Judging by recent form, it was hard to tell who would have the edge going into this game considering Everton's last game was a 2-0 win away from home at Swansea, a feat only a select few can say they have achieved, Manchester United and surprisingly Norwich; Sunderland however, have been superb at home ever since Martin O'Neill took over in early December, losing and drawing only once; but this is the FA Cup, so form counts for almost nothing and it's the team that turns up on the pitch that counts, last night it was definitely Everton that were raring to go.
In the first 25 minutes of the game, Everton were the dominating force, quit, controlled passing across the field kept Sunderland off the ball which meant Everton could really play their own game, even when Sunderland had the ball Everton pressed and hassled them into making small errors which an alert Everton picked up on well. The continuous hassling and good team play by the away side eventually proved its worth in the 24th minute when Magaye Gueye served a speculative cross in to the area where Nikica Jelavić was waiting unmarked to slot the ball calmly in to the keeper's near post. This was ultimately a Kyrgiakos mistake because he was ball watching and had no idea where Jelavić was so the latter could pick his place and not be pressured on the ball.
The game evened out a bit after the goal but it seemed Everton had the desire to keep up the hard work and this ultimately payed off. I haven't seen a side work that hard all game and keep their composure throughout a game for a long while so this particularly impressed me. By the end of the first half most people watching thought the second half would be a complete turnaround with Sunderland pulling at least one back after the break, I certainly did... It was not to be, if anything, Everton cam out of the blocks in the second half just as they did in the first; they pressed hard, passed well and played a really effective game. Leon Osman and Magaye Gueye particularly impressed me last night, Osman bossed the midfield in both an attacking and defending sense; he kept Sunderland busy by breaking up play and opening up gaps for the likes of Cahill and Gueye, a real key player. The amount of chances created by the away side was particularly good and indeed a change from their usual, dull style of play seen in the EPL; Jelavić should have had at least one more and Gueye had a chance in the second half.
In my personal opinion I think Jelavić, although he had a decent game he could have done better; it didn't look like he had been part of the team for long and I think is still adapting to Everton's tactics, he seemed to me like he lacked sharpness at clinical moments although his composure is good, shown by his goal midway through the first half. They should have scored three or more the performance they put in, Everton showed a lot of desire to win the game and continued to do so throughout. Sunderland didn't really show what they have done in previous weeks at home and it definitely showed, Bendtner and David Vaughan had poor games although you have to feel sorry for Vaughan. His own goal three minutes after he appeared on the pitch after conceding possession in his own half was far from ideal for the team's confidence. The last 15 minutes of the game showed both teams lack of energy and focus with a misplaced pass almost every other ball at some points; chances became much rarer and Everton knew the had it in the bag. The only player to impress at all for Sunderland was Stéphane Sessègnon, the 5 foot 6" winger showed ambition and continued to challenge from the first whistle to the last; it was a shame that the rest of the team didn't seem to be on the same wave length. From the 80th minute onward, Sunderland showed a bit more of why they have been moving up the EPL table recently with their only real spell of dominance and chance creation ultimately coming to nothing.
All in all, a good game from a neutral point of view, with some end to end stuff and classy passing from the away side, credit has to go to David Moyes for the end result and the general mentality and fight shown by Everton. I ave to say, though, if Martin O'Neill is still in charge and the Stadium of Light next season and is provided with a bit of cash, I seriously think he can lead them to a top 6 finish and a place in Europe. Everton on the other hand need cash and players, more like Gueye and Drenthe (who was away on compassionate leave) who provide flair and can really ignite a game; David Moyes is a top class manager and has to be credited for what he has done over the past decade with the players he has. I hope that he can play the same way against Liverpool in the semi-final and have the chance to win a bit of silverware to show for his efforts.