavailable: Cleland, Gerrard, Williamson,  (injured); Bilic (in limbo).
Ball, Dunne.
Aston Villa: Enckelman; Delaney, Ehiogu, Barry, Southgate, Wright, Merson (46' Taylor), Boateng, Stone, Carbone (89' Sent Off), Joachim. Cutler, Watson, Hendrie, Walker.
   Playing Strips  Formations
EVERTON: Royal Blue shirts, white shorts, blue socks 3-5-2; 3-4-3
Aston Villa: Claret & Blue shirts; claret shorts; claret socks. 5-3-2
   Yellow Cards  Red Cards
EVERTON: Xavier (60'), Unsworth (88').
Aston Villa: Boateng (32') [Carbone (58', 89')], Stone (90'). Carbone (89')

Steve Bickerton Everton found wanting
0-l- (Who?) Sod the Sherry
Richard Marland What a waste!
THE INDEPENDENT Carbone double completes Villa smash and grab
by Phil Shaw
THE TIMES Merson's moment of magic smooths Villa path
by TT-J
ELECTRONIC TELEGRAPH Carbone strikes as Villa storm Everton fortress
by William Johnson
EFC NEWS Link to Daily Post Match Report

THE GUARDIAN Link to Football Unlimited Match Report
SPORTING LIFE Link to PA News Match Report
SOCCERNET Link to SoccerNet Match Report
CARLINGNET Link to CarlingNet Match Report

 Everton found wanting
Steve Bickerton
Today was a day full of hope, a promise of glory and a trip to the Twin Towers.  A clash of titans, as two of the erstwhile giants of English football took centre stage in what promised to be a close encounter of the footballing kind.  That's the thrill of the FA Cup, sponsored or not; the stuff of dreams and legend.  A bright day at Goodison Park saw the massed ranks of Evertonians ready to march forward into the semi-final.  Bolton awaited us (so we discovered just after kick-off).  We were as good as there in the final.  Our name must be on the cup.

Enough clichés? I think so.

Reality, of course, is a different beast.  It can bite you when you least expect it.  Having beaten the teams we should have beaten, would we now dispose of a team we could beat?  A quick look at the teamsheet as it was shown on TV Everton in the Gwladys Street concourse, showed us that we had nothing really to fear.  Except pace.

My first reaction was disbelief.  We've been reasonably sound, thus far, with Dunne, Weir, Gough and Unsworth at the back.  Why drop Dunne to the bench?  Was it to accommodate Pembridge, who still has some way to go to win over the fan base, and to justify the pay packet of John Collins?  Moore for Jeffers I could understand; Joe-Max has shown both passion and skill so far and deserves a longer run in the first team.

My second reaction was consternation.  After we'd kicked off, I got the feeling that Pembridge couldn't decide if he should be at the back or in midfield.  He seemed to push Barmby in a little more, giving us a crowded midfield centre three, with both Xavier and Pembridge supplying the width.  It was all too predictable and all too one-paced.  We pressed forward, true, put Villa under pressure.  Their back line didn't look comfortable, but neither did our front line.  Then came the sucker punch.  We'd had all the possession, all the pressure and then a quick break from Villa ends up with a corner going their way.

Merson trundled over to the church corner to take the kick, predictable chants of "Smack 'ead" reverberating around him.  He stood, for what seemed like an eternity with a single arm in the air.  Everybody watched him, except Carbone, who raced towards him, received the "early" ball, feeding it back to Merson.  Merson struck the ball long, to the back post, where it was met by a Villa player (Ehioghu), who knocked back into the danger area.  A "bit of a crowd scene" (© Ron Atkinson) followed and the ball bobbled out at chest height to Steve Stone.  The Villa midfielder dipped his head and nodded it forward, onto the rooted Myhre and into the net. First attack of note, first effort at goal.  First goal.  0-1.  It was going to be an uphill task.

