Stevenage 0 Everton 4: Bryan Oviedo’s injury in FA Cup a sorry symptom of demand on players to compete

Oviedo joined colleagues Coleman, Gibson, Kone, Barkley, Distin, Pienaar and Deulofeu in the Everton sick bay

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The Independent Football

The traumatic exit of Bryan Oviedo with a double fracture of his leg 20 minutes in at Stevenage mined a worrying seam on Merseyside, where there are now 15 senior players unfit for duty.

While the Costa Rican was unlucky, the incident shone a disconcerting light on the demands made of players in the modern game. Oviedo, tearing back to recover ground around his own box, was not in the best position to intervene but obviously felt the need to contribute. He was stretched and his limb overexposed. Ultimately his body broke in the intensity of it all, and now his World Cup fate, maybe his career, is in the hands of surgeons as he goes for surgery today, with the defender expected to be out for a minimum of seven months.

So Oviedo joined colleagues Coleman, Gibson, Kone, Barkley, Distin, Pienaar and Deulofeu in the Everton sick bay, while across Stanley Park Johnson, Agger, Sakho, Enrique, Lucas, Allen and Coates are all injured.

Everton manager Roberto Martinez is delighted at the progress his team is making, the FA Cup victory at Stevenage being another example of the growing maturity of his side. And he is enthused by the challenge of tomorrow’s derby at Anfield, but there is concern over the rate at which his players are dropping.

“We are losing too many players at the moment. Every club is going through the same thing. The injury to Bryan was one of those moments that really gives you a bad taste. You feel terribly sad for him because it is a great moment in his career, with the World Cup around the corner. All we want is Bryan recovered as quick as we can so that he comes back as important as he has been for the squad.”

Kevin Mirallas excelled in a central role and in this setting Steven Naismith looked Messi-sharp at centre forward. There was much promise, too, in the performance of 19-year-old John Stones at centre-back. Though Phil Jagielka came off at half-time, he is expected to start at Anfield.

Given the players unavailable, the swatting aside of Stevenage in banana-skin territory raised the prospect of another trip to Wembley for Martinez. Were he to triumph a year after his victory with Wigan, he would become the first manager to win the FA Cup in successive seasons with different teams. 

“The FA Cup is a tournament that, if we have the mentality we showed today, we should be capable of competing against anyone,” he said. “I have said many times that the FA Cup is the best club cup competition in the world; the magic of being in the final is what we need at Everton. You see what it means to the fans. Nothing would make the dressing room prouder than to give them those sorts of memories but we have to take it step by step.

“The group has a real competitive edge. From now until the end of the season being involved in the FA Cup, would that stop us competing in the league? The answer is ‘no’. We need to go as far in the cup as we can to fulfil our potential in the League.”

Martinez knows the three points available tomorrow against Liverpool are no more valuable than others. However, the same cannot be said of the boost a win would yield. “The Merseyside derby can give you the final kick to develop a momentum that can lead to more points,” he said.