x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Saha strikes Everton to the semi-finals

An inspired half-time substitution by David Moyes sees his Everton side comeback from behind to beat Middlesbrough.

Loius Saha came off the bench to score the winner to send Everton through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
Loius Saha came off the bench to score the winner to send Everton through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

A remarkable turnaround sent Everton back to Wembley for the first time since 1995. Middlesbrough had stifled the Toffees in a poor first-half and were leading deservedly at the break through David Wheater's header a minute from half-time. But the Everton boss David Moyes made an inspired substitution at the break, sending on Louis Saha for the raw youngster Jack Rodwell. Everton stormed back with two goals in six minutes at the beginning of the second period. Marouane Fellaini headed Everton level before Saha soared in the six-yard box to head the winner to set up a semi-final trip to Wembley. Everton made just one change from the side that drew in midweek at Blackburn. Fellaini came into the starting line-up in place of the cup-tied Brazilian striker Jo. It meant that Tim Cahill, Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman, all nursing minor knocks from the Ewood Park game, were passed fit to play. Middlesbrough named an unchanged side despite losing 4-0 at Spurs last time out. The manager Gareth Southgate continued to keep faith with the team that had beaten Liverpool last weekend. And Middlesbrough opened up with a pace and movement that surprised Everton and had them defending in depth.

The goalkeeper Tim Howard had to race from his line to punch the ball off Jeremie Aliadiere's head before Joseph Yobo charged down a Stewart Downing drive. And Boro should have been ahead after 10 minutes. Justin Hoyte's astute pass sent Matthew Bates into the box. But when the midfielder's pass was laid back invitingly, Aliadiere wastefully lifted his effort over the bar from 12-yards. Everton's first chance came when Yobo jumped at the near post to send in a header from Osman's corner that was held by keeper Brad Jones. Osman saw a 15-yard strike deflected for a corner and from Pienaar's corner-kick the ball flashed across goal and just wide of the far post. Everton chances were minimal as the game was becoming a war of attrition between Cahill and Fellaini and the Boro central defenders Robert Huth and Wheater. Mark Halsey, the referee, was left to adjudicate as the collisions continued between the foursome, not always to the liking of Everton's fans. Cahill looked to have been pushed off the ball by Wheater after 40 minutes in the box but the penalty appeals were turned down.

Then Jones needed to dive low to his right to turn away a Fellaini header from Phil Jagielka's cross. But a minute from the break Middlesbrough were ahead. Bates crossed from the right and Wheater rose above Everton's defence to send a downward header that Howard got a hand to but could not keep out despite a desperate attempt to claw the ball back from behind the line. Everton took off Rodwell at the break and sent Saha on with Cahill moving back into his more orthodox midfield role. Boro could have had a second soon after the break when Tuncay Sanli's cross was met by Aliadiere in the six-yard box but his shot was deflected just wide. But it was Everton who were level after 50 minutes. Cahill's long cross swirled into the box and Fellaini jumped to head home, Jones, having started to advance to meet the ball, stopped allowing the ball to loop over his head. Six minutes later Everton were ahead. Pienaar crossed from the left and Saha arrived at the near post to glance another header wide of the stranded Jones. Leighton Baines almost made it three after 64 minutes, curling a free kick against the bar after Cahill had been fouled on the edge of the box. Boro sent on Marvin Emnes for Aliadiere after 68 minutes but Boro were looking deflated and Bates was flattened by a ferocious tackle from the excellent Phil Neville. Bates soldiered on for a few more minutes but was soon replaced by Adam Johnson. Pienaar and Saha combined to give Fellaini the chance for a shot that was deflected just wide, Everton striving to settle the tie with Boro still rocking. Saha could have settled it when presented with a clear chance by Osman's pass. Dan Gosling came on for Pienaar with a minute left. Everton were not there yet with Howard spilling a Gary O'Neil free kick in injury-time but Joleon Lescott came to the rescue by hooking clear. *PA Sport