Jelavic steers Blues to Merseyside semi

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Nikica Jelavic © Trinity Mirror

In 1989, five weeks after the devastating Hillsborough disaster, Everton and Liverpool contested their third all-Merseyside Wembley cup final of the decade. Now, 23 years later, Everton have beaten Sunderland 2-0 to set up a return to Wembley, where they will again face Liverpool, this time in the FA Cup semi-finals.

A goal in the 24th minute from new signing Nikica Jelavic gave Everton just reward for great endeavour, and in the second half Sunderland’s David Vaughan suffered the ignominy of an own goal resulting from a Jelavic shot that he should have cleared, giving the Toffees a comfortable win.

It was a deserved victory as Jelavic, plus 7,000 vocal travelling fans at the Stadium of Light, inspired Everton to a display of grit and determination that they will need to repeat come their semi-final against Liverpool on April 14th.

The Croatian striker, along with Tim Cahill and winger Magaye Gueye, was very impressive, constantly providing Everton with an attacking outlet, creating chances as well as scoring.

Manager David Moyes and his players can turn their attention to Wembley, when they will visit the capital and play at the nation’s most famous stadium for the first time since 2009.

In their last match against Liverpool, Everton were defeated 3-0 at Anfield. Furthermore, the Reds have celebrated a double over Everton this season, something for which Blues players and supporters will be desperately seeking retribution.

However, Wembley derby history does not favour the Toffees, with Liverpool winning the FA Cup Finals against Everton in 1986 and 1989, with two draws, and a Charity Shield victory for the Blues in 1984.

This season, perhaps more than any other, it is crucial for Everton that they buck that trend, with nothing else beyond the FA Cup to play for in what has been an inconsistent campaign.

Across Stanley Park, Liverpool have experienced similar difficulties in the Premier League, though they have tasted Carling Cup success. Nonetheless, their stuttering form, with five losses in their last six Premier League games, will give Everton hope they can be victorious at Wembley.

The promise of an all-Merseyside semi-final, on the same day as the Grand National at Aintree, leaves both sets of fans now scrambling for tickets, and unable to contemplate the prospect of defeat against their city rivals on such a special occasion.

About Paul McIntyre, JMU Journalism