Another game, another controversy for Graham Poll last night at Goodison Park, where the Tring official reinforced the belief that he is so drawn to the spotlight he will be reincarnated as a moth as Arsenal edged their way into the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup.
Eighteen minutes into his first game since being accused by Ashley Cole of wanting to "teach Chelsea a lesson" at White Hart Lane on Sunday, where he incurred the wrath of Jose Mourinho by presenting John Terry with the first red card of his Stamford Bridge career, England's other deficient performer at the World Cup reached for his top pocket once again, this time to dismiss the Everton striker James McFadden for dissent.
The die was cast for a night of raw emotion on Merseyside, Poll invoking the passions throughout, and Arsenal eventually exploited the advantage to deny David Moyes his first quarter-final place when Emmanuel Adebayor rose alone to convert a corner seven minutes from time. While "sick to the stomach" at the slack marking in his 200th game in charge, the Everton manager was more incensed by allegations from the fourth official, Graham Laws, that McFadden was sent off for calling Poll a cheat after he had rejected the first of several penalty appeals from Andrew Johnson. So incensed, in fact, that Moyes dragged McFadden along to the press conference to explain what really prompted the official's decision.
McFadden said: "When the referee made the decision or rather, didn't, I ran back and said: 'That's fucking shite'. And I've been sent off for it." To be fair, he did have a point.
Prior to the game the Everton management had expressed concern that Johnson had been denied penalties on account of rival managers - Arsène Wenger and Neil Warnock - accusing the forward of diving. The theorythe £8.6m striker has become a marked man through the mouths of others rather than his own theatrics was quickly put to the test by a challenge from Philippe Senderos, and confirmed when Poll waved the home appeals away. "Andrew is being punished for other people talking about him," said Moyes. "I don't know how many penalties he could have had tonight but he has missed a couple in the last few games."
With Goodison erupting Arsenal broke clear, only for Poll to halt the attack once McFadden sprinted past with his expletives. Clearly McFadden should have known better than to shout at the disciplinarian Poll, though if those two words do constitute foul and abusive language to the referee then he should get out more.
High controversy aside, and there was plenty of it as Poll dismissed two other penalty claims by Johnson plus one from Jérémie Aliadière, this fourth-round tie was a straight tussle between the youthful exuberance of Arsenal against Everton determination, a factor the descent to 10 men only increased. While the visitors caressed the ball and moved with the pace and imagination that Wenger demands, the clearer chances - but not the superior football - belonged to those in blue.
Inevitably, however, Arsenal's numerical advantage told, with the goalkeeper Tim Howard essential to the preservation of Everton's clean sheet and the second half played largely in the home half. The visitors had their own strong penalty claim rejected by Poll in the 68th minute when Aliadière was floored by Lee Carsley and Joleon Lescott, but clinched a merited victory when Adebayor was left unmarked at a corner from Mathieu Flamini and steered a textbook header into the far corner.
For the second time in two years a young Arsenal second-string side had sent Everton out of the Carling Cup, Johnson missing a glorious chance to take the game to extra time in the final second, and yet their maturity and style sadly took second billing to the man in black.
Everton (4-4-2): Howard; Neville, Yobo, Lescott, Valente; Arteta, Cahill, Carsley (Anichebe, 90), Osman; Johnson, McFadden. Substitutes not used: Weir, Davies, Turner (gk), Stubbs.
Arsenal (4-1-4-1): Almunia (Poom, h-t); Eboué, Djourou, Senderos, Traoré; Song; Walcott, Denilson (Randall, 69), Flamini, Aliadiere; Adebayor. Substitutes not used: Connolly, Garry, Perez.
Referee: G Poll (Hertfordshire).Reuse content