Saturday, March 12, 2016 9:30 pm
Romelu Lukaku wrecked what was left of former club Chelsea’s season and sent Everton to Wembley after a stormy FA Cup quarter-final at Goodison Park.
The striker Jose Mourinho sold for £28m in summer 2014 broke the deadlock in the 77th minute with a weaving, rampaging run reminiscent of Ricky Villa’s famous FA Cup final goal for Tottenham in 1981.
Lukaku then drilled home his second goal in the space of five minutes to secure Everton’s place in the semi-final.
Chelsea striker Diego Costa was sent off at the end of a long-running battle with Gareth Barry – the first time he has been dismissed in England.
There was still time for Barry, who epitomised Everton’s competitive approach, to be sent off for a second yellow card for a foul on Cesc Fabregas.
It could not stop the elation sweeping around an ecstatic Goodison Park as manager Roberto Martinez, under the watchful eye of Everton’s new majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri, celebrated a hugely significant victory.
This was the day Chelsea would have had to acknowledge the error of their ways for their lack of patience in refusing to persist with Lukaku, 22, who is now approaching world class.
He has now scored 25 goals this season and the goal that changed the direction of this feisty FA Cup tie was a thing of power and beauty.
Lukaku picked up Ross Barkley’s pass on the left flank and embarked on a run that simply possessed too much power and skill for four Chelsea defenders before he had the composure to slide a finish under Thibaut Courtois.
And as Chelsea now look at a major rebuilding job under owner Roman Abramovich’s next managerial appointment, how they must wish they had a player of Lukaku’s potential to act as the centrepiece.
As for Everton, the fact they do have the giant Belgian means they have a potent match-winning spearhead.
The sight of Costa, with the mockery of almost 40,000 Everton fans ringing in his ears, sloping off after a red card encapsulated a week of abject misery for the Stamford Bridge club.
Chelsea were well beaten by Paris St-Germain and now this FA Cup exit means they have nothing left to fight for and no Champions League football to look forward to next season for the first time since Abramovich took charge in July 2003.
It was as if all those frustrations poured out of Costa, who was agitating for a battle from the first whistle and found an opponent in Barry who was more than happy to oblige.
Costa finally boiled over in a close range, head-to-head spat with Barry and Chelsea’s chances of getting back into this game went with him.
With a new manager to be appointed, captain John Terry facing an uncertain future, and a squad needing urgent rebuilding, this day almost felt like the end of an era for Chelsea.
*Read More at BBC Sport