Everton overcame a tricky tie on the south coast to progress to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup with a 2-0 victory against Bournemouth.
Joel Robles kept the score level with a penalty save in the first half after James McCarthy handled inside the area.
A first-half wanting for quality in the final third from both sides gave way to a more lively second 45 and Everton took their chances when they came along.
Ross Barkley’s long range effort took a fortunate nick of former Toffee Dan Gosling and looped over Adam Federici before Romelu Lukaku smashed home from 6-yards.
Lukaku now a familar name in EFC’s history books
Far from a vintage performance by Everton’s leading goalscorer but his goal represented another milestone for Lukaku. The Belgian became the first Evertonian to score more than 20 goals in a campaign since Yakubu in the 2007/08 season.
The fact Lukaku is only the second player to reach the 20 goal mark since Peter Beardsley in 1992, says a lot about Everton’s striking quality (or lack thereof) in the Premier League era.
For whatever reason Lukaku’s performances and thus goals have dried up somewhat since the turn of the year. He has scored just twice in his last eight games having averaged a goal a game in the 12 before the 0-0 draw with Man City on 13th January.
But the Belgian remains Everton’s finest goalscorer in recent history and at just 22 years old has years of goalscoring fun ahead of him. Hopefully there are a few more pages left in Everton’s history books to bear Lukaku’s name.
Toffees have cup pedigree
The hard fought and much deserved win at Bournemouth served two equally as pleasing functions for Evertonians. The demons of the nightmarish 3-3 draw -which saw the Blues concede with the last kick of the game the last time they visited Dean Court- have been well and truly exorcised.
But of course most importantly Everton have put their name into the hat for the next round of the FA Cup. In doing so they have now reached the quarter-final stage of the competition for the fourth time in the last five years.
Only once in the previous nine years did Everton make it past the fifth round; that coming in 2009 when the Toffees came unstuck in the final against Gus Hiddink’s Chelsea. Everton have a tremendously rich history with the FA Cup, winning it five times and coming runner-up eight times; more than any other club.
Having already come within one game of Wembley in the League Cup this season, Roberto Martinez will be keen to make sure his side make it to the capital at the second time of asking. The disappointment of watching city rivals Liverpool play there next weekend, instead of playing against them will hopefully spur the Blues into the FA cup semis.
Consistent back 5 showing continuity is key
Joel will come out with most of the plaudits for keeping Bournemouth at bay -and rightly so after saving from the penalty spot- but the defenders in front of him deserve recognition for another shut-out.
It was Everton’s fourth in their last five games and it’s unsurprising that the up-turn in fortunes and clean sheets coincides with Joel’s ousting of Tim Howard as Everton’s No 1, not to mention a consistent back four.
No Howard, no Stones, no Baines. No matter. Everton have been all the better for it, with players who are in form getting the opportunity to show what they can do, even if those not considered first team regulars once all personnel are fully fit.
All the superlatives available to the hyperbolic British media have been used to describe John Stones (most of them justifiably so) while Leighton Baines is still arguably England’s best full-back. But Ramiro Funes Mori has shown his worth with his keenness to attack the ball and eye for goal, while Bryan Oviedo’s ability to attack while making up a solid defensive unit makes him a more than capable deputy for Baines.
And with Phil Jagielka back to full fitness the more no-nonsense approach to defending is a refreshing antidote to the over-elaboration that has led to the mindless booing noises at Goodison Park.
What happened to Speedo Mick’s shirt?
We all know Mick in the Speedos. The budgie-smuggler wearing Blue follows the Toffees week-in-week-out, shaking his bucket in the name of the Woodlands Hospice.
The Dovecot-Blue arrived at Dean Court on Friday night having walked 100 miles in five days from London, a monumental effort in his bid to raise money, this time for Dorset based charity Julia’s House.
What seemed to be a pretty clear gesture of support and thanks from Aaron Lennon after the game, as the winger held his shirt in Mick’s direction, seems to have been missed by two lads more concerned with fighting over the No 12 jersey to notice Mick stood behind them.
It’s quite obvious what Mick’s intentions for the shirt would have been and we can only hope whoever ended up with it does the decent thing and passes it on the the fundraising Toffee. It would be the least he deserves.
Barkley’s influence so important, even on off days
Like Lukaku, Barkley didn’t exactly have his best game against Bournemouth but his influence on this young and developing side continues.
Barkley has now been involved in 20 goals in all competitions this season. No other English midfielder has contributed more to his side than Barkley, who has notched up 12 goals and eight assists.
Even when Everton’s diamond is not at his sparkling best, he’s often still a cut above.