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Match Report: Sunderland 0-2 Everton - Wembley Dream Soon Becomes Nightmare

A dark night at the Stadium of Light.
A dark night at the Stadium of Light.

And the FA Cup run is over. As per usual we go out of the competition in disappointing fashion, at least this time it was at the Quarter Final stage rather than the Third Round as is usually the case.

The game promised so much as two evenly matched sides were set to duke it out in a game that had classic stamped all over it. It simply wasn't to be as Everton waltzed to a relatively straight-forward win, and shattered our hopes of a Wembley appearance to cap a meteoric rise under Martin O'Neill.

Join us as we recap all the action from start to finish, dish out some player ratings and have some further final thoughts on the game...

There were recalls to the starting lineup for Lee Cattermole, Phil Bardsley and Sebastian Larsson having all missed out recently, and while Wayne Bridge passed a late fitness test, John O'Shea and Kieran Richardson were not so lucky and missed the game. Also missing was Jack Colback, who this morning became a father for the first time, and was thus allowed the night off.

There was a cautious start to the game with most of the action taking place in midfield as both side's tried to figure each other out. Certainly not devoid of action as the Cattermole and Gardner put themselves about well, but lacking in chances.

We then managed to pick things up a bit, and enjoyed a solid ten minutes of pressure. Starting with Stephane Sessegnon intercepting an errant Darron Gibson ball, eventually leading to a Sunderland corner which fell to Bardsley, but there was to be no repeat of the first encounter between our two sides.

Having failed to capitalise on the pressure, Everton came back into the game, and notably Tim Cahill was looking in that mood as he tested Mignolet with a pair of headers from fairly routine corners. How and why a player of his aerial ability was allowed so much time and space was beyond me.

Mignolet also saved well from Nikica Jelavic from Marouane Fellaini cross, but there was nothing Mignolet could do when the Croatian opened the scoring on 23 minutes. Magaye Gueye got down the wing, and his first time cross was met on the half volley from close range for an easy finish, made even easier when Kyrgiakos misjudged the cross, and a fairly routine clearance horribly.

Following that though, through to the half we reacted reasonably well, but didn't really look ourselves. An element of desperation seemed to creep into our play, and when Gardner and Cattermole are fleeing around like blue-arsed flies, it left gaps in the midfield for the Toffees extra man to play the ball at will.

Sessegnon nearly picked out Larsson, Bardsley sailed on over the crossbar, but the halftime whistle came from Lee Probert at the right time with us desperately needing to regroup.

It didn't seem to happen for an extended periods of the second half. Leon Osman missed out on scoring the goal of the season when his fizzing volley missed the top corner by what looked to be millimeters.

Warning sign's continued when Magaye Gueye, a nuisance down the left all night, got the better of Bardsley. The Frenchman slid in Darron Gibson who's effort was blocked.

All night Sotirios Kyrgiakos had been a walking disaster for us, spending most the time on his backside or failing to deal with anything, and there was an air of relief when he came off and David Vaughan came on. Incredibly, we only got worse from that point onward.

Passes were sloppy, short and under hit, tackles not made, things left when they shouldn't and anything and everything that could go wrong, did. This was made even worse when Vaughan, usually so good with the ball gave it away cheaply to Fellaini. The big Belgian slightly overhit the pass to Jelavic, and despite being wide, he still managed to get something on it. as it trickled towards the net you felt it's alright, it'll be cleared... Vaughan could only bundle the ball into his own net to give the visitors a 2-0 lead.

On the hour, it should really have been three. Turner this time the one to get things horribly wrong, playing a back pass to nobody but Tim Cahill, he fed Jelavic who only had Mignolet to beat put it wide. A huge let off for us, not that it really mattered too much as things went on.

Jelavic was once again denied a second goal when Baines found himself in the area and slipped the ball back to him, but Mignolet was on hand to punch the ball away from danger.

From then to the final whistle it was a bit of a procession for Everton. Knocking the ball about at ease whilst we flailed around in our armoury producing the sum total of nothing at all. The away fans cheered every pass, we began to look more and more sorry.

A breif moment of excitement came when Stephane Sessegnon guided an over hit cross onto the post from about a yard away, and when there was a bit of a kick-off as Phil Neville charged in on McClean, but that was about it.

Five more minutes came in stoppage time, during which we crafted our best chance as Fraizer Campbell out paced Distin to get through on goal, but couldn't get the ball out of his feet and the save was easy. In all honesty it would have been more than we deserved, It would have remained 2-0 even if Everton had gone home twenty minutes earlier.

Team (Ratings in brackets)

Starting XI: Mignolet (6), Bardsley (5), Turner (5), Kyrgiakos (4), Bridge (6), Larsson (6), Gardner (5), Cattermole (4), McClean (5), Bendtner (6), Sessegnon (6)

Subs Used: Vaughan (5), Campebll (5)

Man Of The Match: Simon Mignolet - Easy one really, as without a couple of his fine saves, it could have been a cricket score as the young Belgian was afforded little to no protection from his ever-changing defence all night. Nobody else could really walk away from the ground tonight and feel happy with their contribution.

So deflating. I can take getting beat, but this was ineptitude of Bruce-esque proportions. By which I of course mean on the pitch as mistake followed mistake followed another mistake, giving Everton a deserved, if very easy route to Wembley.

We can only hope for a change in fortunes next year, and for now focus on finishing as high as we can in the league. With nothing left to play for this season other than pride, I hope this game hasn't knocked the stuffing out of us too much, as finishing in the top eight would still be remarkable, and is still very achievable.


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