Offshore drilling, England (FA Cup semifinal): Liverpool 2, Everton 1

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Man of the match: In a match that lacked a true stand out performance, Andy Carroll became the story. A very bad second half miss made everyone forget about his good first half work. From then on, Carroll seemed to be pressing, but just as the miss obscured previously positive contributions, the goal that sent Liverpool to the final make up for everything that came before.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • The match initially looked like it could be a bit of a slog, with two relatively similar sides setting up near-identically: 4-4-2 butting heads with 4-4-2.
  • That changed a bit near the eight-minute-mark. Everton took control of the match for the next 15 minutes, a period culminating with Nikica Jelavic’s 24th minute goal.
  • The defending on the goal was terrible. Martin Skrtel had come out of defense to contest a long ball out of Everton’s end. The ball flew over him and bounced in front of Daniel Agger (playing left back) and surprise starter Jamie Carragher (right-center back). Both defenders locked up, confused as to whether the other was going to clear the ball. Carragher eventually took a desperation stab, hit a ball off Tim Cahill, the resulting rebound falling to Jelavic. Ultimately, lack of communication saw Liverpool create a goal for Everton.
  • After three minutes of post-goal shock, Liverpool took control for the rest of the half without ever truly threatening Tim Howard. Marouane Fellaini continued to get in the way while the problems of a Lucas-less Liverpool reared their head. The Reds needed Steven Gerrard playing closer to the strikers, but (presumably) they couldn’t afford to leave Jay Spearing as the lone man in front of defense.
  • Liverpool maintained control throughout the second half, with Kenny Dalglish’s switch of Jordan Henderson (to the left flank) and Stewart Downing (to the right) opening up a consistent avenue into attack on the right. While Downing has been somewhat poor in the first half, Leighton Baines seemed to have no solutions for him in the second.
  • To their credit, Everton had only given up that one chance when Sylvain Distin gifted Liverpool their opener. Pressure from Luis Suárez forced a weak bad pass from just inside Everton’s half. Suárez ran onto the ball and easily finished from 16 yards out, giving John Heitinga and Tim Howard no chance to close him down.
  • Even after their equalizer, Liverpool remained the better side, with Everton’s lack of support for Fellaini through the middle leaving them incapable of wrestling away control of the match. Darron Gibson was a non-factor (at best), and Fellaini didn’t get any support from Magaye Gueye, Leon Osman, or Tim Cahill. Gerrard at least had help from Suárez and, infrequently, Spearing.
  • All of which meant the winning goal came as no surprise, though that didn’t make it any less dramatic. Carroll got redemption in the 87th minute, with Fellaini’s inability to contest Craig Bellamy’s ball ruining what had been the match’s most influential performance.
  • Lost in the goal may be how it was won. Steven Gerrard’s effort to track down a ball deep on Liverpool’s left drew a foul from Seamus Coleman, though given how little Gerrard could have done with the ball, it was a foolish foul. However, credit Gerrard catching Coleman off guard.
  • As a result, Liverpool is through to their first FA Cup final since 2006, when they beat West Ham on kicks to claim the trophy for the seventh time. A win on May 4, and the Reds will have their cup double.