Everton’s cup drought goes on as Leicester edge through
If this was more like the Leicester City of last season, it was also same old rotten Everton. Defeat means, barring a miracle in the Premier League, they will not be able to win a trophy until 2018 at the earliest. Memories of their last, which came in this competition 22 years ago, will soon fade to sepia tint.
Leicester have not won in the league away from home this season, but they were ruthless in victory here. Thanks to Romelu Lukaku’s seventh FA Cup goal in seven FA Cup matches, Leicester had fallen behind in the 63rd minute. By minute 71, though, they were ahead; the speed of their attacks too quick for an Everton defence exposed by too many players further up the pitch not operating urgently enough with or without the ball.
Ahmed Musa’s pace terrified Ramiro Funes Mori in particular, and the forward bought last summer from CSKA Moscow is now looking to be a capable deputy for Jamie Vardy, who was absent from the Leicester team with a fever, despite Claudio Ranieri having expected him to start, after serving a three-match suspension.
“Everybody was scared when he attacked the space,” Ranieri said of Musa, who was involved at the beginning and the end of the moves that resulted in the goals that took Leicester through.
There was more positive news for Ranieri, with the performance of his £15m signing Wilfred Ndidi, the Nigerian who needed only two training sessions to convince his new manager that he was ready to start a game. Ndidi, brought in from Genk on Thursday to fill the N’Golo Kanté-shaped midfield void, is just 20 years old, but he was Leicester’s standout player.
When he went thigh-to-thigh with Lukaku in a challenge, it was tempting to describe the engagement as an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. The sight of Lukaku being sent sprawling to the floor removed that possibility. The sight of Ndidi dominating his opponents, indeed, must have been a source of frustration for Ronald Koeman.
Everton’s manager admitted afterwards he is desperate for new signings, and given that Steve Walsh, the club’s director of football, was recruited from Leicester only last summer, you wonder whether Ndidi’s name was ever suggested as a potential target. Koeman chose to praise the efforts of Tom Davies, Everton’s teenage midfielder – and yet the comment felt like some kind of warning – perhaps even to Walsh. “If a young player at 19 is one of the best players on the pitch, it says enough,” he said. “I hope everybody knows what the team needs to play and get the results.”
Koeman was furious with Everton’s reaction to taking the lead: a tap-in by Lukaku from Gerard Deulofeu’s cross. No Everton player sensed the danger when Demarai Gray received the ball and proceeded to run with it. Musa – introduced in the first half because of an injury to Leonardo Ulloa – needed two stabs at the subsequent pass that came his way.
Musa’s second goal was rather more convincing, though; the product of some unusually patient build-up around the box by his team-mates, affording him the necessary space to slide a brilliant finish beyond Joel Robles. It means Everton’s long wait drags on.