Oh well, at least this ‘cup classic’, or Roberto Martinez’s Series of Unfortunate Events, means we get to take a break from all the usual boring guff about systems of play and lost dressing rooms.
The Everton manager started the same side that competed so well against Manchester City at the weekend and they started reasonably brightly again at Upton Park without ever forcing a save from the home keeper, Adrian. At the other end Joel Robles made the first of several brilliant saves when John Stones – who had a dreadful night – made the sort of preposterous unforced error that is dangerously becoming his trademark. Phil Jagielka graciously stepped aside to allow Enner Valencia a dig at goal, only for Robles to ‘make himself big’ and block with his knee. In fairness to Jagielka he would almost certainly have conceded a penalty and been sent off if he’d tried to challenge the Ecuadorian, but still the whole ‘passage of play’ looked proper ‘Roberto’s Everton weird’.
Valencia wasn’t to be denied just
before after half time though, when the Hammers broke from an Everton free kick at the other end and with almost no pressure on the ball found himself one-on-one with Stones. A quick shift of the ball bought the striker enough space to shoot across goal and into the far corner.
Things appeared to take a turn for the worse after the break when Aiden McGeady was sent off for his second late tackle. Neither was malicious – but they don’t have to be – they just looked like the products of a player who lacks the pace for this level of football but desperately wants to make an impression. The Irishman looks constantly frustrated that he’s not facing the fullbacks of the Scottish or Russian leagues any more but to give him some credit he does at least look like he’s trying, bless him.
Martinez cunningly compensated for the loss of a player by withdrawing Ross Barkley, along with the slightly unlucky Mohamed Besic, and sending on Kevin Mirallas and Bryan Oviedo. The young future of English football had spent the first half distracted by the fluttering of butterflies and the smell of onions from the burger vans as his teammates played a game of football, so the net result of the sending off and the substitutions was the Blues actually played better.
Mirallas in particular, who when fit is easily Everton’s most talented player, bent in a free kick on 82 minutes that asked some questions of Adrian – questions like ‘how shit are you?’ – and that, along with some great saves from Robles, saw the 10 men force extra time.
You might have expected the depleted Toffees to struggle in the added half hour, especially now training apparently involves nothing more than head tennis and a smoke, but if anything they ‘raised their game’ even further and piled the pressure on a beleaguered – great footy word that – West Ham.
They – no idea who they are, to be honest – say that it’s the hope that kills you, and the Toffees, in their own inimitable style, set the evening on its terminal course when the outstanding Mirallas Charlie Charlie Charlesed his way between a phalanx of West Ham infantry and crossed low for Lukaku, who had moments earlier missed a sitter in a similar position, to slide in and, despite his best efforts to balls up this chance too, force the ball over the line.
Cue a look to the heavens in memory of Junior ‘Soprano’ Malanda.
However, the Blues hadn’t factored in the keen tactical brain of Sam Allardyce, who on the back of half a decent season and a 1-1 draw at Goodison has been talking himself up as some sort of high cholesterol Arigo Sacchi. His flexibility is what makes him a better manager than Martinez, for instance, as opposed to the raw sexual magnetism that sets him apart from the best of the rest, and the finest footballing mind of his generation demonstrated that when he replaced one massive cunt, James Collins, with another, Carlton Cole. Moments later, a move that would have had them weeping from La Masia to Milanello, such was its combination of artistry and science, saw James Tomkin head down a corner to the far post for the substitute to stab it home and level the scores. Robles then had to make another couple of blinding saves before Lukaku bustled through brilliantly at the other end before dragging his low shot just wide and denying the travelling Toffees an historic victory against the odds.
Penalties it was then.
There were loads taken and despite the convulsing Robert-Lindsay-in-GBH antics of both clowns in goal they didn’t get near many of them. Steven Naismith’s was one of the few duff ones: he placed Everton’s second kick in the spot where about 90% get saved, right in the top corner of an imaginary five-a-side goal. Not another was missed then until Stewart Downing had the chance to clinch it, only for Robles to finally make a block.
Sudden death and again, apart from a ropy one from John ‘don’t you dare Panenka this one, you’ Stones that only crept in, they were mostly great penalties. Someone had to do something daft though, and it came around to Robles who had otherwise been one of Everton’s stand out performers on a night when Martinez rightly said he couldn’t have been more proud of his players.
Now, granted, Robles isn’t a professional outfield player, but neither are you, and would you have taken it like him, running up and smashing the granny out of it like a goal kick? No, you wouldn’t. The crossbar is probably still shaking this morning, the big daft twat.
Robles still had one final chance to redeem himself but his body popping on the line never put his opposite number off and Adrian calmly slid home the winner.
There’s nothing much to add, to be honest. Great game, shit result in the end. Them’s the breaks sometimes. Deal with it.