Verdict from Joe Thomas after Everton beat Burnley 3-0 at Goodison Park to set-up a Carabao Cup quarter-final showdown at home to Marco Silva’s Fulham
If last week felt like a cruel test destined to forge a siege mentality, this week Everton have shown this is a club that is up for the battle ahead.
After a hard-fought and superb, morale-boosting win at West Ham United on Sunday, Burnley wilted under the lights of the Grand Old Lady on Wednesday night. Save for the final 20 minutes of the first half, when Everton’s carelessness threatened to offer the visitors a route back into the tie, Sean Dyche could not have dreamt of an easier passage into the quarter0finals of a major cup competition.
The comfort with which the Blues overpowered their opponents gave this the feeling of a summer friendly. The polite celebrations that greeted the first two goals echoed that sentiment.
That the third, in stoppage time, came just after murmurs of a well-known song about heading to Wembley, tells its own story of the hope that grew as minds were able to wander in the second half. Talk of points deductions and dodgy Merseyside derby refereeing decisions felt distant and, on a poignant night on which Everton paid tribute to chairman Bill Kenwright, dreams of a run in the cup began to flicker.
This Carabao Cup match was won once Amadou Onana poked in from close range in the 54th minute to build on the lead provided by James Tarkowski. Two of the most significant moments of the game followed the goals that laid the foundation for what would become a 3-0 win and took place long before Ashley Young’s stoppage-time bonus strike.
Five minutes after Onana scored the Gwladys Street burst into song that reverberated around Goodison Park. It was the first time the crowd had made its presence known since the round of applause in tribute to Kenwright just before kick-off. Quite simply, up to that point Everton had been so comfortable that a fanbase that has been called upon to exert so much energy and passion over recent years was given an opportunity to relax. Ten minutes later Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Arnaut Danjuma were taken off and while Dyche would never likely admit it, the changes felt like an acknowledgement the game had been won. More would follow – which is unusual for the Blues boss and was a clear sign of his confidence a win was guaranteed over his former club. He eventually made all five available to him.
Calvert-Lewin created the second goal in a move that summed up this game. When a long ball dropped over the Burnley backline, Arijanet Muric stayed in his box and centre-backs Dara O’Shea and Ameen Al-Dakhi struggled to respond. When Calvert-Lewin pounced the pair’s efforts to intervene unfolded in slow motion but, as though he could not believe his luck, Calvert-Lewin checked back and allowed them to close down the effort that followed. Any frustration at a missed chance to get the second goal that everyone in L4 knew would take this match beyond Burnley was soon forgotten when Onana prodded in from close range from the corner that followed.
And that was it. That really was the game. The second goal did after 54 minutes what it likely would have done had it came on the heels of Tarkowski’s opener. That came as Everton started well. And, in the opening 20 minutes, the most pressing question was how many the Blues would win by. They quickly overwhelmed and overpowered their opponents. The breakthrough came after 13 minutes and was deserved. The ease with which Tarkowski rose unchallenged to place a header into the corner of Muric’s net after his fellow former Claret Dwight McNeil glided into space and floated a cross in from the left gave the goal the feeling of a training ground exercise. It was so simple it felt like a pre-season friendly effort and was almost greeted as such: Everton’s fans were already expectant.
The home side continued to dominate, McNeil sending a rasping drive over from 20 yards as Royal Blue shirts swamped the midfield, seized the ball and sprung forward. The first half changed 25 minutes in when a Burnley attack allowed the visitors to gain a foothold. A scrappy piece of play in the middle led to the ball being fed to Vitinho on the Burnley right. He carried the ball across the pitch and towards the Blues’ box, evading challenges before playing Jacob Bruun Larsen in down the right. Jarrad Branthwaite scrambled across to block the effort for a corner but it was a warning that Burnley could pose a threat.
As Everton’s grip on the game loosened, Vincent Kompany’s players briefly grew in confidence. James Garner was forced to track back and clear a dangerous ball that ran across the face of goal before Nathan Redmond prodded against the post from a tight angle as Burnley continued to cause problems down Everton’s right.
By half-time his team still led, but Dyche would have been pleased for the chance to impose himself on a group of players that had lost control of a game that was clearly there for the taking. Nine minutes after his chat ended, his players had done just that.
All of a sudden, even with some 35 minutes remaining and Young’s first competitive goal for the club still to come, Everton had won five games in seven and a club with the world seemingly against it is three matches from Wembley. Que Sera, Sera…