Or was it?  We pressed on in similar fashion, dominating possession and yet not creating anything.  Until Joe-Max Moore picked up the ball in the box and struck it over the keeper.  From my (disad)vantage point at the opposite end of the ground it looked to have hit the post and rebounded out, but Barmby made no effort to pick up the rebound.  No signal from the referee either, then the assistant gave the goal and it was all rise to salute the goal.  We were back.  1-1.

The rest of the half was more or less the same.  We had the ball, gave up possession, they defended stoutly.  A free kick on the edge of the box, as half-time approached, gave hope for a 2-1 lead.  Unsworth struck it reasonably well, but as with every other bounce, it went the Villa way.  

A quick push out to Merson, who raced away from the pursuing Everton rearguard, who'd been caught flat-footed by the speed of his movement.  He took the ball into the box, struck a shot across goal, only to see Myhre make a good diving save to his left.  But not a defender in sight as the only player able to pick up the rebound, Carbone, put the ball into the unguarded net.  Two attacks of note, two attempts at goal.  Two goals.  1 - 2 and half-time.  It was going to be an uphill task.

The second half saw a more even game, with Villa always purposeful as they moved forward.  Always full of pace.  Always full of commitment.  Always full of guile.  Where we pushed the ball around in 5-yard triangles, Villa pushed the ball into space, where their midfield and forwards could do at least try to do damage.  Yet, they were never really a danger, except when Carbone could have made it 1-3 and game over, had it not been for an outstanding save from Myhre. 

We, by contrast, were slow to move to the ball, were always looking for the short pass and never had the vision to make the killing pass.  Campbell was starved of any real service, as we resorted to the "Duncan" punt, far too often.  The closest he came was an early second half corner when he rose to meet the ball, but managed only to hit it with his shoulder, over the bar.  He really should have scored.

Weir, too, saw an effort from a corner comfortably gathered by the keeper, but in the end, the only real scare for Villa came as Gough hit the post and no Everton players were able to get the vital touch.  A long range effort from Collins, going wide, which Joe-Max Moore was unable to make contact with, was just about the only other effort of note.

The only contentious part of the afternoon's play was the dismissal of Carbone.  With 30 seconds or so left for play, it really didn't affect the result at all.  But his antics all afternoon of high drama and petulance, eventually earned him an early bath.  He was warned when he intercepted the ball being delivered for throw-in.  He was yellow carded for kicking the ball away at a free kick.  He was red-carded for diving in to prevent a free-kick from being taken.  The contention is not about the fact that he was sent off, but more about why it took so long.  He dived at every opportunity, clutching his face.  He succeeded in getting Unsworth's name put into the book with a dramatic fall.  Why, oh why do referees not see this play acting?

Anyway, after his dismissal we had one more chance, but once again we lacked the cutting edge.  Dermott Gallagher brought the game to an end.  We probably wouldn't have scored if we'd have played all night.

So, no more Twin Tower visits for us.  No fast-track to the final via Bolton.  Back to fighting and scrapping in the league.

And now we've been found lacking, is that Walter's bubble burst?  Or will we find renewed vigour for the fight for a European place?  On this showing, I wouldn't bank on the latter.

Man of The Match: Outstanding running and commitment versus steady and dependable but short of pace when it mattered?  Joe-Max Moore or David Weir?........ Joe-Max Moore

Given on the scoreboard as around 35,000.  I can't believe that!!

Sod the Sherry

Everything going to plan, I had hoped to bring you the journalistic equivalent of an interview with Bobby Robson – plenty of vigour, enthusiasm, humour, old men talking bollocks… but we lost, and not only do I feel lower than Villa’s average attendance, I don’t want to get on your tits either, so let’s cut straight to the chase. 

The pre-match atmosphere was electric at the grand old Goodison Park, with even the normally mute Villa fans making their ridiculous accents heard.  I’m sure I wasn’t the only one trying to suffocate myself with the team-sheet, because with a midfield featuring Collins, Xavier and Pembridge, we were in danger on being over-run. The onus was on Hutch to enjoy one of his more constructive afternoons. 

News of the semi-final draw reverberated around Goodison, but I won’t mention it out of fear of feeling physically sick.  Nevertheless, it left me with an expression so smug that I was in urgent need of something going badly wrong in order to set me straight again.  

Cheers, Tommy!  

After a pretty mundane opening quarter of an hour, Villa got the ball in from out wide and Stone powered a diving header straight at Myhre, who proceeded to somehow lose control of the ball and send it bobbling into the back of the net. “Bugger”, as the man beside me so eloquently put it. 

But, once again, we were busted out of jail by an American Beauty.  Joe-Max Moore wriggled free from the attentions of a Villa defender and he shot daintily over ‘Some Bloke’ in the Villa goal.  The ball was messily cleared, but was ruled to have crossed the line and GI Joe celebrated his 5th goal in 6 games.  Cue a collective sigh of relief so great it could have won a 50-50 challenge against John Collins.  

For the remainder of the first period, we enjoyed plenty of possession, but a resolute Villa rearguard did a great job in cutting off the supply line towards Kevin Campbell.  But it has to be said that, for a midfield consisting of Barmby, Collins and Hutchison, there was a startling lack of creativity.  Unfortunately, this is a quality only introduced by spending, so we’ll have to graft our way towards the Intertoto spot we don’t want.  

Just on the stroke of half-time (don’t you hate that phrase?) Villa embarked on another of their many counter-attacks that on the day were our undoing.  Merson carried it deep into our half and let rip with a fine low effort.  Myhre parried it away but wasn’t enjoying the rub of the green, and Carbone was on hand to restore the away side’s advantage.  Cue a collective cry of ‘oh shit’ so great that it could have taken a better corner than Pembridge. 

Second half followed a similar pattern. We enjoyed all the possession without creating any clear-cut chances and those annoying little gets Stone, Carbone and Joachim really made our defenders have kittens when they switched from defence to attack in an instant.  

In typical ‘better late than never’ fashion, Walter Smith bundled on the subs and, with a line-up consisting of Campbell, Jeffers, Moore, Barmby and the purposeful Cadamarteri, we pressed so hard we could have squeezed juice from their back three... But Southgate, Ehiogu and Barry were performing so ably you wonder why the Villa faithful took it upon themselves to boo David Unsworth. 

Five minutes from time, Cadda whipped in another testing ball but, as usual, no-one wanted to get their hair dirty.  It fell to Richard Gough, who rattled the post with a scorching volley, and the ball came across the box again almost falling to Campbell.  But we all knew then that we wouldn’t be allowed to come that close again. 

Carbone was sent-off late on for a blatant case of ‘I can’t remember what’, but it was too late to make a difference, and f*** the sherry, I’m off to drown my sorrows in proper ‘depressed-Evertonian’ fashion. What are you having?

QUICK POST MATCH INTERVIEW: - I have with me here ex-Villa manager Ron Atkinson. Ron, what are your views on today’s game?

RA: Well, it could have gone either way, or it could have been a draw. It really was a game of 2 teams, but as it was Villa got their noses in front early doors and the game was there to be played.

- What have you got to say about the dismissal of Carbone?

RA: The lad Carbonari’s been a bit silly there. You shouldn’t go into a 50-50 challenge unless you’re 80-20 sure of winning it.

- Any words of condolence for Everton?

RA: Er……no.

 What a Waste!
Richard Marland
Wembley looming, news of a semi-final draw against Bolton, and we manage to virtually give the game to an uninspiring Aston Villa.  Like I said, what a waste.

It had been speculated all week in the Echo that Walter would go to a back five today, the thinking being that we didn't want to be overwhelmed in midfield like we had been, on occasion, against Derby last week.  The changes were fairly wholescale: Michael Ball and Richard Dunne (flu victim apparently) went to the bench, as did Danny Cadamarteri.  Into the side came David Unsworth, Abel Xavier and John Collins.  So, we had Myhre in goal, a back three of Weir, Gough and Unsworth, Pembridge at left wing back and Xavier at right wing back.  In midfield it was Hutchison, Collins and Barmby, and up front it was Campbell and Moore.  The bench was: Simonsen, Ball, Dunne, Cadamarteri and Jeffers.

After an inauspicious start, when we managed to mess up our own kick- off, we had the better of the early exchanges.  Without really creating much we looked lively and put together a few good passing movements.  The defence was marshalling Joachim and Carbone well, Weir in particular looked very good, and all seemed well.

Then, as is often the way of these things, Villa contrived to score.  They had a corner which Merson was about to take to a backing chorus of "Smackhead" (why does the St End insist on tempting fate in this manner?), the left back made a move as if he was going to come for a short corner, he drew the attention of our defenders who missed Carbone suddenly sprint out of the penalty area, the corner was played short to Carbone who just laid it straight back into Merson's path.  

Merson now had what he wanted, a perfect crossing position some yards out from the goal-line. Merson crossed it deep beyond the back post where Ehiogu came in around the back of the defence, he headed it back across goal and Stone connected with a diving header.  The header was directly at Myhre and didn't have any great power, Myhre seemed slow to react and the ball just hit him and dribbled over the line.  Villa worked the corner routine quite nicely but we were at fault on four counts – not closing Merson down quickly enough, giving away two free headers in the penalty area and then throwing up a goalkeeping gaffe.  A very bad goal to concede.

Villa now had the lead they wanted and could sit back and defend.  They had already proven to us in the match at Goodison earlier in the season that if they want to defend in depth then they are quite good at it.  For a while it looked like we were going to be frustrated, then we got a break. A long ball from Myrhe was flicked on by Campbell and Barry, not for the first time, got caught in possession by Moore (obviously been reading all his press this week).  Moore from the right hand side of the box controlled the ball and dinked the ball over the 'keeper, the 'keeper got a touch but the ball just had the legs to get over the line before Steve Stone hacked it back.  The linesman indicated that the ball had indeed crossed the line and we were back in the game.

Having dragged ourselves back into the game we should really have made something of it.  Villa weren't posing us too many problems, it seemed to be the usual question of whether we ourselves could create something against a well ordered defence. As the half drew to a close and some half time tinkering from Walter, the unthinkable happened. 

The time remaining had already disappeared from the scoreboard so we must have been in first half injury time. We had a corner and didn't look in any danger, the corner was cleared and fell to John Collins just inside their half, he tried to cushion a header to a colleague but left it short and it fell to a Villa player.  Villa break well and it was Merson who was leading the charge. No-one was able to put in a challenge and he made it within shooting distance where he attempted to curl it round Tommy (no, scrub that, make it Myhre I don't feel like calling him Tommy today), Myhre got down to it but only succeeded in pushing it into the path of Carbone who had an easy job to convert.  Again credit to Villa for an incisive breakaway; put questions to Collins for ceding the possession in the first place and then Myhre for not doing better with the shot.

It was the last action of the half, and there can't be a worse time to concede a goal.  We had to endure 15 minutes of jubilant singing from the Villans, and I'm sure that mood was replicated in their dressing room.  I felt that we had had the better of the first half and the least we deserved was to have gone in level at half time.  As it was, we had played into their hands by leaking goals largely through our own ineptitude.

The start of the second half brought a change from Villa with Ian Taylor replacing Paul Merson.  A fairly clear signal of intent – lets soak up the pressure and try and hit them on the break.  We'd struggled to break down Villa in the first half, it was difficult to see where inspiration would come from in the second.

To be fair to the players they did go out looking for the equaliser, we did manage to exert a semblance of pressure on their penalty area, but in all honesty that was as close as we got.  I can't recall their 'keeper having to make a save beyond the routine.

After fifteen minutes, Walter made his first change with Franny Jeffers replacing Abel Xavier.   Franny went straight up front and I guess we were almost playing a 4-3-3.  That never really had the hoped-for effect and it wasn't long before the next change, with Danny Cadamarteri replacing Mark Pembridge.  Danny went and hogged the right-hand touch line with Nick Barmby going to the left.  By now, formations had gone out of the window – we seemed to be playing three at the back and as many as five up front.

