It was not always pretty, but Everton put together a nice second half to defeat Bournemouth 2-0 on Saturday afternoon and move onto the quarter-final of the FA Cup.
The first 45 minutes of the game were not too encouraging for the Toffees. They maintained most of the possession but failed to create much of anything in the Cherries penalty area. On the other hand, Bournemouth did force an Everton mistake in the 37th minute.
Off of a corner, Everton midfielder James McCarthy brought a jump ball down with his arm. Without hesitation, referee Martin Atkinson pointed to the spot, awarding a Bournemouth penalty kick. There could be no argument. It was a lapse in judgement from McCarthy and a clear PK. Luckily for the Irishman, goalkeeper Joel Robles was on his game, guessing the right way and pushing away the Charlie Daniels attempt.
For Everton, the only real chance came from Romelu Lukaku in the 29th minute. He flat out burned his defender and worked his way into the box, getting a shot off. But Bournemouth keeper Adam Federici was equal to it and knocked it away with his right foot. It was 0-0 going into the locker room at halftime.
In the second half, Everton looked to be much more in charge, getting numerous good opportunities and using a bit of creativity to get quality chances.
Ross Barkley broke through the deadlock in the 55th minute. He took a shot from just outside of the Bournemouth box. It was immediately deflected by the toe of his defender Dan Gosling, but it caused the ball to move in such a way that confused Federici. The shot flew up and over the goalkeeper, putting the Toffees up 1-0.
Over the next 20 minutes or so, the boys in blue (well, white and black today) started to look a bit tired. It was the same lineup that Roberto Martinez has used four straight games os maybe they are starting to feel it. However, they powered through and put together two more real good chances.
Aaron Lennon laid a perfect pass to Barkley. It seemed like he would surely score to put the game away, but the shot was deflected when it was on its way goalwards. But that led to the second chance. Off of the ensuing corner kick, Gareth Barry flicked the ball into the box where Lukaku was waiting to smash it into the back of the net and seal the Everton victory.
Of course, there will be things we can complain about. The squad did not look as sharp as it has in recent weeks. Early on both Lukaku and Barkley were sort of invisible. McCarthy's play was uninspiring. And overall it was just boring stuff in the first hald. But they really picked it up in the second half and the defense put together another impressive performance. Over the last five games they have allowed just one goal, while scoring 11 times. And we got a chance to see Oumar Niasse on the field. He made his debut in the 80th minute. There wasn't much to go on. He was running around the pitch like a mad man for his 10 minutes or so, but I'm sure it's because he is eager to impress.
Something that I wonder about is the mental toughness of guys like John Stones and Gerard Deulofeu. They are talented young players who have not gotten much game time in recent weeks. Can they keep their cool with the team playing so well in their absence from games? Perhaps I am over-thinking it.
This will be the last time we see the club for a while. Next Sunday's Merseyside Derby has been postponed. So, the Toffees are off until March 1st when they travel to bottom-of-the-table Aston Villa. In the meantime, the team will head to Qatar for some warm-weather training.
The drawing for the next round of the FA Cup will occur tomorrow following the Tottenham/Crystal Palace match.