Bournemouth 0 - 2 Everton
On arrival the whole place seemed full of Blues and all in ‘Up for the Cup’ mood. On seeing the team most were delighted that our present manager had not followed this new day tradition of resting the so called best players for domestic cup games or was it that manager and players had so upset the Goodison faithful last week that the same personnel were charged with winning back their support. Those gathered were right up for it pre match with songs and chants or was that because there was no ale on sale?
The teams emerged and we were in the white kit, considering Bournemouth’s kit I wondered why we had to change. Still change we did and off we went. It was soon apparent that the strong swirling wind would play a part and some longer passes were blown off target but non the less we had started with a bit of tempo and were soon pegging the hosts back with approach play that was pleasing but only until the final third when we seemed to run out of ideas or get a bit excited and produce one pass or touch too many. The first half went along like this with us attacking and Bournemouth looking to break when they could. The longer this pattern went on the quieter our end became.
We seemed to have altered our approach play as Lukaku was forever on the flanks and Barkley a bit deeper than usual leaving Lennon to come inside and take up the ground that Lukaku normally patrols also it felt and looked like the players were trying out some different approach work as some passes were to no one in particular which could not be blamed on the wind and saw players gesticulating and shouting to each other as to where they thought the ball should have gone and who was to be making the runs needed. Perhaps the warm weather training spell can allow them some practice time to perfect whatever it was they wanted to do.
Not a lot to report in excitement terms first half except to say we dominated but fell at the last and Bournemouth countered without much conviction and if they did get in range their efforts were high, wide and handsome. For us it seemed Barkley was getting all our shots in but always from distance but we did get one chance to really stand and roar as Lukaku set off at a pace akin to a jigger rabbit that was startled by a Pit Bull. He left his marker in his wake along the by-line, turned right near the corner flag and hared into the box, drew the keeper and tried to prod it past him but the keeper got a foot to it and after a melee the ball was cleared. Hell I knew he was quick but that was turbo charged.
We were well on top but without a goal to show for it; many wondered if this was to be yet again another of ‘those days’... Then, with less than 10 minutes to go in the half, the hosts got a corner and as the ball got into the scrum in the box we heard a whistle and the Ref had awarded them a penalty. Seeing replays later only McCarthy will have a clue as to why he did that hand ball.
Silence in the ranks and you could feel tension and the thought of complete domination again ending in a 1-0 loss. Their captain was to take, Joel prowled the box then settled, the kicker shot, Joel dived to his left, the homework or guess was right and he parried away, three Bournemouth players reacted quickest and reached the ball together and contrived to put each other off and sky the ball out for a goal-kick. Oh the relief for fans and players alike. The way the players hugged and kissed the keeper could have been misconstrued, such was their outpouring of physical congratulation.
The chat was almost exclusively ‘Thank god for Joel’ or along those lines.
Second half, I noticed early a slight twist of plans had taken place with Lukaku now taking the middle ground with a system that went back to our usual 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3- or 4-4-1-1 to suit each phase of moves and our tempo of passing was improved. The winds had abated none so a bit of extra care would be needed as we sprayed the ball about. Barkley was taking a lot of responsibility in the final third with Barry orchestrating both defensive ploys and build up through mid-field.
Just 10 minutes into the half it paid off when Barkley was coming across the eighteen yard line desperately looking for a gap to shoot through but none were appearing so he passed to Cleverley wide who saw he could make no forward progress and fed it back to Barkley who took two paces hit one that looped up over the fast retreating keeper and into the net. Oh joy. Celebrations took place and complete joy was mixed with a good dollop of relief.
Just a couple of minutes later, we thought we had put the tie to bed when Lukaku swept home a cross only for the linesman’s flag to rule offside. Replay later suggested another lino should have gone to Specsavers.
We have been here before and know only too well that we can lose leads so the faithful sang out every song they ever knew including the good old cup song "We shall not be moved" plus "And we'll hang the kopites one by one, on the banks of the Royal Blue Mersey." Ah the memories that brought back of cup ties long past.
The faithful were behind the players and for 20 minutes Bournemouth gave it a good go but we played with grit, determination and sweat along with a great dollop of no nonsense hoofing if it was required and the ball retention bit kept to sensible areas of the pitch. We were attacking when we could and we did look the quality team but, as the hosts had made many changes in unashamed pursuit of Premier League survival, I suppose we should have.
Barry was a colossus in the middle of the park making simple passes along with some longer ones to turn their defence and still finding time to push forward. With 15 minutes to go, he started a delightful move that saw Barkley fed on 18-yard line who hit a powerful shot that hit a defender on the arm and he yelled for a pen but only got a corner... but what a corner!
We sort of copied WBA’s winning corner from last week but with a twist, where theirs was high to the front post, flicked on and netted at far post ours was taken low by Oviedo to the near post where Barry was stationed and he took the ball with expertise and turned and sent the ball at an angle that took it just out of the six-yard box for Lukaku to rush in and smash home. If there had been a roof it would have come off such were the celebrations but only from the fans the players were a touch muted, could that be because of goals past scored by us on that ground.
Clock ticking down and from my seat I worried only about giving away set pieces near our goal as we were on top and keeping Bournemouth at arm’s length in open play. Before the final whistle we had two scares, first was a free kick given away centrally just outside the box which when took deflected off our wall leaving Joel stranded but thankfully a gnats wide then from a corner Gosling, (how can we forget him for that night in that cup tie and ITV going to commercials as the ball was on its way in) headed goal wards but some great positioning by our keeper ensured it was an easy gather, others thought he had missed a sitter – tut – tut. Final whistle and we had reached the next round. A cup tie, a win, mission completed.
MotM – Barry
Overall, we did what we had to do and I thought we had some decent performances on show. Lennon played the modern day winger superbly and was racing back and helping out Coleman right to the end. Barkley seems to be growing game by game, if he could get a bit more confident in himself and have that edge that says ‘I am the go to man’ then what a player we will have.
There is always talk about our manager at games and he has both detractors and supporters how many of each is hard to gauge I think a lot depends on the result. For my part I can’t see him being sacked anytime soon as he has just been handed –13.5 million to bring in Niasse who had a ten minute run out today but in that time no one could make any sort of prediction of how he may fare with us. I hope he turns out to be remarkable.
I also think that unrest at home games or indeed fan polls on websites or newspapers will have any impact on the board but I do wonder what the reaction might be if match ticket sales go down and the uptake on season tickets renewal is below expectations. I say this because on coming off the ground after home matches the number of fans vowing to jack it in seems to be growing. Still make a good fist of our remaining games and things will look better and brighter.
Tonight’s draw sees us drawn at home to Chelsea who are hitting some rich form but no need for despondency as they won’t come to park the bus and as most fans have said ‘With our squad we can beat anyone on our day’ Let us hope it is our day. See you after the break.
UP THE BLUES