A brace from striker Nikica Jelavic helped Everton cruise into the 4th round of the FA Cup in a 4-0 win over Queens Park Rangers.
Ross Barkley opened the scoring at Goodison Park with an accurate low drive before Jelavic hammered in his first from outside the area.
The Croatian added his second after the break converting Bryan Oviedo’s cross from close range before hitting the bar from the penalty spot.
But Seamus Coleman finished first time after being teed up by Barkley to put the tie beyond QPR and ensure Everton’s place in the next round.
Changes were forthcoming for the 3rd round visit of Championship side QPR and Roberto Martinez obliged with no less than five alterations to the starting line-up. Joel Robles starred between the sticks while Oviedo- who was unfortunate to lose his place in the New Year’s Day visit to Stoke, such has been his contribution over the past six weeks- replaced Leighton Baines at left-back.
Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas were rested allowing Leon Osman and Stephen Naismith to come in while Jelavic was given a rare start in place of leading scorer Romelu Lukaku up front.
While fears of a cup exit may have taken till the second goal to be dispelled inside Goodison, it was obvious from the first whistle that this would be a game Everton would do well to lose. QPR showed little ambition past the half way line and wave after wave of Everton attack brought a greater sense that Martinez’s side would eventually break the dead-lock.
Jelavic signalled his intentions to get his name on the score-sheet, running onto a loose forward pass and shooting from a tight angle. Everton enjoyed lengthy spells of possession, switching play from left to right at will and Coleman’s direct running undid QPR on more than one occasion.
Osman was often the beneficiary of the full-backs pursuits on the right flank, receiving the ball in the box but taking one too many touches before being crowded out. The midfielder should have opened Everton’s account when the ball fell to him eight yards out but having leant back his shot flew over the bar.
Karl Henry wasted QPR’s best chance in similar fashion from a corner, while Gareth Barry’s half volley was easily collected by Julio Cesar. Barkley looked dangerous cutting in from the left and the rising star set Everton on their way 10 minutes before the break, combining with Oviedo to receive the ball inside the box. Shifting the ‘mango’ coloured ball onto his right, he gave himself the space to curl low beyond Cesar with a beautiful finish.
Jelavic was rewarded for his endeavours a minute before half time, although through initially fortuitous circumstances. Henry was doing his best to make Everton’s progress to the next round as comfortable as possible, gifting the ball to Jelavic before the Croatian let fly with a lethal right foot shot that found the net from outside the area. It was the striker’s first goal since the 2-0 win over Manchester City last March and everyone inside Goodison showed how pleased they were to see Jelavic on the score sheet.
The second half became a formality for Everton, who looked as good as they have done at any point this season, despite fielding what many will regard as a second string. Regardless of the change in personal, the team retained its footballing philosophy and maintained its high standards to avoid an upset.
Coleman went close when he collected the ball on the half way line before trying to bend the ball beyond Cesar.
John Stones enjoyed another fine display at centre half. His composure almost saw him lose the ball to Joey Barton, but having recovered the youngster set the move going for Everton’s third. Barry sprayed the ball wide to Oviedo who took the ball to the by-line before crossing for a gambling Jelavic to turn in. The striker got between defender and keeper, finding the space which he so often occupied in his first five months in a blue shirt when goals were plentiful.
With the tie as good as settled the only doubt was over how many Everton could get in what was turning into a light training session for the Blues. When Oviedo was brought down by Cesar there was only one man in contention to take the spot kick but Jelavic chose class over surety and his chipped effort crashed off the crossbar.
It simply wasn’t to be for the Croatian, who later had a goal bound shot headed off the line by Clint Hill, just seconds after Naismith was denied by the same player. But Coleman continued his excellent run of goal-scoring form in typical fashion; his incredible stamina allowing him to pop up just outside the area and pass the ball first time beyond Cesar after strong running from Barkley.
Everton were full value for their win and the result in no way flattered the Blues who enjoyed more than 60% possession and peppered the visitor’s goal with no less than 27 shots. Sunday’s 4th round draw has given Everton a trip to Hertfordshire to take on Stevenage Borough. Martinez’s first competitive victory as Blues boss was against the League One side in the Capital One Cup in September and all concerned at Goodison will be confident that their cup run can continue.