Everton vs. Cardiff City: 6 Things We Learned
Everton responded to FA Cup heartache with a dramatic, last-gasp 2-1 win over Cardiff.
The Toffees controlled long periods of the game but took until the 59th minute to carve out a lead—Gerard Deulofeu supplying the finish via a fortuitous deflection.
Nine minutes later, however, some lethargic defending allowed Cardiff back into the game, as Juan Cala steered home a set piece.
The hosts pressed for a winner and, with 90 minutes elapsed, finally secured the points through Seamus Coleman's scuffed strike.
Here's a look at some Everton-related talking points to emerge from this game.
Same System, but a Lack of Familiarity in Attack
Roberto Martinez fielded an attacking line-up, selecting Kevin Mirallas and Deulofeu in the same team for the very first time.
Many expected a slightly altered system with a more cavalier approach, but this new combination still slotted into Everton's regular shape.
Leon Osman shifted over to the left—filling Steven Pienaar's narrow role—Deulofeu provided width on the right, leaving Mirallas to roam behind the striker.
While the Toffees produced slick moments in the final third, it's fair to say their attacking unit suffered from a degree of unfamiliarity.
Prior to this match, Deulofeu and Mirallas had been on the pitch together for just 104 minutes all season—something that became more evident as the first half progressed.
Several runs were not anticipated, and clever movement was often ignored.
Players would resort to shooting, instead of looking up to find a team-mate, and there were too many moments of individuality over team interplay.
This combination clearly carries explosive potential, but there was not enough cohesion in this display.
Shooting Pains for Mirallas
Mirallas spent most of the first period either dwelling on the ball or shooting with other players better placed.
By half-time, the Belgian had already fired off six shots, with only one finding the target. In comparison, the rest of his team-mates had managed just four in total, twice testing the goalkeeper.
To put those numbers into perspective, Barkley's eight shots against Sunderland are the only time an Everton player has recorded more in a Premier League match all season—yet Mirallas' return in this game was from just 45 minutes!
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Belgian's recorded more shots (70) than any Everton player under Martinez. He has the potential to win games on his own but is so often inconsistent, spending long periods of play on the fringes.
This was very much another frustrating afternoon. His six shots by half-time accompanied just 14 successful passes, emphasising his unwillingness to look up and pass.
This is not a ratio befitting a team's No. 10.
Marshall Heroics Caused the Drama
The nature and timing of Coleman's winning goal paints a picture of a fortuitous win, as does Everton's lack of fluency between their attackers.
The Toffees were certainly lucky in the end, but their performance merited the points and only a series of stunning saves kept the visitors in the game.
Despite some excessive shooting from range, Everton controlled vast periods of the contest and created enough chances (14) to win.
David Marshall twice denied Romelu Lukaku with his fingertips, reacting especially fast to a deflection. He also saved well from Mirallas and Deulofeu and was perhaps only likely to be beaten by such a slashed finish.
Without the Scottish goalkeeper, this game would not have included its late drama.
Coleman on Course for Double Figures?
Coleman's winner continued his remarkable run of goals this season.
He's currently the Premier League's top-scoring defender, with six, and this goal was his seventh in all competitions.
Everton have enjoyed high-scoring defenders in recent campaigns: Leighton Baines registered seven in two of his past three seasons, while Joleon Lescott managed 10 in 2007/08.
However, those tallies were boosted by several set piece strikes. What distinguishes Coleman's return is the fact that all seven strikes have come from open play—a testament to his constant urge to rampage forward.
Before this season, the Irishman had seven goals in 102 appearances for Everton. He's now doubled that career tally in just 31 more games.
With 10 fixtures remaining, Coleman will fancy his chances of reaching double figures this season. Lescott's club record of eight Premier League goals from a defender is also very achievable.
Key Input from Barry and McGeady
While Everton's winner was fortunate, it's creation was anything but and owed a lot to two of Everton's better performers.
Gareth Barry responded from an uncharacteristic slip in the FA Cup to masterfully dictate this game. He moved his side around at pace and demonstrated his full range of passing.
In total, he made 93 passes, the third most by an Everton player all season and 36 more than any other player on the field. He put his major blemish at Arsenal behind him and once again played a key role in an Everton win.
Another important contribution came from Aiden McGeady. The Irish winger's been slow finding his feet at the Toffees, starting just two games since his January arrival.
This time, however, his introduction provided his side with a crucial spark. He played with urgency, showing quick feet, clever skill and a persistent ability to create room and deliver.
His poise to cross over Marshall, combined with Barry's determination to reach the ball were both deserving of Coleman's luck.
Fortress Goodison the Key to Europe
Coleman's late winner preserved the Toffees' flawless home record in 2014.
In six matches, Everton now have six wins, scoring 14 and conceding just three goals in the process.
Goodison Park has become increasingly formidable in recent times; indeed, only December's 10-man defeat to Sunderland prevented the Toffees going through 2013 unbeaten.
Statistics via WhoScored.com.