IT’S ON NOW. Everton set up a mouth-watering FA Cup semi-final against Merseyside rivals Liverpool with a 2-0 win over Sunderland tonight.
A fine first-half performance from the Toffees at the Stadium of Light was capped by a super finish from Nikica Jelavic after good work from Magaye Gueye.
Martin O’Neill attempted to rejuvenate his lacklustre Sunderland side with a number of attacking changes in the second half, but the substitutions had little effect on the game as Everton only extended their lead thanks to a calamitous David Vaughan own goal.
It was the visitors who made the brighter start of the two teams, and they perhaps should have taken an early lead when Leon Osman evaded the Sunderland offside trap before clipping the ball in to an unmarked Jelavic, but the Croatian failed to make sufficient contact with his header.
The early warning sparked the home side into action, yet Everton were still posing a threat from set-pieces, and Simon Mignolet had to be at his absolute best to deny Tim Cahill and then Jelavic. Despite the Belgian’s early heroics he was helpless to prevent the Toffees taking the lead midway through the first half.
After the visitors had worked the ball down the left, Gueye cut back a low, first-time ball to the unmarked Jelavic, who supplied a classy side footed finish to beat Mignolet at his near post, sending nearly 7,000 travelling Merseysiders into raptures. The remainder of the half was a relatively even contest, with both sides being reduced to long-range efforts which never looked like testing Tim Howard or Mignolet, respectively, as the home side departed the field to a chorus of boos.
The second half began in a similar vein to the first with Everton looking to extend their lead. And they came within a whisker of doing so just two minutes in, when Osman peeled off towards the edge of the box from a corner. The ball eventually reached the midfielder via a number of deflections and he fired a sweet, right-footed volley just inches over the crossbar with Mignolet rooted to the spot.
With Moyes’ men dominating, O’Neill introduced David Vaughan in an attempt to strengthen the Black Cats’ midfield, but the move back-fired horribly. After Marouane Fellaini had played a ball through to the unmarked Jelavic, the Croatia international slid it under Mignolet, only for the retreating Vaughan to bundle the ball over his own goalline in comical fashion.
The visitors’ second of the evening sparked the contest into life as a full-blooded cup-tie ensued, with Stephane Sessegnon hooking the ball against the post from two yards out prior to Jelavic inexplicably firing wide with only Mignolet to beat. With the game becoming increasingly stretched, Moyes replaced the impressive Gueye with Phil Jagielka as the Toffees shut up shop and saw out an impressive 2-0 victory.
The win means Sunderland have failed to beat Everton in any of their previous 16 encounters. Liverpool await Moyes’ men in the semi-final, while Sunderland will now look to concentrate on the chase for European football.