It’s over. Almost before it started, Everton have been knocked out of the FA Cup after falling 2-1 to a weakened Leicester City in a third round match at Goodison Park on Saturday.
The Foxes entered the game without Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy or Andy King. And in the first half, they very much looked like a team with little hope of scoring. Everton controlled the tempo of the game, earned corner after corner and had several half-chances.
But that proved to be the problem of the day. Despite keeping nearly 60 percent possession, the Toffees failed to regularly trouble Kasper Schmeichel between the Leicester sticks. And the crossing of the Blues left much to be desired.
Neither side got on the scoreboard until the match passed the hour mark. In the 63rd minute, substitute Gerard Deulofeu sent a beauty of a delivery into the penalty area, which found Romelu Lukaku and the big man flicked it home to give Everton a deserved 1-0 advantage.
But after that, the Blues seem to let their foot off the gas. Rather than locking down the defense and taking home a fourth round berth they had earned to that point, they relaxed.
Almost immediately, Ahmed Musa had the equalizer for the Foxes. Minutes later, he scored again to take the 2-1 lead and to send Leicester through in the competition.
7:48 - There were just 7 minutes and 48 seconds between Everton taking the lead and Leicester going 2-1 up at Goodison Park. Eclipsed.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 7, 2017
The Everton performance following their goal echoed what they had done in the opening 45 minutes. They got sloppy and lost a bit of focus. Manager Ronald Koeman was “disappointed” in his post-match remarks, rightfully so.
You cannot saying Leicester didn’t care about winning this game. Clearly, they did very much. However, they were far from full strength and still have the round of 16 Champions League games to worry about as well as ensuring they don’t get relegated from the Premier League. It should be impossible for a team like Everton, who’s season really rides on their success in this competition, could allow Leicester to out-passion them. Now, there is little to play for in the season’s final five months.
Instead, it’s nothing but the Premier League from here on out. If the club can make some serious improvements this month, there is an outside shot at European football, but a lot of things have to go right for that to happen.
On a positive note, Ademola Lookman was introduced prior to kickoff today. That’s nice. Deulofeu’s assist is encouraging, but it may do more to increase his transfer/loan value than it does to get him back in the starting XI conversation. And the Everton radio team gave Leighton Baines Man of the Match honors. The match was not on TV, so we have to take their word for it.
Elsewhere in the FA Cup, the loaned out Aiden McGeady provided an assist to put Preston North End up 1-0 over Arsenal as of the writing of this post. Good for you, Aiden! Not sure you will ever wear an Everton shirt again, but it’s nice to see a Blue do well.
Everton are back in action next Sunday as they host John Stones and Manchester City in the Premier League. They are going to need a lot of change if they have any hope of points there. Come on, you Blues!