Tuesday, 13th January 2015
Job done. Not nearly done; really done. By the skin of our teeth, true. It doesn't get much skinnier than 9-8 on penalties does it? So skinny it was positively skeletal...
It's a cruel way to lose, and the least Everton deserved, after staying in the first game by the skin on their teeth, was to get to penalties, given the performance they put in. But overall, I think I may display a little understandable West Ham bias and suggest we just about deserved to go through after the two matches.
In the first place, Everton were more than a little fortunate themselves to get to a replay. In the second place, of course, if fortune favoured us today, it favoured Everton in the league at Goodison, when Lukaku opened the scoring from an offside position and no red cards were issued. So Evertonians canít grumble too much, I think.
That aside, what we got was another very even game of ebb and flow; both games, in fact, were about as even as you could ask for. At half time here, there had scarcely been a chance of note; "nil-nil and penalties written all over it" was my opinion when the whistle went.
The only chance worth mentioning of the first half, for either side, was a moment that John Stones won't want to see again. With barely 10 minutes gone, Valencia robbed him, and went past Jagielka, who didn't dare challenge. He might have played Carroll in, but chose to go himself.
Perhaps he took just one touch too many? Robles, in any case, was quick off his line, spread himself well, and saved Everton from going behind. Andy, from a very tight angle beyond the far post, got a head to the ricochet, but hit the upright. Offside, however, would have been given had he scored.
It was only one minute later when Adrian did equally well to stop Lukaku. That would have no more counted than Carrollís effort; Lukaku had gone just a moment too soon for the otherwise excellent through ball. Not that Adrian knew that!
Still, despite plenty of effort, intention, and invention, both defences were sufficiently on top as to prevent both goalkeepers needing to make any serious save. McGeady and Downing both pulled low shots wide of a post; Song, in almost his only worthwhile intervention in the match, made a late run just after the half hour, but his shot hit Valenciaís back and then spun off a Toffee for a corner.
Defences were rather more porous after the interval. Collins had a half chance early, when Carroll knocked down a corner. He couldnít do other than blast it over. Two minutes later, we led.
Carroll, again, was the provider, slipping the ball through for Valencia to run on to. Stones couldnít block him, Robles came out perhaps a shade too sideways. Certainly, he exposed a little too much of the far post. Enner said "Thank you very much!" and slid the ball neatly home.
Five minutes after that, Everton were the man down that they ought to have been in the league game at Goodison. McGeady was booked late in the first period for clumsily bringing down Jarvis. Ten minutes into the second, he made a foolish, long lunging challenge, caught Noble, and left referee Swarbrick with little choice.
Not that it made a damn bit of difference to Everton! They played with ten as they had with eleven, and the match continued to be finely balanced, to ebb and flow.
Two minutes after the red card, Song made his only other good contribution with a lovely ball into the box that neither Collins nor Jarvis could reach. I can only presume he was still suffering the after-effects of the virus; certainly he had a bit of a stinker. There were three terrible bits of defending in the first ten minutes, and it scarcely got any better from there.
Jarvis too, despite his usual quota of running, was about as much use to the team. He could hardly beat anyone, could hardly keep control of the ball if he did, and didnít seem to be able to pass or cross whether he did or not. If only those two had been on merely average form, it might well have tipped the balance.
Having said that, Song was replaced by Nolan on the hour, Amalfitano for Jarvis on 68, without it making any discernable difference. It was really only as both teams tired that more chances started to occur.
Carroll pulled a shot wide of the post on 65; on 76, a deep Cresswell cross found him at the back post but, under pressure, he nodded over. Two minutes later, Collins couldnít clear under pressure from Lukaku, who blocked the attempt, recovered the ball, and got it across. How the hell Tomkins managed to stretch to get the block in, I donít know, but he somehow stopped Mirallasí shot in the middle of the six yard box when an equaliser seemed a certainty.
Straight up the other end, Collins got a decent header in from a corner. Robles made a save that looked acrobatic but, in truth, was reasonably comfortable. Straight back down our end, 80 minutes on the clock, and Ginge made his one telling error of the game.
The free-kick that made it one-one is already dividing fansí opinions. Some feel that it was so good that Adrian never had a chance. Others feel his positioning was suspect, and Iím in that camp. Culprit no. 1 is Collins, of course. It was he that had a huge handful of Lukakuís shirt and hauled him down only just past the right corner of our box; perilously close to a penalty.
