For those who wanted FA Cup ties that matter, this was it. It was gladiatorial and for Everton and Chelsea everything depended on it. By the finish, Romelu Lukaku had killed off Chelsea’s season and Diego Costa and Gareth Barry had been dismissed. For the managers it was a result that defined their season. Guus Hiddink’s second spell as Roman Abramovich’s salvage operator will not, like the first, end with him lifting the FA Cup.
For Lukaku, goals have not been a problem; the ones that took Everton through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup were his 24th and 25th of the season. It has been scoring goals that matter. These mattered desperately. The first was a superb mixture of strength and precision. He held off Cesar Azpilicueta, cut through John Obi Mikel and Gary Cahill and then drove his shot past Thibaut Courtois. The question would be how Everton would react. Only Dick Dastardly, the villain of Wacky Races, has lost more leads than Roberto Martinez.
Now, Everton finished things. Put through by Ross Barkley, Lukaku looked up with the eyes of an executioner and fired the ball through his countryman’s legs. In the Main Stand by the directors box, middle-aged men leapt into each other’s arms. Their season would go on.