Still the breaks refused to go our way.  We forced corners, we got crosses in but all to little avail as whenever danger seemed to be near it was inevitable that a Villa player would get there first. Of course all of this left us somewhat vulnerable at the back, with the pace of Joachim and Carbone Villa were always capable of catching us out.  They very nearly did as Carbone was given his habitual free run on goal.  At least this time it wasn't one of our players who put him through, instead a Villa player played him through as he beat the offside trap.  Fortunately, Myhre was up to the job this time and he produced a good save to partially redeem himself.

As the game wore on it was noticeable that Richard Gough was working his way further and further forward, firstly in midfield as he continually carried the ball forward as he looked for opportunities (quite why our central midfielders weren't doing this rather highlights our current problems in midfield). As he got further forward it was he who came closest to getting the equaliser as he met a cross from Danny with a snapshot that hit the inside of the post and then refused to fall to a blue shirt.  I think we all realised then that it wasn't to be our day.

All that was left was Carbone's parting cameo.  Having been booked for kicking the ball away at our free kick, he then received a second yellow for encroaching at another free kick.  Unsworth was taking the kick from inside our half and as he took it Carbone came in from the side as though he was putting in a blocking challenge, an act of utter stupidity and deservedly punished.

After three minutes of added time (an indication of just how much time wasting Villa did in the second half) our Wembley dream was over and we left to the scenes of jubilant Villa supporters who could still be heard as we trooped away through the surrounding streets.


  • Myhre 5 At fault for both goals, particularly the first when his reactions were very slow. I can't remember too many Myhre gaffes but the ones I do remember came in the most important games – the one against Coventry on the last day of the season when he allowed the equaliser to slip through his hands, and now today.  Not the best time to choose to commit howlers and maybe it raises a question mark over his temperament.
  • Xavier 6 I must say that I quite like Xavier, he has a good touch on the ball and his passing is sharp and crisp. His height was also something he used to good effect. Let's hope he now gets an injury free run so that we can see how good he really is.
  • Pembridge 6 Thought he made a pretty decent fist of his left wing back role. Defended fairly well and always looked to use the ball intelligently.
  • Weir 8 Handled Joachim exceptionally well in what was another good quality performance from someone who must be one of the most under-rated players in the Premiership today.
  • Gough 8 As I left, a parting shot from someone behind me was to turn back and shout "Fuck off, Gough!"  As he and his mate came past me, his mate told him that it wasn't Gough's fault as he he was just too old and that it was Walter's fault for picking him.  I was struck dumbfounded and wondered whether they'd seen the same game as me, or indeed actually knew who Gough was; maybe they were getting him confused with a certain underacheiving Scotsman.  Once again Gough greatly impressed me.  Firstly he did his job defensively, but the thing that really impressed me was his drive and desire in the latter stages of the game.  He was the one attempting to take the game to them when others seemed not to have the heart, he desperately wanted to save that game and it shone through like a beacon.
  • Unsworth 7 Like many today he was one who did his job. He coped well with Joachim's pace and did everything that was asked of him.
  • Hutchison 5 The perceptiveness and ambition of his passing can undoubtedly be a major assett, but other facets of his play are currently letting him down.  A lot of his play can be sloppy - misplaced short passes, poor control.  He battled hard against Boetang but ultimately we lost the midfield battle and failed to build an attacking platform.
  • Collins 5 A stark reminder of why we are preparing to cut our losses.  As usual worked hard but we never had midfield control.  Lost possession which led to their second goal.  Like his entire Goodison career, overall he was disappointing.
  • Barmby 6 I thought the formation had the effect of negating some of his effectiveness. I suppose the theory is OK, allowing him to "float", but it didn't work out and he wasn't as effective in that sort of role as Stone or Merson.
  • Moore 7 Another lively performance and another well taken goal.  Starting to get more involved in the build up play and thoroughly justifying his starting berth.
  • Campbell 7 Another who did his job.  Nothing much fell for him but he made his presence felt and undoubtedly made space around him, alas no-one was able to make anything of it.
  • Jeffers 6 Given half an hour but struggled to make an impact.  To be fair to him he came on as Villa massed the defence and we were throwing more and more people forward so there wasn't much space for him to work in.
  • Cadamarteri 6 Looked lively and eager and managed to put in a few good crosses which is all that could have been asked of him.

