FA Cup – Everton down Villa to reach quarters

Eurosport – 

Everton continued their impressive recent form with a 3-1 win over Aston Villa in a pulsating fifth round FA Cup tie at Goodison Park.

Jack Rodwell put the Toffees ahead early on only for James Milner to bring Villa level soon after. Man of the match Mikel Arteta then restored Everton’s lead before Tim Cahill made sure of victory in the second half.

The opening period was nothing short of frantic with a packed Goodison witnessing three goals, two penalties given, two big appeals turned down and four yellow cards brandished. In other words, this was a proper FA Cup tie.

Everton took the lead as early as the fourth minute, Rodwell reacting quickest following a goal-line clearance by Stiliyan Petrov to register his first goal in an Everton shirt.

Had the 17-year-old’s close-range effort not found the roof of the net, referee Martin Atkinson would have been left with a big decision to make; Petrov, Villa’s skipper for the day, had clearly blocked Cahill’s header from Arteta’s corner with his arm and would surely have been dismissed – with the obligatory penalty also awarded.

A further four minutes later and Villa were back on level terms after Gabriel Agbonlahor, on a trademark pacy run forward, was upended by Tony Hibbert in the Everton box.

Atkinson pointed to the spot and Milner duly stepped up to convert, although far from convincingly with Tim Howard guessing the right way and nearly getting enough on the ball to keep it out.

The Goodison crowd were again on their feet and screaming for a penalty moments later, this time Cahill claiming he was pushed as he rose to meet another Arteta cross. Atkinson – a late replacement for match official Phil Dowd – thought otherwise, and decided to book the Australian for deliberate handball instead.

But Everton were to get their penalty on 24 minutes, Steve Sidwell sliding in recklessly on Victor Anichebe as the Toffees striker broke through the visitors’ back line with a typically strong run. Arteta, without doubt the best player on the pitch during the first half, sent Brad Friedel the wrong way from 12 yards to put Everton into the lead for a second time.

Villa should really have gone in at the break at 2-2, but Agbonlahor wasted a glorious opportunity to restore parity with a glaring miss just after the half hour mark. The England international was gifted a free header from six yards out but somehow conspired to send his effort wide of the mark, the ball actually coming off his shoulder.

After the electric start to the first half, perhaps it was no surprise to see the second begin in more sedate fashion.

It took nearly 20 minutes before either side were able to fashion a chance of real note, Villa finally managing to put together a decent passing move which culminated in John Carew flicking goalwards from Milner’s cross. Only a fine fingertip save by Howard denied the big Norwegian a goal on his return to the side.

The opportunity heralded the beginning of a good little period for the visitors – which was punctuated only by Cahill’s header at Friedel – as Martin O’Neill’s side started to apply some sustained pressure for the first time.

First Sidwell wasted a great chance when found all alone in the Everton box before Ashley Young, unusually ineffective throughout, sliced wide of the mark from the edge of the penalty area.

But just as Villa were beginning to look like grabbing an equaliser, Everton proved what a difficult team they are to beat by hitting back against the run of play on 76 minutes.

Cahill it was who grabbed a deserved goal after Curtis Davies had failed to deal with Anichebe’s cross.

The goal killed sucked the fight out of Villa and there was to be no late drama as Everton held on to reach their first quarter final in seven seasons.

Mike Hytner / Eurosport