Match Report: Everton 1-1 Sunderland - Mignolet Keeps Cats In The Hat

Simon Mignolet shared the glory with Phil Bardsley today as we take Everton to a replay.

After all the build-up, all the nerves and wondering, we're going to have to go through it all again in little over a week as our two sides, who were almost inseparable on paper remain that way after an at times pulsating tie at Goodison Park.

Our full match recap is here, so enjoy the thrills, spills, saves and raves as we go over all the action from pre-match to full-time with further added thoughts and player ratings...

Martin O'Neill named an unchanged side from the win over Liverpool, as Nicklas Bendtner was deemed fit enough to stay in the starting eleven alongside Fraizer Campbell in attack. Jack Colback was preferred in midfield to David Vaughan after a man of the match performance last week, and the rest of the side basically picked itself. On the bench there were returns for Matt Kilgallon and Ahmed Elmohamady alongside the usual faces.

The game started at a frenetic pace with both teams looking to make an early impact. Seb Larsson got the ball rolling with a whipped freekick guided off target by James McClean's head, shortly followed by a succession of unsuccessful corners.

Everton had a chance of their own when Leon Osman headed over from inside the area, but it was us who took the lead with some style.

A freekick near the touchline was knocked inside quickly by Colback when everyone expected a Larsson cross. The ball lined up nicely for Phil Bardsley to absolutely smash the ball in from 25+ yards, low into Tim Howards bottom corner, sending 6000 traveling fans delirious.

Rather than sit back and protect the lead, we were dominant following the goal, looking comfortable in possession, and likely to score at any moment. The nearest attempt coming when McClean headed just over the bar, and perhaps could have done better.

Fraizer Campbell could feel aggrieved not to have won a penalty when Johnny Heitinga clearly and knowingly blocked his run in the area, and from then on our luck seemed out as The Toffees drew level through Everton's own version of Shola Ameobi, Tim Cahill.

Royston Drenthe laid the ball out to wide open Leighton Baines to cross, Jelavic flicked, and Cahill was waiting for it to hit him plum on the forehead and into the corner with Mignolet well beaten for the Australian's 874th goal against us. Or so it felt. As Mario Balotelli might have said of the situation "Why Always Him?"

No time to let us get our heads down, and whilst Everton battled back we gave as good as we got. Larsson sent in some teasing crosses and freekicks, Jelavic at the other end wasted a good counter attack when one-on-one with Wayne Bridge.

Cahill nearly heaped further misery on us just after the half hour when he met a corner well, forcing Mignolet to punch away off his own line, and take a bit of Heitinga's face for good measure, Distin firing over on the rebound, but having dominated the early proceedings, things had at this stage begun to level out into a very intriguing cup tie.

It was fairly quiet from then until half-time, punctuated only by a vicious freekick from Drenthe which clipped the corner of crossbar and post from in excess of 30 yards. Wonderful strike, but thankfully just that and not a goal.

Things were finely balanced at the break, with the 1-1 scoreline fairly justified on the balance of play, in what was for the neutral a highly entertaining encounter, but for those like you and me not lucky enough to be neutral, heart-stoppingly stressful in the main.

The second half started off just as lively as the first half with attacks coming at either end, but Everton perhaps shading things as at times we looked sloppy.

Tim Cahill tested Simon Mignolet twice with low efforts, one tamely at the Belgian following a corner, and the other a drive from distance which was still comfortable for the diving keeper.

Nicklas Bendtner had the ball in the net but was flagged well offside before the Dane even placed his effort past Tim Howard, but that was about it really for us as we entered the final twenty minutes of the tie with hardly any Sunderland attacks of note as we looked off our game. That said, as Everton pressed, several of the efforts by Cahill and Jelavic to this point were tame.

With 15 minutes to go, and our midfield clearly being run ragged by the hosts who were playing five in there, O'Neill made the shrewd move to bring of Fraizer Campbell for David Vaughan to give us an much needed extra body.

With everyone looking tired it was going to be either a moment of magic to win it, or keep us in it. We were served up the latter courtesy of Simon Mignolet's great double save. Diving to deny Heitinga's header bounced back up quickly to deny Jelavic from point blank range... May 5th, A double save... perhaps this is our year. The save by Mignolet, can't be underestimated, it was truly remarkable from a keeper growing with confidence by the week.

That was about it though as far as the action went in a fairly lackluster second half overall. We'll do it all again in just over a week.

Team (Ratings in brackets)

Starting XI: Mignolet (7), Bardsley (7), Turner (6), O'Shea (6), Bridge (6), Larsson (6), Colback (6), Gardner (6), McClean (6), Campbell (6), Bendtner (6)

Subs Used: Vaughan (6)

Man Of The Match: Simon Mignolet - Difficult to pick anyone who stood out, so it's going to have to go to Mignolet for his wonder save that keeps us in the competition. Phil Bardsley almost could have been the hero, and get's his marked up for the great strike to put us ahead.

Before the match we here at Roker Report all predicted a 1-1 draw. I don't know why, other than it just felt that it was probably going to be the right result, and so it was. Neck and neck in the league with the same wins, draws, losses goals conceded and tying up at the Stadium Of Light in December, was it ever likely to be a win for us?

Overall though, we have to look at the game as a positive result, as the advantage next week certainly lies with us. Everton will feel they did enough to win today, but they didn't get the result they crave. We will have Lee Cattermole and Stephane Sessegnon back for the replay (and boy did we miss him today) plus there's a chance for Kieran Richardson too.

With these three key men coming back, there's still every chance we'll be heading to Wembley.

KTF.

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