Team 6 There were stages of this game where I thought we equipped ourselves quite well and played better football than we have done in a while.  But, we got undone by sloppy collective defending and a failure to break down a massed defence.  To my eyes, once again it was midfield where the problems lay; the defenders did their jobs OK, and the attack did what they could on scraps.  The one area where we were clearly inferior to Villa was in midfield.

Man of the match - Toss up between Gough and Weir, I reckon Weir just shades it.

Carbone double completes Villa smash and grab
by Phil Shaw, The Independent

Benito Carbone's "lucky" blue boots took Aston Villa to Wembley in the FA Cup for the first time in 43 years yesterday. While the Italian's good fortune did not prevent his dismissal for a second bookable offence with two minutes of yesterday's sixth-round tie remaining, Villa withheld strong Everton pressure to book a semi-final date with Bolton in April.

Villa's last appearance beneath the twin towers in the principal knock-out competition came in the final of 1957, when they beat the pre-Munich Manchester United. They will under-estimate Bolton at their peril, but, having won at Goodison Park, where Everton are unbeaten in the Premiership, optimism will be high against opponents from halfway down the First Division.

Steve Stone, enjoying arguably his most productive game since arriving from Nottingham Forest a year ago, headed Villa into an early lead. A fifth goal in six matches for the American, Joe-Max Moore, hauled Everton level within four minutes and they looked the more likely winners until Carbone struck again on the stroke of half-time.

Paul Merson had helped to create both the visitors' goals, so it was a brave decision by the Villa manager, John Gregory, to replace him with Ian Taylor for the second half. Gregory reasoned that his team were being "over-run" in midfield and felt that the more combative Taylor would give them greater solidity and tackling power.

The decision was vindicated by the fact that, for all Everton's territorial dominance after half-time, Peter Enckelman, the Finnish goalkeeper who was in for the injured David James, did not have to cover himself in glory. Enckelman was relieved to see Richard Gough's 85th-minute volley hit a post, but was otherwise well protected by Gareth Southgate and co.

Villa took the lead with a move straight from the practice pitch. A short corner was returned by Carbone to Merson, a distraction which allowed Ugo Ehiogu to sneak up at the far post. The defender headed Merson's centre across the box for Stone to head goalwards, the ball going in off the shoulder of a static Thomas Myhre.

If the build-up to Everton's riposte was classic route one – a long kick by Myhre flicked on by Kevin Campbell and missed by the strangely error-prone Gareth Barry – Moore's chip over Enckelman was of the highest quality. Stone cleared with an overhead kick but the ball had crossed the line and Villa, refreshingly, did not argue.

Merson was again instrumental in their regaining the initiative. Seizing on a header by John Collins in midfield, he traded passes with Julian Joachim before running at the defence. He cut inside and shot from 18 yards. Myhre parried when he should have held, Carbone followed up to tap in.

The Italian, already cautioned for kicking the ball away, ran out of luck when he encroached at a free-kick. Gregory later invited a fresh fine from the FA when he condemned the referee, Dermot Gallagher, for the sending-off. "He reacted to the crowd. It was an awful decision – he failed to engage his brain and reached straight for the cards when he should have waited five seconds."

Walter Smith, Everton's manager, claimed his side deserved "a far better reward", adding: "I can't remember a game where we had more possession". Surprisingly, Gregory was disappointed that Villa made "poor use" of the ball on the break, but was pleased they had not "choked" as in their recent Worthington Cup semi-final defeat by Leicester.

