One – Middlesbrough find Deulofeu unplayable.
On a fantastic night for Everton, one player shone head and shoulders above the rest. Gerard Deulofeu was sensational and the Middlesbrough defence simply could not cope with his movement and trickery.
His direct running, his vision and passing were superb and his finish to put Everton ahead was of the highest order.
The opening goal was brilliant, Deulofeu picked the ball up halfway inside the Middlesbrough half and ran towards goal, beating two players, demonstrating strength and excellent control before fooling Daniel Ayala by closing his foot on a shot into the corner of the goal. As Deulofeu ran away in celebration the Middlesbrough defence were left dumbfounded, scarcely believing what had just happened.
Eight minutes later the Spaniard completed a fantastic Everton move to assist yet another goal for Romelu Lukaku. 26 passes had been completed before Barkley found Deulofeu with a cross field pass, Deulofeu stood up his man, bamboozled him with an array of step-overs before skipping past the defender and lofting a perfect ball onto the head of Lukaku to effectively seel the tie.
Two – Did Lukaku miss Arouna Kone?
The scoresheet would suggest not, with Lukaku helping himself to his sixth goal in the last five Everton matches. It was also his 13th of the season and left him just one short of 50 goals in an Everton shirt.
In the second half however, Lukaku became increasingly isolated, with Everton sitting back on the lead and Middlesbrough determined to fight their way back into the tie. Balls up to the Belgium became more direct and the gap between the midfield and Lukaku was so large he frequently lost possession. This is not a criticism of Romelu, the striker has fully justified his price tag this season and this website has constantly backed him, even through difficult times. I personally feel that he is a more dangerous player when supported, a role that Arouna Kone has done brilliantly from the left hand side in recent weeks. The Ivorian’s performance levels dipped at the weekend and maybe that explained his omissions from the team. But with Leon Osman operating from the left, he wasn’t able to get close enough to Lukaku and this prevented Everton from building attacks from a more advanced position on the pitch. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see Kone restored to the side for Monday night’s match against Crystal Palace.
Three – Glimpse of Baines shows what we’ve been missing
Leighton Baines only entered the pitch in the 73rd minute, but in the 21 minutes he spent on the pitch we got a quick glimpse of what Everton have been missing. Brendon Galloway has been superb in Baines’ absence, but Leighton is one of the, if not the best left back in the league and immediately on his arrival Everton began to look a threat on the left.
Baines will almost certainly retake his place in the team against Crystal Palace and as a result I expect Everton to have a more balanced attacking threat. He will also bring some much needed experience to the defence and I am almost certain Everton’s consistency will improve now that Baines has returned. It is certainly good to have him back.
Four – What next for Kevin Mirallas?
Kevin Mirallas finds himself in a really difficult position at Everton. The fantastic form of Gerard Deulofeu has left him looking in from the outside and with Roberto Martinez preferring to use Kone on the left he has struggled to force his way into the team.
Last night’s team selection, with Leon Osman chosen ahead of the Belgium, clearly upset Mirallas and he cut short any post-match celebrations, quickly exiting the pitch at the full time whistle. During his brief appearance he did have opportunity to assist a goal for Lukaku, but with his eagerness to make an impact he chose to go alone and the chance was lost.
It is hard to see how he can break into the team at the moment, but injuries will inevitably kick in and with a packed schedule in December and January he is sure to get the chance to impress. When that opportunity does arrive he needs to be at his very best and with an exemplary attitude.
Five – Martinez recognises the importance of the cup
If questions have been raised by Roberto Martinez’ team selection in the earlier rounds of the Capital One Cup, it was clear in his selection last night that the League Cup is very much at the top of Everton’s priority list. With the exception of a change in goal (which most supporters believe is a positive outcome) Martinez picked his strongest available team. Cleverley, who started the season well before missing out through injury, replaced James McCarthy who overextended his hip in the draw with Bournemouth. The only other change saw Leon Osman replace Arouna Kone who looked fatigued at the weekend.
With Barkley and Deulofeu starting (after spending much of the competition coming off the bench to rescue Everton from perilous positions), the Blues quickly stamped their authority on the match and with a full strength backline, supported by the brilliant Gareth Barry Everton never really looked like conceding. The semi-final draw could be key in deciding Everton’s fate, but with the Blues at full strength we should fancy our chances against any of the teams left in the hat.