My feeling was that Adrian was just a step too far to the left. The argument goes that he needed to cover the back post and the cross, but I felt he made the near side, the shortest and quickest route to goal, look awfully inviting. Mirallas duly accepted and bent it in.
It didnít help that there was a little movement to the left of Adrianís left foot just as the Evertonian took his first step, and the set of our keeperís body made me think that he was anticipating a cross. A shame if Iím right because, as it was, he got awfully close to stopping it. Had he not shifted, he might have got to it, had he been that one step to the right, Iím sure he would have. Whether a small mistake or a sublime dead ball, the ten men had levelled!
There was still time for Barry to be carded for balking Big Andy, for Stones to handball just outside the Everton box. The officials can be given full praise for excellent games all round. In the regulation time, this was the only wrong decision. Everything else, including the offsides, were correct. It was about as faultless as a performance from them as youíre ever likely to see.
But the linesmanís fault, this one. He signals a handball against Stones, but a free-kick, not a penalty. In actual fact, it was inside but, as it was directly opposite the linesman, it was very difficult for him to see. For me, the mistake was giving it at all, as I thought it was ball to hand.
We made nothing of it, so justice was done; Nobleís free kick was beaten out by Robles. Then, on 88, an overhead by Nolan was tipped over. Again, the save looked more spectacular than it was difficult. The final whistle Ė pause for breath!
Thereíd be another moderately horrible officiating error in extra time, by the ref this time. By then, we were, shockingly, on our way out. Noble had had the first shot a couple of minutes in, Robles saving messily (but, hey, who cares if stays out!). On 6, it was pinball in our box, with Adrian saving in amongst it all. The ball was cleared only to the right corner of the box. Mirallas beat Nolan to it and went to the goal line with Nolan in pursuit.
Then, disaster! Mirallas turns and comes back. Nolan, still chasing, canít get a challenge in. Amalfitano, standing on the outside, canít get a challenge in. Worst of all, Jenkinson gets his positioning all wrong inside the box and practically waves Mirallas through.
For the second time in 20 minutes, he is invited to take advantage of a big space on the right of our player. In he runs, Jenks canít get back at him, Mirallas squares the ball past Collinsí desperate attempt to block, and Lukaku, from 3 yards out, slots it neatly between the helpless Adrian and Cressie.
Yep, him again. We just cannot stop him scoring against us. Five goals in five games for Everton against us now, and he scored another when he was on loan at West Brom. How I wish he was playing for us. Presumably then he wouldnít be scoring against us, at least!
Cue the second part of extra time, and immediately comes the second mistake of night from the officials. Mirallas and Tomkins fall over together on the edge of the box. Mirallas, in falling, falls over Tomkins. INSIDE the area. I do think that Swarbrick bottled this decision, because it was very clear it was inside.
The ref has a choice between penalty and nothing, much as with the Stonesí handball. Itís either a coming together and no foul, or itís a penalty. He gives a free kick on the edge of the area Ė complete cop-out! As with the "handball", I thought there was no offence in the first place, both players were going to ground before any contact. Since Everton made nothing of the free kick, we were again even.
In the 18th extra minute, Valencia pulled a shot just wide. Two minutes later, and even the usually conservative Sam decides to throw caution to the winds Ė Collins off, Cole on. With 22 gone, a deep corner finds Tomkins, he nods it practically onto Carltonís left boot, and a simple prod from 3 yards has the Boleyn erupting in delight!
Thatís enough drama before the penalties, eh, lads? Apparently not. Andy gets on the end of another corner, but his effort is deflected wide. Lukaku weaves his way across the face of our defence and into the area with Tomkins in hot pursuit. Jimmy canít catch him, but manages to force him wide, and Lukaku screws his shot across the goal and wide of the far post.
Then Cole plays in Amalfitano, in acres of space on the right of their box, but he takes far too long to shoot, allowing Robles to make a third spectacular-looking save of the night. Weíre still not done. Amalfitano plays a long straight pass that puts Valencia into an almost identical position. He chooses to square to Cole; Stones and Robles combine to thwart him.
All three end up on the floor, the ball squirms out, Carlton throws a boot at itÖ And it dribbles a foot wide of the post. Breathless stuff!
So now all there is is penalties. Happily, I have no nerves. Iíll mourn or erupt when theyíre done, but I donít bite my fingernails down to the knuckle in the meanwhile. As you all know, Naismith gave Adrian the opportunity for a flashy-but-still-good save; Downing, with the chance to win it, hit a weak effort. Eventually it comes down to the keepers, and through we go.