Report © The Independent

 Merson's moment of magic smooths Villa path
by TT-J, The Times

ASTON Villa are one game away from competing in their first FA Cup Final for 43 years. They took their chances to knock out Everton, unbeaten at Goodison Park in the FA Carling Premiership this season, in the quarter-finals yesterday and only Doug Ellis, the Villa chairman, can know truly how close he came to dismissing John Gregory, his manager, when Villa stagnated in bleak midwinter. 

Ironically, it was after they lost Dion Dublin, their totem of a centre forward, with a serious neck injury that Villa found their richest vein of form. They have lost only once in 14 matches since then and now Bolton Wanderers, of the Nationwide League First Division, stand between Villa and a return to the glories once taken for granted and how their supporters demonstrated the longing and the latent power of their club.

Goodison can be a fortress and, initially, Everton surprised and suffocated Villa by the tactical rearrangement that crowded midfield and mirrored Gregory's own preferred style. Nevertheless, Villa stole the lead after sixteen largely barren and shapeless minutes. The goal emanated from a corner, taken short between Merson and Carbone, and when Merson drove the ball high to the far post, Ehiogu rose to head it back into the goalmouth.

Stone, preferred in midfield to Taylor and Hendrie, got in a header and Myhre, the stand-in goalkeeper, proved inept as he flapped and missed, the ball ricocheting off his right shoulder across his line.

Within five minutes, Myhre partially atoned. He hoofed the ball downfield, Campbell back-headed it onwards and when Barry, the young England hopeful, missed his clearance, Joe-Max Moore, the American on leave from national duty in the Gold Cup, scored his fifth goal in six appearances, chipping the ball beyond Enckleman. Stone hooked clear from beneath the bar but Dermot Gallagher, the referee, correctly ruled that it had crossed the line.

The third and conclusive goal was inspired by Merson, who had dwelt previously so deep in midfield, wasting his talent in the scuffle there. Now he strode forward, releasing the ball to Joachim, receiving it back, swerving gracefully inside the attempted challenge of Weir and then shooting low. Myhre, at full stretch, pushed the ball into the path of Carbone.

The goal came on the stroke of half-time, was Merson's first act of genuine creativity and his last. He was replaced by Taylor because, Gregory said: "I felt we were getting overrun. They had surprised us tactically. Paul played his part. He doesn't enjoy being brought off, but he will be in the team to play Bradford next Saturday, no worries about that."

Walter Smith, the Everton manager, quickly identified his team's chronic failing. "We played the game almost entirely in the Villa half, which in many ways suited them more than it did us. But we didn't have the type of player who can change the game. We didn't create an awful lot out of all that territorial advantage."

The nearest thing that they had to a creator was Hutchison, who is a poor man's McAllister. So, as the clock wound down and the nerves wound tighter, it was left to Gough, a warrior close to his 38th birthday, to go hunting with the attackers. He hit the base of a post but Carbone should have put the game completely beyond Everton. He bore down on Myhre but the goalkeeper out-thought him and, with elastic movement, pushed the ball away. Even Carbone applauded but his sporting mood evaporated two minutes from time. First he was slapped in the face by Unsworth, and the compliant referee showed merely a yellow card. Moments later, the Italian needlessly got in the way of a free kick from Unsworth and, having been booked for petulance, was shown the red card.

Gregory, though, had to have his say. "I thought Dermot [Gallagher] reacted in the way referees did in the first half of the season," he complained. "He failed to engage his brain. I think he reacted to the crowd, almost as if he was saying 'Villa are going to win at Goodison, I might as well send one of their players off'." Gregory, fined for similar comments early in the season, paused and added: "Is that about five grand's worth?"

Report © Times Newspapers Ltd

 Carbone strikes as Villa storm Everton fortress
William Johnson, Electronic Telegraph

ASTON VILLA secured a first FA Cup trip to Wembley since they beat Manchester United in the 1957 final after achieving yesterday what no other Premiership team have managed this season – a victory at Everton's Goodison fortress.

John Gregory's team, narrowly denied a place in the Worthington Cup final by Leicester City, will fancy their chances of appearing at the May 20 showpiece as they face the only remaining Nationwide representatives, Bolton Wanderers, in the semi-finals.

