LIVERPOOL, England — Soccer doesn’t always have to be beautiful to provide 10 out of 10 points of entertainment. It can also be maddening, full of errors, exasperating and animated by flashes of genius to be as memorable as the team’s most majestic performance. Anyone who doubts this should just re-enact 120 minutes of Everton’s 5-4 FA Cup victory over Tottenham Hotspur.
Spurs coach Jose Mourinho will not be able to attend one of the most memorable games of the season after seeing his side eliminated in the fifth round at Goodison Park. The defeat ended Tottenham Hotspur’s hopes of doubling their cup win, after they already faced Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final in April. But the Spurs had their share of FA Cup heroics, including a hat-trick of assists (and a goal) from former Tottenham midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson, two stunning goals from Richarlison, some disastrous defensive corner kicks from Everton and a textbook display from center strikers Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Harry Kane.
Pep Guardiola has shown City in recent weeks that a top team can do without a center striker if they field the right player in the false-nine position, even though Sergio Aguero is still out due to COVID-19. But if you thought Guardiola had put the classic No9 behind him, the performances of Calvert-Lewin and Kane opposite England coach Gareth Southgate were definitive proof that an effective center striker can be a very important figure in any team.
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Everton dominated until Calvert-Levin, who scored in the first half, limped off the field in the 53rd minute with a thigh injury. At the same time, Kane was brought off the bench by Mourinho with the task of saving his team, which was then trailing 3-2. Kane’s change tipped the balance in Tottenham’s favor and he made a crucial contribution by converting a pass from Son Heung-min in the 83rd minute, making it 4-4 and sending the game to extra time.
But Calvert-Levin and Kane were merely contestants in a show in which many others played the lead roles.
How about Davinson Sanchez? The Colombian defender has scored just once in 137 games for Spurs since joining Ajax in 2017. However, he has scored twice at the Goodison Stadium – both times after Everton made a weak defensive attempt. In the fourth minute, Sanchez showed with his first header that he needs to help Mourinho’s team score.
But both goalkeepers had nights to forget. Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was unconvincing and there was not much to say about Robin Olsen who brought composure to Everton’s goal in place of the talented but unreliable Jordan Pickford. Spurs clearly identified Olsen’s ability in the corners as a weakness. Every time the ball was kicked, panic reigned in Everton’s defense.
The Spurs defense was equal when Sigurdsson had the ball or Richarlison ran at goal. Both players played a crucial role in Everton’s victory and if Calvert-Lewin’s Achilles tendon needs time on the sidelines, he will need to continue his momentum against City and Liverpool next week. After that performance, Everton coach Carlo Ancelotti will likely find it difficult to keep Sigurdsson out of playmaker James Rodriguez’s team when he returns to the Premier League against Fulham at the weekend.
Mourinho was not so lucky with his assistants. Gareth Bale was not even in the squad and Mourinho said before the game that the Real Madrid winger was not injured but simply had “feelings that he did not like.” Dele Alli, on the other hand, was substituted in the 77th minute and offered little.
Mourinho had already called the 5-4 final score a “field hockey result” after Arsenal beat Spurs by the same score in 2004, but that was not the case when substitute Bernard scored his ninth goal of the game seven minutes into extra time after Sigurdsson converted an assist.
Error!!! Movie not specified.Everton beat Tottenham by nine goals in FA Cup thriller. Tottenham Hotspur/Tottenham Hotspur via Getty Images
“I liked it… And I didn’t like it,” Mourinho said after the defeat. “I liked the way we played. We were successful, we moved a lot, we scored goals, we created chances, we showed a lot of character and we made incredible mistakes, but with attacking soccer you only win games if you don’t make more mistakes than you create. We scored four goals and that was not enough.
“It hurts everyone. We were brave, we were the better team at 1-0 and five minutes later it was mistake, mistake, mistake, goal, goal.
“We fought to go back, but we made other mistakes. It was the mouse and the cat. The mouse was our mistake and the cat was our attempt to make up for it”.
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For Everton, the desperate wait for their first cup win since 1995 could end this season after reaching the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. All the excitement of the match may have affected Ancelotti, but the Italian chose instead to send his assistant Duncan Ferguson to address the media afterwards.
“Fantastic match, brilliant match,” Ferguson said. “The defense struggled, we had some trouble with set-pieces and they struggled in the corners. We were down 1-0 and we came back in the match. We played a lot of good soccer – and we lost the goal-scoring lead.
It’s not surprising, really. There were nine in all, and they contributed to an FA Cup classic in which all the good things about the game came out – even if the defense was enough to give managers nightmares.
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