Everton v Sunderland
Magaye Gueye scored his first Everton goal to set up a thumping victory over Sunderland and may just have played his way into a Wembley start in the process.
That’s right. It is now okay to talk about it. Wembley.
With a certain symmetry to it, the Blues completed a potentially tricky parcel of league games by seeing off the team they had vanquished in the last eight of the cup.
And they didn’t just beat them. They walloped them.
After opening the scoring in the 51st minute Gueye set up both Leon Osman and the majestic Steven Pienaar to curl fantastic goals into the same corner of Simon Mignolet’s net. Victor Anichebe then made it 4-0 with his now customary goal from the bench.
With their fine win at the Stadium of Light setting up an all-Merseyside semi-final, it would have been all too easy to lose focus on an immediate triple dose of Premier League action.
But this second half goal-fest made it seven points from nine since then and sent the Blues off to London with a spring in their step.
Some things are certain. Death, taxes, Lee Cattermole bookings and that Everton will beat Sunderland at Goodison Park.
The Wearsiders haven’t triumphed here since 1996 and the Blues have now taken 26 points from 30 available in the last 10 meetings on home soil.
And after a turgid first-half, a weakened Everton team topped up that stat by suddenly clicking into gear and swaggering to maximum points.
Understandably, David Moyes opted to rest some key members of his squad so Baines, Cahill and Jelavic all needn’t have bothered to bring their kit.
Instead there was a chance for the likes of James McFadden, Denis Stracqualursi and Gueye to remind everyone of their talents and make a case for inclusion in next week’s squad.
With this being the fourth meeting between the sides this term and minds inevitably drifting elsewhere, Goodison started a little flat and a tepid opening spell did little to enliven things.
A silky run and subsequent inch-perfect cross from Pienaar whistled past the forehead of the straining Stracqualursi but that was about it from the hosts in the first 20 minutes.
It wasn’t as if the visitors had offered much, however, with the clawless Black Cats more concerned with keeping a stoic 4-1-4-1 formation with the prickly Cattermole protecting the back four and recognised midfielder Stephane Sessegnon used as the lone striker.
The familiarity between the sides, their personnel and tactics probably added to the caginess.
Marouane Fellaini, McFadden and Pienaar all shot at goal without success while when the visitors did manage an effort, Sessegnon’s acrobatic volley sailed wide.
That was a highlight of a fairly sterile half where the Blues looked the more likely without ever really opening up their frigid guests.
The pattern changed little after the break but the hosts didn’t have to wait long to get a reward for their greater urgency.
Osman drilled a half volley through a crowd of players – his shot too hot for Mignolet – and Gueye pounced to smash home a memorable goal.
Martin O’Neill had never lost a league game at Goodison but he has now, with that strike well and truly opening the floodgates.
Pienaar used his man as a shield to disguise a beautiful arcing shot that flew into the far corner.
Moments later Osman trumped that with an even better effort which kissed the post on the way in to add to its aesthetic quality.
And with the visitors in disarray and Anichebe lethal from the bench this term, it was no surprise to see the Nigerian add to Sunderland’s woes with a deflected fourth.
Tell me ma, me ma…