Everton 3 Sheffield Wednesday 0 - Plenty of positives for Owls in FA Cup exit
For the Owls, this season is all about staying in the Championship but that did not mean cowardly sneaking out of the Cup by the back door. They bowed out with heads held high, and hopefully confidence to take into Wednesday’s far more important trip to Coventry City.
Wednesday earned some plaudits the last time they faced Premier League opposition in the famous old competition, but last season’s fifth-round visit of Manchester City was a very good damage limitation exercise, and no more.
Caretaker-manager Neil Thompson sent his side out at Everton last night with a more positive mindset and inevitably the damage was greater – 3-0 – but so were the positives.
After some of the dirge served up by Garry Monk and in particular Tony Pulis, there were at least signs this team is capable of playing football that can be enjoyed, and for the second round running, Thompson used his knowledge of the club to show there is more depth to the talent at Hillsborough than Pulis was ever prepared to acknowledge.
The biggest problem Thompson faced was that Everton were in the mood. When a seriously good team gets serious, you have a serious problem.
This grand old club, one of England’s “big five” back when football was invented in 1992, have not won a trophy for 26 years and under Carlo Ancelotti they seem to have the hunger to do something about that, as reflected in their strong selection.
Wednesday’s was, even taking into account their bottom-end-of-the-Championship standards, a little weaker – possibly down to the lingering effects of the Covid-19 outbreak which has kept them out of Championship action since New Year’s Day – but youngsters Osaze Urhoghide and Ciaran Brennan enhanced their reputations in a youthful back three. It only made Pulis’s decision not to consider them and others more frustrating.
Joe Wildsmith, another stand-in between the posts, was into the action in the third minute, saving from Richarlison. Five minutes later he touched a header from the Brazilian onto his bar.
The Owls defenders began to find their feet and the midfield to find debutant Andre Green and Adam Reach, playing off Callum Paterson, in the pockets of spaces the latter in particular dropped into. Green stung the palms of Everton’s “cup goalkeeper” Robin Olsen with a 15th-minute show of intent.
The problem was that when out of possession, Barry Bannan and Joey Pelupessy struggled to close down the Toffees’ midfielders. A lovely exchange of passes involving Andre Gomres, James Rodriguez and Gylfi Sigurdsson in the 17th minute ended with Wildsmith saving again, this time from Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Just that roll-call hammered home what the visitors were up against.
Thumping tackles from Urhoghide and Brennan, the former stepping out of the back four to stamp his authority, the latter tracking back as a corner broke down then putting himself in the line of Abdoulaye Doucoure’s fire, showed increasing confidence.
The Cup was good to Urhoghide last season, shooting to prominence with not just his performance against Brighton and Hove Albion but his post-match interviews, but since his starring part in January 2020’s victory over Leeds United, his roller-coaster had taken a few dips, then ground to a halt. Hopefully last night can get it moving on an upward trajectory again.
For all the positives, though, the Owls bubble was soon burst.
When Brennan stuck like glue to Sigurdsson on the half hour he was forced to go back to Gomes but the Portuguese burst to the byline and drilled a cross inevitably it tapped in by Calvert-Lewin, the Sheffield-born former Blade, who had run off Julian Borner.
A curling Sigurdsson cross just evaded the England centre-forward and only good Urhoghide pressure stopped Richarlison converting a Seamus Coleman cross. In between time a Rodriguez rabona reminded the Owls of the quality they were up against, as it was not obvious by now.
Wildsmith, who caught the eye against City too, started the second half with a good save, tipping Calvert-Lewin’s shot around the post after Richarlison played him in. Two minutes later, Brennan smothered Sigurdsson’s shot behind for a corner.
Richarlison glanced it in, just as Yerry Mina headed home Rodriguez’s next delivery – brought about by an excellent finger-tip save – two minutes later to make it 3-0.
After 65 minutes Brennan headed off the line from Calvert-Lewin but Ancelotti had been sated, soon bringing his centre-forward off and giving Thierry Small and Tyler Onyango debuts. Bannan and Reach’s legs were also spared, Jack Marriott making his return from injury for the final 10 minutes.
Everton: Olsen; Coleman, Holgate, Mina, Godfrey (Kenny 75); Doucoure, Gomes (Onyango 85); Sigurdsson, Rodriguez (Small 85), Richarlison (Gordon 75); Calvert-Lewin (Bernard 67). Unused substitutes: Pickford, Keane, Davies, Lossl.
Sheffield Wednesday: Wildsmith; Urhoghide, Brennan, Borner; Harris, Pelupessy, Bannan (Dele-Bashiru 68), Galvin (Penney 60); Reach (Marriott 80), Green (Windass 46); Paterson (Brown 60). Unused substitutes: Palmer, Hunt, Kachunga.
Referee: G Scott (Oxfordshire).
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