Mignolet save keeps alive Sunderland's Cup dream
Everton 1 Sunderland 1: Memories of Jim Montgomery's Wembley final heroics revived by Belgian's late intervention
Sunday 18 March 2012
The 1973 FA Cup final is so ingrained into the fabric of Sunderland's history that it is almost too easy to look for parallels but the double save made at the end by Simon Mignolet carried more than a hint of Jim Montgomery.
There were about three minutes remaining when John Heitinga launched himself into a header that appeared destined for the corner of the net until the Belgian goalkeeper turned it away and then recovered his balance quickly enough to block Nikica Jelavic's follow-up. The ball spun away for a corner and comparisons started being made.
Roy Keane said he would have expected Mignolet to have saved Heitinga's header, which confirms that the Irishman's expectations are very high indeed. Martin O'Neill, one of Keane's successors as the Sunderland manager, was standing in the technical area, and from his vantage point it looked a certain goal. Speaking quietly, thoughtfully afterwards, O'Neill remarked that Montgomery's saves from Peter Lorimer had come in an FA Cup final, "while we are a million miles from Wembley".
Well, one match actually, given that the semi-finals are played there. In the away sections of the Bullens Road Stand, red-and-white scarves were waved above heads while in the home dressing room there was the taste of an opportunity lost.
David Moyes had fielded a weakened side for Tuesday's Merseyside derby to concentrate on this quarter-final. It says much for his desire to bring a trophy to Goodison Park but it meant this match had to be won. "It was a great cup tie to play in and we wanted to win," said his captain, Phil Neville, one of those left out at Anfield. It is a long season and we have another big game on Wednesday against Arsenal. We will take any criticism that is going our way but you have to understand the demands on us. We came in disappointed we didn't get more from it. The occasion got to us a bit at the start and we didn't capitalise on our chances."
Chief among them were a free-kick from Royston Drenthe that struck the crossbar and two credible appeals for a penalty.
Lee Cattermole and Stéphane Sessègnon, suspended in the wake of the bitter Tyne-Wear derby, will be available to Sunderland for the replay.
Goodison Park casts a long shadow over Sunderland, who have not beaten Everton, home or away, in any competition for 14 years. Nevertheless, it was the home side who began as if they were haunted by the occasion and quickly fell behind. Everton expected the free-kick to be driven high but Jack Colback pushed it not to Sebastian Larsson, as the wall anticipated, but to Phil Bardsley who took two touches and rifled a drive into the corner of Tim Howard's net.
Everton equalised from the first decent cross they put in, delivered by Leighton Baines who, along with Sylvain Distin, throttled the majority of Sunderland's attacks. It was met by Jelavic, whose header was speeding wide until it struck Tim Cahill to leave Mignolet wrong-footed. It looked a fluke, but the Australian had reacted supremely well to turn it home. In 2004 when playing for Millwall, his goal denied Sunderland a place in an FA Cup final and it may have done so again.
Everton: (4-4-1-1) Howard; Neville, Heitinga, Distin, Baines; Coleman (Gueye, 72), Fellaini, Osman, Drenthe (Stracqualursi, 85); Cahill; Jelavic.
Sunderland: (4-4-2) Mignolet; Bardsley, O'Shea, Turner, Bridge; Larsson, Gardner, Colback, McClean; Campbell (Vaughan, 74), Bendtner.
Referee: Andre Marriner (West Midlands)
Man of the match: Mignolet (Sunderland)
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