Everton face the prospect of an FA Cup replay with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light after drawing the first match 1-1 on Saturday, and waiting the winners of the replay are Liverpool, potentially offering David Moyes an early chance to atone for the derby defeat of last week.
The match with Sunderland summed up Everton’s season in microcosm. Much like the campaign as a whole Everton started the 90 minutes slowly and then faced a race against time to make up lost ground. The first 15 minutes or so against Sunderland saw Everton fail to turn up as the Black Cats began with greater tempo and purpose, but once Everton did arrive they were on top for most of the match. Yet they lacked the punch to break down the Sunderland rear guard more than once as the importance of the clean sheets Everton have kept in their last few home games was underscored. Falling behind is potentially lethal to Everton. Even with the impressive Nikica Jelavic leading the line and Tim Cahill, who entered possibly his best performance of the season, in support it is still a struggle for Everton to find the back of the net, particularly without the cup-tied Steven Pienaar.
In the absence of Pienaar Royston Drenthe was the winger Everton looked towards to enliven their performance and while life with the Dutchman around is never dull, it is not always profitable either. Drenthe is possibly the most enigmatic player seen at Goodison in years, certainly since Thomas Gravesen was marauding through midfield in one instance and shooting wildly from impossible distance the next. It took Moyes to fathom Gravesen and engender the form that tempted Real Madrid, the same club from which Drenthe is on loan. In his short spell on Merseyside Moyes may not get to the bottom of Drenthe but could be suitably impressed to take the player on a free transfer, particularly after seeing the best and worst of the 24-year-old against Sunderland. Drenthe saw much of the ball and usually over-hit his cross or blindly ran into the full-back, but also struck the bar with a free-kick and worried Sunderland with his sheer pace. A more consistent performance from Drenthe could yet take Everton to Wembley.
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