football

Dominic Calvert-Lewin ends drought as Everton sink Sheffield Wednesday


There are some nights where an FA Cup upset can almost be felt in the air around you. This, from a very early stage, was not one of them. Everton and Sheffield Wednesday have contested the final on two occasions but here, you only ever felt that it would be the Premier League side whose ambitions would continue for at least another round.

In truth, things could not have gone much better for Carlo Ancelotti against a side whose performance and recent form is much more impressive than their league position suggests. As such, that made this a potentially tricky tie to navigate, but the manner in which Everton got the job done will have been mightily encouraging. Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s return from injury marked with a goal, James Rodríguez once again looking back to somewhere near his best, and debuts for academy graduates Thierry Small and Tyler Onyango – the former becoming the club’s youngest-ever player in the process, aged 16 years and 176 days.

This was, all things considered, as seamless a night as any Everton supporter could have hoped for. “We were dominant from start to finish,” Everton’s assistant manager, Duncan Ferguson, said after they set up a tie with either Wycombe or Tottenham in the next round. “We were a bit worried at half-time we hadn’t got the second one, but through the course of the 90 minutes we were really dominant.”

Credit must go to Sheffield Wednesday, in the Championship’s relegation zone but on a recent run of form since Tony Pulis’s dismissal which suggests they are capable of getting out of trouble. The way they applied themselves here against a far superior side suggests their season is by no means beyond turning around under their interim manager, Neil Thompson.

But this was always a case of when, rather than if, Everton put this tie to bed. In the end, it was two goals in three minutes either side of the hour mark that answered that question. Sheffield Wednesday’s keeper, Joe Wildsmith, had done a fine job of keeping them in the tie to that point, but he was powerless to prevent the goals that ended it as a contest.

Thierry Small came off the bench to become Everton’s youngest ever player.
Thierry Small came off the bench to become Everton’s youngest ever player. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

Rodríguez, whose passing looked at its measured best all night, provided the deliveries: first for Richarlison to head home, before Yerry Mina followed suit two minutes later, seconds after a stunning save from Wildsmith denied Richarlison his second. Sheffield Wednesday gave it a real go, but they could do little about the flair and attacking prowess of their opponents.

“We know they’ve loads of quality all over the pitch,” Thompson conceded. “You’ve got to be full tilt all across the pitch, but we just needed to penetrate them a bit more and have a bit more quality in the final third. We just came out of the blocks too slowly after half-time.” His side certainly were punished for that lethargy in ruthless fashion by the second and third goals.

Yet Everton could, and perhaps should, have been further ahead than the one-goal lead they had scored by half-time. When Calvert-Lewin turned home André Gomes’s pinpoint ball across the face of Wildsmith’s goal for his 15th of the season, and first since early December, the hosts had long since seized the initiative. “We’re delighted for him,” Ferguson said of Calvert-Lewin, who led Everton’s line impressively.

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Richarlison had already seen a goal ruled out for offside, while Calvert-Lewin came within a whisker of turning home a Gylfi Sigurdsson cross. At the other end, Robin Olsen parried away an Adam Reach strike in the early moments, but that was arguably the most serious threat he faced all evening. The visitors, as their manager conceded, lacked the potency in attack to really trouble Everton, but their energy will give them hope.

However, this was a night when Ancelotti’s side were back to somewhere like their best, with Richarlison and Mina’s headers no less than their dominance deserved. There are quite a few sides in the last 16 who will fancy their chances of ending their lengthy wait to lift the Cup. Why not Everton? There was certainly nothing to argue against that prospect here.



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