The F. A. Cup is famous for its grandeur and freak results that constantly destroy records and form. Sunday afternoon`s game between Everton and Blackburn Rovers was no exception. A ruthless first half performance from Rovers ensured that the blue half of the Mersey would join the Red half dumped out of the Cup at the third round stage.
Mark Hughes was expected to make a couple of changes but replaced over half of the side that beat Wigan so comprehensively on New Year`s Day. Sabani Nonda, Benni McCarthy, Robbie Savage, Brett Emerton, Lucas Neill and Stephane Henchoz were all rested and in came Matt Derbyshire, Paul Gallagher, Jay McEveley, Andy Todd, Andre Ooijer and Tugay.
Rovers began in an aggressive manner and took an early through Matt Derbyshire. The young Englishman had earned his starting place up front after bagging his first professional goal against Wigan. He was on hand to tap into an empty net after Time Howard, Everton`s goalkeeper, spilled a rasping Morten Gamst Pedersen drive.
This put Rovers in the ascendancy and opened up the game. Everton looked to respond immediately and felt they should have had a penalty in the ninth minute when the ball appeared to strike Andy Todd on the arm.
Everton rallied after being denied the penalty and went close through Arteta following some clever work down the right by Andy van der Meyde. They ahd another penalty appeal waved away in the 16th minute when Arteta when down, rather easily, under a challenge from Gamst.
Everton were enjoying the lion`s share of possession but it was Rovers who went for the kill. David Bentley was brought down thirty yards from Everton`s goal plumb centre. Gamst promptly stepped up to curl a wonderful swirling free-kick over the wall and past Howard who was left flapping.
It was backs to wall time for Rovers in their changed all red strip. Everton continued to conjure half chances, largely deriving from set-pieces. However, the end product was lacking as has often been the case for David Moyes` men this season.
Rovers punished them further six minutes before half time. Some sound defending, particularly from Jay McEveley ensured that Rovers maintained their two goal advantage and allowed Paul Gallagher to capitalise on a rare start.
A sweeping ball across the park and into the area by Bentley was brought down on his chest by the young Scot before he turned Joseph Yobo and rifled a volley low under Howard. It was a wonderful piece of individual skill and provided a deserved goal for Gallagher on the back of his first half display.
The rest of the half was played out at a casual pace barring a dangerous and rash lunge by Nuno Valente on David Bentley. He was booked for his efforts and carried off injured.
Rovers had been ruthless on the break and solid at the back in what must have been a very pleasing forty-five minute display for Hughes.
Having been booed off by their fans David Moyes must have read the riot act at the interval because his troops stormed out for the second period determined to drag themselves back into the cup tie.
Rovers were surely expecting this as they dropped deeper in a bid to absorb the Everton threat and pace of Victor Anichebe and Andy Johnson, both of whom had been blunt in the opening forty-five.
Leon Osman was the first to go close for Everton in the 49th minute and Johnson almost pulled them back into it with a wonderfully executed lob a minute later, only to be denied by Friedel at full stretch.
The shots began to rain in on Friedel`s goal in clear conditions Osman and Carsley both tried in vain. Gallagher was replaced by Emerton midway through the half after it appeared he had picked up a knock. He received a wonderful reception from the away support in what must have been one of his best displays for Rovers.
Everton piled on the pressure but it looked as though Rovers were going to survive until Aaron Mokoena lunged at Arteta in the area and this time the referee, Andy Marriner pointed to the spot. Johnson made no mistake by emphatically stroking the ball past past Friedel who dived the wrong way.
The crowd responded appreciatively to their side`s route back into the game and sought to cheer them on to an unlikely comeback. The game was contested in the Rovers half in the final 20 minutes yet it was Rovers who looked the most likely to score.
Benni McCarthy replaced an exhausted Derbyshire with a little under 20 minutes to play.
A succession of corners with fifteen minutes to play produced a rancorous response from the home support but it did little to alter the direction of the game and the path Everton were facing.
High, wide and ugly was the best way to some up Everton`s derisory efforts of redeeming an almost intangible situation.
Indeed Benni McCarthy put the icing on the cake deep into injury time. Moments before McCarthy`s excellent solo goal, Tugay had burst through the Everton defence from the half way line to find himself in alien territory, inside the opposition`s area. Concerned about being in such unfamiliar surroundings the Turk blasted an effort towards the bottom corner only to be denied by an excellent save from Howard.
McCarthy did complete the rout. He controlled a long ball from the impressive Andre Ooijer before turning the defence inside out and drilling the ball past Howard.
It was an exceptional cup-tie that sees Rovers` name entered into the hat for Monday`s draws.
Made some smart saves but spent most of the afternoon taking goal kicks.
Returned to the side in splendid style. Created goals and defended admirably.
He will have every reason to be pleased with his display. Solid through out.
Returned as captain and put in a solid performance.
Replaced after 38 minutes due to injury but had been impressive again.
Targeted by the Everton players but still managed to provide a number of telling balls into and around the area.
Another all action display from Gamst who capped it off with a goal.
Pulled the strings and almost scored.
Solid and aggresive in tidying things up.
An excellent performance to remind everyone what he is capable of. Needs to show some consistency now though.
Another goal and an energetic and tireless display.
Was solid after replacing Khizanishvili.
Provided extra pace to the attack and strength to the defence.
Another wonderful finish to keep his scoring tally up. 13 now for the season.