Carling Cup 3rd round - Everton 2v1 WBA (aet) Match Report

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 21: during the Carling Cup Third Round match between Everton and West Bromwich Albion at Goodison Park on September 21, 2011 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

So after a game of four halves, a match of peaks and troughs in performance for Everton, and a first ever League Cup goal from the skipper, we find ourselves in the hat yet again for the three handled one. It wasn't pretty, but it was enough, again.

My team prediction was some way off. Moyes started with a 4-4-1-1 set up, with Mad Jan the goalie, ironically in goal, but he went with a back four of Neville, Jagielka, Heitinga and Baines. The midfield comprised Coleman in front of Neville, Fellaini and Rodwell in the middle and Drenthe on the left, with Ross Barkley sat in behind Stracqualursi who like Drenthe made his first start in blue.  After reportedly refusing to play for the reserves, Louis Saha was condemned to his sofa again to play on his BlackBerry, or iPhone, or whatever.

Everton started the brighter and played some lovely football along the floor. Seamus Coleman seemed to have the beating of visiting left full back Joe Mattock on every occasion presented to him and Heitinga was finding him with some fine long range passing.  Barkley looked positive and determined to get hold of the ball, and Jagielka was marshaling a high defensive line.

However, despite the best efforts of Barkley, Stracqualursi and Drenthe, on the half hour the score remained nil all and the home crowd grew frustrated. Phil Neville was playing like he had been out for months and looked very edgy both in the tackle and with the ball at his feet. Jagielka's forward passing options dissolved as Rodwell became anonymous and Fellaini was being tightly marked. This meant the only option on was the punt up to the Argentinian - who tried very hard last night but didn't really reap the rewards his graft warranted.

The Baggies set their stall out and had a blatantly obvious game plan from the off. And it worked. A solid bank of four, behind a midfield three, flanked by two wide midfielders who developed into wingers when in possession, and a hard working Somen Tchoyi leading the line. Their idea was to allow us to play, shut us out, hit us on the break and wear us down to playing long ball and, again, it worked.  Half time couldn't come soon enough to allow is to regroup, analyse and go again.

It was more of the same as the second half commenced. Everton trying to play, pressing forward, WBA well drilled, disciplined and hitting on the break. And that is exactly what brought the first goal.

Some sloppy play in the midfield allowed Tchoyi to intercept and quickly feed the Caramac headed Peter Odemwingie through. Johnny Heitinga made his only mistake of the game in choosing to step up instead of covering behind Jagielka and this error left Mucha exposed.  Mucha had no choice but to challenge for the ball, but mistook Odemwingie's boot for the ball - Penalty, and a yellow card.  Chris Brunt blasted the ball straight down the middle to send the travelling 54 fans wild.

Moyes rang the changes. Cahill and Vellios replaced Stracqualursi and Barkley. Cahill surprisingly dropped into the midfield and Fellaini pressed forward to support the very impressive Vellios. Drenthe switched to the right and Coleman moved to the left.  Coleman was replaced by Magaye Gueye on 79 minutes and the French youngster looked like he was still carrying the broken foot which had kept him out up until now.

With injury time fast approaching and Everton heading out to a lackluster West Brom side, the manager's tactical change proved to be a stroke of genius.  The ball was played up to Fellaini who chested it down whilst holding off his marker, swiveled and hit the half volley into the bottom corner before running off towards the Directors' Box in celebration.  Full time, 1-1, Everton out of jail.

In the first half of extra time the home side were definitely on top.  Drenthe began to show his talent, Fellaini was leading the line well and Vellios was showing turns of pace and nice touches that for me have to force him into contention for Saturday's game against the fans of the invisible man (their words, not mine.) Gueye was bollocked by Moyes via Sylvain Distin and he improved dramatically, linking up well with Baines and Fellaini, and finally getting at the right back.

However, it was a goal from an unexpected source which was to see Everton's name allocated a number in Saturday's fourth round draw.  An overhit cross from the impressive Baines was kept alive by Drenthe who then proceeded to take on the left back.  As he did, he laid the ball to the edge of the area where Phil Neville found the opportunity to shoot too good to turn down.  He let fly with the instep of his left boot.  The ball surged through a crowd of defenders and have the visiting keeper no chance as it nestled in the corner of the net. 2-1.

The second half of extra time was simply a "see the game out" task for Everton, and we did.  The only incident of note was a good near post save from Jan Mucha from which the resultant corner was defended.

Full time in extra time, Everton 2 v 1 West Brom.

 

Follow me on Twitter - @DarrenMelling

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