After a hectic two weeks and too much inconsistent play, Everton could put their Premier League troubles behind them. Unfortunately, their big picture troubles are still hanging over the team. The pressure on Frank Lampard has been building and an away trip to face Manchester United in the FA Cup was hardly an easy match from which to get a result.
In the past 50 years, Everton have played United six times in the FA Cup and their record is LLWLWL. The most significant of those were the two cup finals in 1985 when Norman Whiteside denied Everton the treble, and in 1995 when Paul Rideout scored the winner to give Everton their last trophy. It had to be the potential for a cup win that brought out 9,000 travelling Everton fans to Old Trafford on this cold winter night in January.
Frank Lampard’s pre-match comments:
“The FA Cup is a competition of pride for Everton in its history and for me in my history,” said Lampard, who won it four times as a player with Chelsea.
I give it the same importance. It’s a different competition but on the back of the feeling after Brighton [4-1 loss at home], whether it was three points or next round in the FA Cup on the cards, we have to approach it in exactly the same way.”
Amadou Onana was back in the squad, having served his suspension. Nathan Patterson has joined the list of players unavailable due to injury which includes James Garner, Michael Keane and Andros Townsend.
United have a shorter injury list with Alex Tuanzebe being joined by former Everton loanee Donny Van de Beek who was injured in Tuesday’s match against Bournemouth.
Everton started the game with three at the back like they did in their impressive draw against City. James Tarkowski, Conor Coady and Ben Godfrey were at the back with Vitaliy Mykolenko and Seamus Coleman out wide. Amadou Onana returned and slotted in alongside Idrissa Gueye and Alex Iwobi. Up front we started with Demarai Gray and Neal Maupay.
Dominic Calvert Lewin, Yerry Mina and Anthony Gordon were fit enough to make the bench.
Erik ten Hag made four changes to the side that beat Bournemouth 3-0 earlier this week, with three alterations in defence. Tyrell Malacia, Raphael Varane and Diogo Dalot came in as Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Aaron Wan-Bissaka dropped to the substitutes’ bench. Donny van de Beek was replaced by Antony.
The 9,000 Evertonians in the ground were in full voice as the game started. Would the players on the pitch match the passion? The first few minutes of the game had United on the front foot and a quick break by Marcus Rashford saw him cross the ball which was met by Antony who was all alone at the back post and slotted the ball into the back of the net. An awful start. The gaps in the back five were astonishing. Chasing the game after three minutes.
It was then Antony Martial who had the next chance and saw his shot go just wide of the post. A good move from back to front was the first moment when Everton stitched together a significant number of passes but that ended with a very loose pass from Gueye. It was then Rashford who took the ball across the top of the box but his shot was blocked nicely.
Everton finally had a shot on net and it was Demarai Gray who hit the post and have it deflect out of play off David de Gea’s back. Seconds later the United defenders got all crossed up after Neal Maupay took the ball to the end line and crossed the ball. David de Gea couldn’t find the ball which was stuck under his feet. It was Conor Coady who found the loose ball and stuck it into the net to even up the score. A horrible mistake by de Gea......thank you!
United picked up the pace and Rashford and Martial broke out only to have Pickford come out and make a great save. Everton were working hard to close down United but United were controlling the play. Onana went down in the 20th minute after Casemiro’s follow through caught him on the shin. The delay gave Lampard a chance to talk to his players and reinforce the plan.
Everton started to hold onto the ball a bit more and the slide rule pass from Tarkowski to Gray was just missed. The long diagonal ball was being used to effect. Handbags were out in the 27th minutes when Rashford and Godfrey were at it. Ben must have thought he was still playing against Erling Haaland!
Onana was on the ground again after Fernandez went in on him from behind and caught him down the back of the ankle. The Portuguese was the first player to receive a yellow card.
Everton were giving the ball to United too frequently. Twice they were on the edge of United’s box and were putting some pressure on the Reds but both times an errant pass gave the ball away. The one saving grace was that United were not making the best of their own chances and Pickford was not being tested in any way. It was at the 40 minute mark that Eriksen whipped a ball for the top corner only to have it sneak by the post.
The final five minutes passed with Everton getting a chance for Demarai Gray to stretch his legs up the wing. Again, the last pass was missing. Rashford had a shot blocked and United were starting to pile on the pressure and the outlet pass to Gray was on again only to have him taken down by Casemiro. A late corner for United saw Shaw put the ball into the box but Tarkowski cleared it with confidence and power. The whistle was blown by the referee and the half ended.
