EVERTON 3 (Traore 4, Naismith 65, Baines pen 71) – SWANSEA CITY 1 (De Guzman 15)
A constipated performance from Everton – they were hesitant and inhibited – only became free-flowing and more assured with the introduction of Steven Naismith and Leon Osman with thirty minutes to go. Prior to that, even the relaxant of a goal after four minutes from new-boy Lacina Traore failed to settle them and it was the visitors who played with greater enterprise and penetration. Frustratingly every time Everton pressured the Swansea defence it looked brittle, and had the Blues been playing with more belief, they might have blown away the opposition. Swansea though, were back on equal terms after just fifteen minutes, when Roland Lamah’s cross evaded both Jagielka and Distin and Jonathan de Guzman, one of the shortest and least prolific players on the pitch, got in front of Baines and headed powerfully past Joel Robles.
Traore’s early goal came after good work by Sylvain Distin; he created the opening and the centre-forward finished it with a deft back-heel – at 6ft 8 his legs are long, very long, and the leverage he gets on a flick, one of his favourite tricks, is significant. After that promising early start Traore faded. He will take time to acclimatise to the speed and physicality of the Premier League, but we can see one problem already. Goodison needs to love its centre-forwards. Working hard and chasing lost causes is part of that and so is winning your fair share of balls in the air. Martinez has already alluded to the fact that Traore is “better with his feet than his head” which very quickly became obvious. The Ivorian won very little in the air. The match stats show he lost 6 aerial duels and won 2. From my seat in the Park End the growing frustration of those around me was obvious – especially since he never seemed to jump; which leaves the perception, true or not, that he isn’t trying. No matter how good the rest of his game, this will rankle, the groans will persist, it may or may not matter. We merely note the fact.
Naismith and Osman replaced Traore and Barkley with thirty minutes left on the clock. The impact of Naismith’s intelligent link-up play and the contrast with what had gone before was like night and day. The Scot completed 11 passes in his 28 minutes – Traore 8 in his 61 minutes. Like the man he replaced Naismith scored within five minute of his arrival, latching onto a terrible back-pass by Neil Taylor and rolling the ball past the onrushing Tremmel. This was the turning point; Swansea never recovered and the game was put to bed when seven minutes later Naismith coaxed a rash challenge out of Ashley Richards and Leighton Baines buried the resultant penalty. More goals could have come; Mirallas and Pienaar failed to trouble the keeper when presented with clear opportunities, both from Coleman crosses. After his injury lay off the full-back is playing himself back into form and the longer the game went, the better he got. By the time that mouth-watering quarter-final at the Emirates comes round he will be at his best.
With a few minutes remaining Naismith was flattened by Jordi Amat and eventually had to come off because of concussion and was, apparently, oblivious to his role in maintaining Everton’s push in the Cup. “I told him that he scored from 40 yards,” Martinez said with a smile. “He is an incredible footballer, a real dedicated boy and I am just delighted for him. He is enjoying his football now. When he plays through the middle, he is at his very best. He is instinctive and a real threat.”
EVERTON (4-2-3-1): Robles; Coleman, Jagielka©, Distin, Baines; McCarthy, Barry; Mirallas (Deulofeu 87), Barkley (Osman 61), Pienaar; Traore (Naismith 61)
Unused subs: Howard, Hibbert, McGeady, Stones
SWANSEA (4-2-3-1): Tremmel; Richards, Bartley (Williams© 30), Amat, Taylor; Canas, De Guzman; Hernandez, Routledge (Dyer 46), Lamah (Lita 69); Vazquez
Unused subs: Vorm, Britton, Bony, Tiendalli
Booked: Amat, Lita, Canas
Ref: Kevin Friend