That appetising reward for this gritty triumph was hard earned and narrowly gained as Everton put them under heavy second-half pressure in a desperate attempt to keep their own season alive. Disturbingly for Walter Smith, however, they never created enough outstanding chances to worry Villa.

Benito Carbone, the enigmatic Italian whose brilliant hat-trick in the last round had ended the aspirations of Leeds United, was again the Villa hero, albeit a tarnished one as he stupidly allowed himself to be sent off in the last minute of a tense battle.

Carbone was in typical predatory mood at the decisive moment deep in first-half stoppage time when Villa turned resolute defending into rapid counter-attacking with Paul Merson bursting at speed into Everton territory.

Most retreating opponents expected the former England striker to feed the overlapping George Boateng, but instead he shot low and firmly to force goalkeeper Thomas Myhre into a diving save.

Myhre, back in favour following an injury to Paul Gerrard at Southampton last month, should have held the low shot but managed only to parry it sideways and was left helpless as Carbone swept the loose ball into the empty net.

If Myhre's role in that winning goal was questionable, there was no doubt about his culpability for the opener which Steve Stone scored after 16 minutes.

Again Merson, surprisingly sacrificed at half-time as Gregory sent on Ian Taylor in an attempt to suppress Everton's midfield dominance, was the provider. He centered deep from the left for Ugo Ehiogu to head across the penalty area and Stone to meet it on the bounce with a diving header which the unfortunate Myhre allowed to enter the net off his shoulder.

Villa were ahead for only four minutes on that occasion, Everton equalising courtesy of another basic mistake at the other end. It was hardly the exposure Gareth Barry would have wanted at the start of his first week with the England senior squad but there could be no excusing his failure to cut out a routine downward header by Kevin Campbell from Myhre's long clearance.

Barry's blunder allowed Joe-Max Moore, Everton's promising capture from the American club New England Revolution, to continue his impressive impact on the English game, the striker pouncing in the area to flick a confident shot past Peter Enckelman, who was covering for the injured David James.

Stone, alert to the danger, made an acrobatic attempt to clear but the linesman signalled that the ball had crossed the line before he hacked it to safety.

That was one of only two chances Everton created before the interval, Campbell seeing a fierce shot well blocked by the impressive Ehiogu from the other, and they were little more creative after the interval, a shortcoming readily admitted by their disconsolate manager.

"You couldn't have a game in which we have had more possession and territorial advantage than this one," Smith said. "We've had problems all season with our creativity and I feel that all the pressure we applied should have led to more clearcut openings."

Everton chances were equally rare in the second half. A glittering one fell to Campbell when David Weir's cross found him unmarked on the six-yard line but the striker, whose goals have done much to revitalise the Merseysiders, was found lacking this time.

Abel Xavier, Everton's Mozambique-born Portuguese wing-back, caused a minor scare to Villa with a rasping shot on the run which Gareth Southgate, a commanding figure alongside Ehiogu and Barry, did well to deflect over the crossbar.

The only other real opportunity fell to Richard Gough, their veteran central defender, who met a cross from substitute Danny Cadamarteri with a crisp low volley which clipped the inside of an upright before being cleared to safety.

Villa, in fact, carved out as many good chances, despite being pegged back in their own half for long periods. The lively Carbone almost surprised Myhre with a curling shot and should have put Villa out of sight nine minutes from the end. Playing an incisive one-two with Taylor he was left with an unopposed run towards the Everton penalty area and brought an excellent diving save from Myhre from the ensuing shot.

At that stage Carbone had been booked for kicking the ball away and in the anxious closing moments he tried to prevent David Unsworth from taking a free-kick, referee Dermot Gallagher acting hastily in the opinion of Gregory by brandishing a second yellow card.

Gregory, was critical of his players for not displaying the ruthless streak they showed in hammering Middlesbrough 4-0 on Monday night. "We could have made it easier for ourselves," he said. "But maybe the magnitude of this result will sink in in the next couple of days. Not many teams win here."

Report © The Electronic Telegraph

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