Man of the Match, oh my! I had Collins pencilled in, but pulling down Lukaku cost him that. Carroll hardly had a half chance up front, but the way in which he held the ball up and brought team-mate into the game was terrific.
With Collins ruled out on the grounds of "regular cock-up", though, there's only one candidate for me, and that's James Tomkins. That block, that header in extra time; they are no more than stand-out moments. He has had some erratic games recently, most notably embarassing himself up at Goodison in the Prem. Tonight? Terrific game; encore, please!
I started by saying that I "overall"... Truth is, the points at the start are more excuse than reason. When it comes down to it, I think we had as many good chances tonight as Everton, and more of the lesser. Ultimately, that is why I think we just about edged it.
Penalties is a cruel way to win or lose, nevertheless. Evertonians can be proud of their side. With ten or eleven, they did everything they could to gain the victory, and were edged out only by the slenderest of margins. Hurray for us, because we've so often come out on the skinny side of that situation.
If the game wasn't as silky as some purists might wish for, it was an utterly committed performance from both clubs, players and fans alike. I've been critical of both Song and Jarvis, but not of their commitment; both did their utmost, though an under-par utmost. We were even 'treated' to the sight of Tomkins and Noble having a fair old row toward the end. Already smoothed out, I'm sure, but it shows, at least, that they are passionate!
The cliches have been trotted out, but the thing about cliches is that they exist only because they happen regularly enough. Truly, this was a game that had 'a little bit of everything', was 'a classic FA Cup tie', and incidentally fulfilled all the unspoken requirements of 'a night at the Boleyn under the floodlights'! A wonderful game; it's just a shame there had to be a loser.
Not that I, for one, will be counting this as a victory in the stats. Everton certainly deserve that much! Level at full-time, level after extra-time, I don't see this as a game that ends the dreadful sequence against them ratbag Toffees! Seventeen games since we beat them now. Bring 'em down to Upton Park in the league and let's sort that out properly!!
There's the small matter of a Sunday game against Hull before our 4th round tie. It'd be nice to think that Bristol City away is a comfortable bye into the 5th round, but we are West Ham. We've made a regular habit of treading on banana skins in the last decade, and the Robins are in very fine form.
Look no further than Ashton Gate. If we get past that, we can dream of a cup run (Spurs at home, anyone?), but we have to get past that first. Whatever else happens, I'm damn sure they'll do everyting in their power to make sure it's no pushover...
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Adrian San Miguel del Castillo
Yes, only 6 for the hero of the night. Penalties are a lottery. Tonight, the lottery allowed him to redeem himself for their equaliser. He didn't have a lot else to do.
Dangerous in both directions even though, like everyone else on the pitch, he struggled to get passes and crosses through well-organised defences.
Yet again, a game much like Jenks, though his highs were not so high, nor his lows quite so low.
Man of the Match. Need I say more?
Very nearly MotM, except that he had a huge handful of Lukaku's shirt on 80 minutes, which gave Mirallas the opportunity to equalise. Copybook duly blotted.
It didn't take long for him to get back to his usual standard, did it?
Not fit, not on the pace, and very definitely not on his game. Was always going to be subbed, but absolutely had to be for his performance.
Contributed in full measure without standing out.
One word - ineffective. Alright, two words - completely ineffective.
Despite the lack of decent chances, a really good performance up top from the big man.
Worked. Scored. First goal at UP, which will stop the media going on about that. Had a good game, but I still think he's settling in. It may take him the rest of this season. If it does... Can you imagine what he is going to be like next campaign?!
(replaced Song) One overhead shot comfortably tipped over; little else to note.
(replaced Jarvis) Did little better than Jarvis, to be honest. Wasn't impressed by him shoving Baines into the hoardings at the end of the first period of extra time either.
(replaced Collins) Scored with his first touch of note and became a hero again, however fleetingly.
Did not play.
Joey O Brien
Did not play.
Did not play.
Ricardo Vaz Te
Did not play.
Referee: Neil Swarbrick.
Man of the Match: James Tomkins.
West Ham United
Adrian San Miguel del Castillo, Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Cresswell, James Tomkins, James Collins, Mark Noble, Alex Song, Stewart Downing, Matt Jarvis, Andy Carroll, Enner Valencia.
Goals: Enner Valencia 51 Carlton Cole 113 .
Booked: Kevin Nolan 72 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Subs not used: .
Goals: Kevin Mirallas (82), Romelu Lukaku (97).
Sent Off: None.