Everton fringe players fail to impress, despite FA Cup victory
The third-round FA Cup tie on Saturday was the first meeting between Everton and Dagenham and Redbridge. On the evidence of this routine but mind-numbingly dull 2-0 win, there will not be many clamoring for a sequel.
Against a side almost 80 places lower in the football league standings, this was a chance for manager Roberto Martinez to rotate his squad and hand much-needed playing time to those lacking minutes or making their way back from injury. There were eight changes from the midweek Capital One Cup semifinal win against Manchester City.
This represented an opportunity for the fringe players to impress and make their cases for more prominent roles in a hectic January schedule. For the most part, the invitation went ignored. Everton retained the ball and dominated possession to an almost ludicrous extent but failed to do enough with it. There were few clear chances and no real tempo or urgency.
Given the common nature of these fixtures, with the lower league team usually sensing a famous scalp, the visitors seemed oddly content with defeat and rarely broke formation or moved beyond their defensive approach.
With the gulf between the home side and their League 2 opponents clear from the first whistle, the match rarely moved above walking pace. Everton goalkeeper Joel Robles' biggest test in the Everton goal came when he attempted to shepherd a stray cat from the field.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Joel Robles, 7 -- Robles is unlikely to have an easier afternoon in his entire career. He distributed quickly and proved a model of calmness and authority on the few occasions he was required to intervene.
DF Bryan Oviedo, 7 -- Oviedo played out of position at right-back to cover the injury to Seamus Coleman. Untested defensively, the Costa Rican enjoyed his return from injury and spent much of the match in the opposing half. He assisted the opening goal with a well-taken free kick.
DF Phil Jagielka, 6 -- Efficient and composed, the club captain marshaled a makeshift defense when required and will benefit from playing the entire match on his return from a 10-week layoff.
DF Ramiro Funes Mori, 7 -- Dominant in defence until a nasty cut forced him out of the game at the end of the first half, the Argentinean almost added to his midweek goal with a well-struck effort from distance.
DF Brendan Galloway, 6 -- Afforded acres of space on the left due to the visitors' narrow system, the youngster saw plenty of the ball but lacked the quality in possession to capitalise.
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MF Darron Gibson, 6 -- It was a rare outing for the Republic of Ireland midfielder, and his lack of match fitness showed in the closing stages. He was neat and tidy in possession, but his passing game lacked its usual penetration in the final third.
MF Muhamed Besic, 7 -- At times lethargic, at times the best player by a distance, Besic almost woke supporters from their slumber with a delightful passage of play that took him from his own penalty area to the other.
MF Aaron Lennon, 6 -- You know exactly what to expect from the midfielder: work rate, pace and varying quality in the final third. Several promising moves ended due to a poor final ball from the winger.
MF Kevin Mirallas, 6 -- He won and scored the penalty that put the result beyond doubt, but this was a frustrating afternoon for the Belgian. He mixed sharp footwork with moments of carelessness and needed to do more to press his case.
MF Steven Pienaar, 7 -- Even against limited opposition, he plays the way he would against the very best: always wanting the ball and looking to bring others into the game. His first appearance since April was probably the biggest positive besides safe passage to the fourth round. Everton missed him on the left.
FW Arouna Kone, 6 -- He opened the scoring with a good header and used his strength throughout, but too much of the play surrounding those moments lacked quality. He has yet to convince he is a viable deputy to Romelu Lukaku in his preferred forward position.
DF Matthew Pennington, 7 -- After featuring in the League Cup win at Barnsley in August, the young defender made his home debut in place of the injured Funes Mori just before halftime. He impressed with his composure in and out of possession and grew more confident as the match progressed.
MF Leon Osman, NR -- The snail-like pace of the game suited the diminutive midfielder on for the returning Pienaar with the last 10 minutes approaching. He followed his teammates in maintaining possession without threatening much more.
FW Leandro Rodriguez, NR -- The Uruguayan striker was handed a first-team debut in the 89th minute.