The second half kicked off with no changes to the lineups. United took no time to get on the front foot but it was an interception by Iwobi that saw the winger break out and then get tackled by Malacia. The horrible slow motion replay made it clear that a change was needed and Iwobi was going to be out for an extended period. The players surrounded him and gave him support as he was readied to be stretchered off the pitch. Abdoulaye Doucoure was stripped off and put into the game.
Before Everton had even sorted it out, Rashford was back on his bike cutting for the touchline and putting the ball into the six yard box. This time it was the outstretched leg of Conor Coady that was on the end of it and Coady had put the ball into his own net. United were back on top and were buoyed by the goal. Antony was the next United player to test Pickford although steady hands won out.
It took Everton a few minutes to settle into the change and United continued to push forward. Ben Godfrey joined Bruno Fernandez in the referee’s book after a very late tackle on Marcus Rashford. Neal Maupay was then trying to get Luke Shaw a yellow card after a cynical push in the back. The game was getting quite chippy.
Everton almost had it into the back of the net when Doucoure broke down the lineand then had a lovely cross from Coleman which was met by Mykolenko and would have been in the net only for the goal line clearance from de Gea. A free kick was welll worked by United and Fernandez had his shot tipped over the bar by Pickford. The resulting corner saw the ball end up on the feet of Rashford who was taken down by Doucoure who received a yellow card for his efforts.
Dominic Calvert Lewin was readied and entered the game at the expense of a frustrated Neal Maupay. This was Calvert Lewin’s 200th appearance for the Blues. United were happy with their day and decided to withdraw Martial and Casemiro with Garnacho and Fred replacing them.
Another mistake from de Gea led to more chaos outside of the United box but this time he was able to clear the ball. A nice move by Coleman and Gray led to a blistering cross from Gray which was beautifully chested into the net by Calvert Lewin. After a couple of moments of indecision, it was determined to be offside which was so unfortunate.
United then brought on Lisandro Martinez for Malacia after the young United player had gone in heavily on Conor Coady. Everton then started to get more of the ball. Idrissa Gueye decided to take a chance from outside the box but hit the ball well over the net. With 10 minutes to go Everton took off Coleman and replaced him with Gordon. Mykolenko was also taken off and Dwight McNeil’s arrival meant that it was a change to a 3-4-3 formation.
United countered those moves by taking off Antony and Eriksen with Maguire and McTominay coming on to strengthen the defense. The game ticked away and the play was very chippy. Onana slid into Granacho and received a yellow card. The resulting free kick was lined up by Fernandez and Rashford. It was Rashford who took it and the dipping shot was tipped over the bar by Pickford. United were in no rush to take the corner although six minutes of added time was announced.
Everton went forward but Gray’s shot was smothered by de Gea. A corner for Everton in the 92nd minute was met by Godfrey who chipped it back but no one was there to meet it. The added time had the ball go from end to end and when the speedy Garnacho took on Godfrey he was brought down in the box and a penalty was given. Minimal contact at best but Rashford didn’t care as he stepped up and slotted the ball past Pickford. The referee allowed the kickoff to be taken but nothing more.
The “Sack the Board” banners were being flown with vigour.
The starting lineup showed that Lampard was going to lineup with three at the back and five when the wing backs defended. The counter attack would be the way forward but the inclusion of Neal Maupay was puzzling. Calvert Lewin, when he plays, can give an aerial presence and is willing to put pressure on the opposition. Neil Maupay has been quite unsuccessful in this role. After bringing back Ellis Simms from his loan move at Sunderland, would this not have been the game that would give him a chance to show whether he can fit into this system. Pressure is on Lampard but we all know that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome.
The loss of Alex Iwobi is a major one for the team. After an ineffective period when he first joined Everton from Arsenal, he has blossomed and been the central figure in the squad over the past 12 months. He has developed a good relationship with Onana and Gueye in the middle of the park. It was Doucoure who came on to replace him and it would seem that he would be the long term replacement even though he has been touted as a January departure. Doucoure did play well after his introduction but will he be able to keep this up.
Everton went down 2-1 with more than 35 minutes left in the game. A goal was needed and Calvert Lewin was brought on in place of the hard working but non-existent goal scorer Neal Maupay. As the game proceeded, no goal was forthcoming and changes continued to be made but Ellis Simms remained chained to the bench. The starting lineup had very little speed in it and the changes really didn’t add any more impetus. We need goals and at this point the striker who we brought back from a loan is not being used. Perhaps it was not Lampard who wanted him and he was making a point. A point which adds even more pressure and the doomsday clock ticked another minute to midnight.