Robles turns the tide for Everton

LONDON • Brinkmanship is second nature to Everton but the manner of their 2-0 FA Cup fifth-round victory over Bournemouth on Saturday might add to Roberto Martinez's sense that they can pull this season out of the fire.

On a different day, the familiar tale of ill luck and slender margins inside the penalty areas might have been offered without a second thought.

This time, it was Everton who profited at either end and a game they could ill afford to lose became one that might sharpen their focus in an often exasperating campaign.

When James McCarthy took leave of his senses in the 37th minute, handling a Charlie Daniels corner despite having plenty of opportunity to prepare a clearance, the obituaries for Everton's season - and possibly for Martinez's position - seemed easy enough to write.

This was merely the latest evidence of a systemic dopiness but Joel Robles' save from the resulting spot kick, drilled to his left by Daniels, hauled Everton out of a sluggish opening period unscathed and set a platform from which Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku made their own decisive contributions later on.

"On the ball, the first half was probably the worst performance we've had this season," Martinez said. "We were very sloppy, we couldn't make our spells on the ball into threatening possession.

"The penalty was awarded rightly and that's where we saw a very special performance from Joel, who was magnificent in the way he controlled the moment. He's been working behind the scenes for a long, long time and I'm really pleased.

"The second half was completely different. We reacted really well against a side who are built to score goals and attack, and were very good off the ball. On the ball, we were our usual selves and had a different intent in possession."

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe was relieved that no points were lost in defeat, and he attached no blame to Daniels.

"No, certainly not," Howe said.

"He's scored some penalties already this season, against West Brom and Norwich.

"It's always difficult when you play a strong team and Everton fielded one today. Ultimately they had a bit more quality than us in the end."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2016, with the headline 'Robles turns the tide for Everton'. Print Edition | Subscribe