It was smooth sailing for Everton as they used goals from Arouna Kone, Aaron Lennon and Ross Barkley to top Carlisle United 3-0 in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Kone's goal came less than two minutes into the match. Lennon gathered a long pass from Tom Cleverley, dribbled into the Carlisle box and fed Kone with a square ball right in front of goal. It was a tap in from there that put the visitors up 1-0. The early goal was crucial. It allowed the Toffees to relax, play the way they wanted to and dominate from there out.
Lennon went from assistant to goalscorer in the 14th minute. Barkley and Bryan Oviedo were responsible for the buildup play on the left wing. Oviedo put a hard ground pass into Lennon in the box. He collected and put it under the Carlisle keeper to double the advantage.
The final nail in the Carlisle coffin came via a beautifully struck shot from Barkley in the 65th minute. It took a deflection on it's way towards the net, but the midfielder deserved to get in the goals after the game he had played.
WATCH: Our diamond called Ross Barkley makes it 3-0. https://t.co/5rPRQDMTdC— Everton (@Everton) January 31, 2016
Overall there isn't much to complain about here. Sure, there were some skittish moments when Everton was on the defense--Ramiro Funes Mori whiffed on a clearance attempt which led to a shot. Tom Cleverley made a wayward pass early on that Carlisle intercepted and went for a shot on goal.--But in the end they did exactly what they needed to do.
The standout was Lennon. He had nonstop energy for the entire 90 minutes, was creative with his runs and passes, and seems to have an understanding with right back Seamus Coleman right now. Roberto Martinez has to keep the in-form man in the starting lineup. Perhaps that means Gerard Deulofeu goes out left.
And it was nice to see Barkley shine again. He has had a bit of a yo-yo season thus far and needed a performance like this to get his confidence back. The Carlisle fans even gave him a warm applause when he was subbed off in the 75th minute.
Of course it is ease to curtail the praise by saying this was against Carlisle, a League Two side that was lucky to even still be in the competition and a club that Everton should beat every time out, but this was a road match that the Toffees approached with professionalism and class by playing the way that they did.
Everton now awaits the FA Cup draw that will follow the match between Chelsea and MK Dons to see who they will play next. There are few low level clubs remaining so the competition is sure to get tougher from here.
As for this week, the Toffees host Newcastle on Wednesday and then travel to Stoke on Saturday. Could be a tough slate as the Geordies continue to make signings in their relegation battle and the Potters have already beaten Everton this season.