A spectacular early goal by Phil Bardsley gave the Black Cats the perfect start at Goodison, and had it not been for Tim Cahill’s customary goal, Sunderland may have already booked their place in the last four. That’s not to say that they had it all their own way, far from it in fact, and after a bright start by Martin O’Neill’s men Everton moved up a gear, putting the visitors under pressure for large parts of the game – however they stayed strong and battled hard to limit the home team’s chances. When the Toffees did finally break through the resolute defence they found Mignolet in outstanding form, and a fantastic second half double save – first from a Heitinga header, and then from Jelovic’s close range follow up prevented Everton turning their superior possession and territorial advantage in to a winning goal.
The match had started well enough for Sunderland though and a quick free kick caught the Everton defence sleeping, and despite being a little slow to react no-one would have expected to see Bardsley’s 30 yard effort fly in to the far corner of Tim Howard’s goal. It was a superb strike and silenced the Goodison crowd.
It took Everton a little while to find their feet, but slowly they started to edge their way back in to the match, using their passing game, keeping possession and preventing Sunderland counter attacking as they had been doing in the early stages, and in the 23rd minute Jelovic glanced a header at goal that Tim Cahill brilliantly diverted in to the Sunderland net. At first it looked like it had just hit the Aussie on the head without him knowing a lot about it, but the replays showed that he’d hung in the air for that split second extra and flicked the header past a stranded Mignolet.
From this moment on Everton controlled the match, but an excellent rear guard action by Sunderland saw them come away with a fully deserved draw, their excellent graft and determination limiting Everton to half chances and desperate appeals for penalties. In all fairness Drenthe should have been awarded a spot kick in the first few minutes after nutmegging Craig Gardner and falling over his leg. However the referee had already pulled him up for diving (something he continued to do throughout the game) and clearly felt Drenthe had made a meal of the challenge. In all fairness the ref got it wrong on this occasion but few could feel sympathy for the Dutchman and his continual attempts to con the officials throughout the game didn’t do him or his team any favours.
In the dying stages it was clear Sunderland were keen to see out the match and take the game to a replay at the Stadium of Light. They managed to do this despite Everton’s best efforts and will be far happier with the result than their opponents. Everton didn’t really do enough to deserve a win though, and only Mignolet’s double save, a few good penalty shouts, and Drenthe curling a free kick off the angle of post and bar really threatened to send the Toffees through. There’s no doubt it’ll be another close affair on Sunderland’s home turf and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the match go all the way to penalties before these closely matched teams can be separated.
Replay is 27th March at The Stadium of Light, kick off 7.45pm. Tickets on sale now!
Many thanks to Glen Cardy who provided a great photo for this article