A NIKICA Jelavic double helped Everton ease past Queens Park Rangers and into the Fourth Round of the FA Cup.
Rangers quite appalling Cup pedigree was epitomised in this limp and lifeless display that saw the Toffees fairly drift into the fourth round without having to break sweat.
Ross Barkley opened the scoring with a fine curling drive from the edge of the area before Nikica Jelavic pounced on a Karl Henry howler to hammer home the second.
Number three was carved out simplicity as Brian Oviedo’s cross from the left was tapped in at close quarters by Jelavic before the Croat spurned his chance of a hatrick from the spot.
The impressive Seamus Coleman rounded off the rout with fine finish from distance, but Rangers never really got going in a fixture they never truly looked a part of.
Harry Redknapp made five changes from the side that earned a slender defeat over Doncaster Rovers last time out. Rob Green, Richard Dunne, Junior Hoilett, Yossi Benayoun and Niko Kranjcar dropped out with Julio Cesar, Clint Hill, Armand Traoré, Karl Henry and Matt Phillips coming in.
Cesar started behind a defence of Danny Simpson, Nedum Onuoha, Hill and Benoit Assou-Ekotto. The midfield comprised of Phillips, Joey Barton, Karl Henry, Gary O’Neil and Traoré with Charlie Austin once again the lone forward.
Everton made five changes of their own from the last gasp draw at Stoke City. Tim Howard, Leighton Baines, Kevin Mirallas, Romelu Lukaku and Steven Pienaar dropping out with Joel, Brian Oviedo, Steven Naismith, Leon Osman and Nikica Jelavic coming in.
Joel lined up behind a defensive line up of Seamus Coleman, Antolin Alcaraz, John Stones and Oviedo. The central midfield duo consisted of Gareth Barry and James McCarthy, with Naismith, Osman and Ross Barkley playing in behind Jelavic.
KICK OFF: EVERTON v QUEENS PARK RANGERS
The FA Cup has never really been a profitable competition for Queens Park Rangers. Often it is the party that the Rs are not invited to, normally making an exit before even the Christmas decorations have been withdrawn.
Everton had all the early running in the fixture, controlling possession and monopolising opportunities. Nikica Jelavic forced the returning Julio Cesar into a low save down to his right before Gary O’Neil lashed a tame shot wide of the left-hand upright.
The Toffees started to dominate proceedings, and young defender John Stones sent a header over the bar from a Seamus Coleman corner. Leon Osman was next up to send a left-footed shot into the stands when well-placed.
Ross Barkley has been touted as a World Cup hopeful and on this evidence he was looking every bit the international midfielder. He jinked in from the right before drawing a smart low save from the overworked Cesar – who was making his first appearance of the season.
A plethora of chances still ensued – Gareth Barry put his shot from distance straight at Cesar before. Matt Phillips led a rare Rangers breakaway but his shot came to nothing as the visitors were firmly pinned back in their penalty area.
The Toffees cranked up the pressure, Barry and Naismith seeing their effort blocked a point-blank range before more prosperous efforts were elicited by Barkley and Jelavic who placed at Cesar and lashed over from close range respectively.
Cesar had to be alert to deny Coleman also when the marauding full-back worked his way into the area before his cross was blocked on two occasions by the grounded Brazilian. A let off and a warning that the visitors failed to heed.
Everton did have the breakthrough ten minutes before half time. Neat build up play from the Toffees saw Oviedo lay neatly inside for ROSS BARKLEY and the mercurial midfielder did the rest – rolling a curling effort comfortably beyond Cesar.
Their was an air of defeatism ringing through the away end given the lack of goals that have come from QPR throughout the campaign, but the visiting side did little to give their supporters any cheer, surrendering possession cheaply and inviting Everton onto themselves.
Clint Hill seemed to be sitting very deep behind the back four and there most certainly wasn’t a succinct line throughout the fixture as it would seem the Rangers defender wanted to give himself an extra yard and play more of a sweeper role.
Charlie Austin lashed a ball high, wide and handsome at the other end before Everton sealed the tie and their passage into the Fourth Round. Simpson and Phillips got in each other’s way before the defender knocked aside for Karl Henry.
The midfielder tripped over the ball before gifting a weak pass straight into the possession of NIKICA JELAVIC and the reported QPR target lashed home first time with aplomb, leaving Cesar with no chance.
That crucial second goal before half time effectively killed the game with Howard Webb blowing his half time whistle. If it was tough before the game, then it was always going to be a real uphill struggle in the second half.
HALF TIME: EVERTON 2-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Rangers threw on Niko Kranjcar at the expense of the ineffective Armand Traoré but it did little to stem the tide of Everton pressure. Barkley picked up where he left off by surging down the left before dispatching a shot inches wide of Cesar’s left had upright.
Cesar was then forced into two smart saves – first to deny Jelavic then Coleman as Everton threatened to run riot. Karl Henry was withdrawn to cheers from the visiting fans, he was replaced by Andy Johnson, a frustrated forward that continues to be used sparingly.
Johnson was given a good reception by the home fans, having joined the Toffees from Crystal Palace in 2006. It did little to stop the onslaught on the QPR goal as the Premier League hosts maintained control.
The noise lulled and you could hear a pin drop at times in a normally atmospheric ground. Both sets of supporters probably sensing that the fixture was over as a contest. It certainly was on 67 minutes when the third goal came around.
Oviedo drifted past his marker down the left – Simpson having a torrid time with a glut of attacks coming from that particular flank. The defender sent a low cross in and NIKICA JELAVIC had the easiest of tasks to roll into an empty net.
Quite what the defenders and Cesar were doing was open to debate, with Jelavic unmarked and the ‘keeper playing musical statues on the front post even as the ball rolled across his path. He remained rooted as the striker – who hadn’t scored since March – pealed away to celebrate his brace.
Barkley went close minutes later before Cesar compounded his weak performance by racing off his line to floor the onrushing Oviedo. Howard Webb had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and with the crowd chanting for the Croat Jelavic – he strode forward with purpose.
On the cusp of a hatrick, the forward elected to chip the ball and it came back off the bar and ultimately cleared to safety. A blow for the forward who should have buried the opportunity and herald a fine return to form.
Some ironic gloating barely had time to die down before Everton buried their fourth and really twisted the knife into a hapless QPR. Ross Barkley – who made his first start against QPR in 2010 – was the architect once more.
His fine, surging run from midfielder saw him head and shoulders above those around him. He laid aside for SEAMUS COLEMAN, and still with a great deal to do, the Irish international swept home into the top left hand corner, brushing Cesar’s fingers on the way in.
With the scoreline becoming an embarrassment, Charlie Austin was withdrawn to try and keep him fresh for Ipswich next Saturday and Yossi Benayoun was thrown on. Everton responded with changes of their own – Kevin Mirallas, Johnny Heitinga and Tony Hibbert coming on.
Barkley hammered a shot wide of the mark before Rangers had their only chance of the second period, when Joey Barton broke through and powered an effort harmlessly past the right hand upright, rather summing up a poor performance overall.
Howard Webb blew the final whistle bringing down the curtain on the FA Cup for another year. A demoralising defeat where Rangers were dominated, outfought and outclassed – much to learn and improve upon come Ipswich Town next week.
FULL TIME: EVERTON 4-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS