Championship side Millwall knocked Premier League club Everton out of the FA Cup with a dramatic 3-2 win at The Den.
As the first half looked to be petering out, Everton took the lead as Jordan Archer allowed Richarlison’s effort through his hands into the back of the net.
But their lead would last just minutes with Lee Gregory equalising for Millwall following a good set piece.
Cenk Tosun restored Everton’s advantage with 20 minutes to go, finishing well after being played in by Gylfi Sigurdsson. But, once again it would only last moments with Lee Cooper equalising from another set piece.
And a third set piece brought Millwall’s winner in injury-time, with Murray Wallace tapping in from close range.
But what did we learn?
1. Pickford’s poor season continues
Jordan Pickford was the hero of the nation last summer when he saved Carlos Bacca’s penalty in a shootout against Colombia to set up Eric Dier’s winner in the last-16.
But the World Cup seems a long time ago for the Everton goalkeeper with Pickford inconsistent this season, as well as becoming prone to costly errors.
Lee Gregory’s goal may not have come from a Pickford error, but it did highlight some shortcomings in the Englishman’s game.
With Millwall sending a deep free-kick into the box, Jake Cooper got his head onto the ball to knock it towards the far post. Pickford looked to be coming out to claim the header but hestitated, staying near the six yard line.
This meant, once Gregory had easily outjumped Lucas Digne, all he had to do was direct his looping header over the 6′ 1″ goalkeeper into the back of the net.
The goal saw Pickford fail to keep a clean sheet for the 20th time this season, managing just five in all competitions, not a record many goalkeepers aiming for the top will want.
And another set piece brought another Millwall goal 15 minutes from time as Everton were pegged back shortly after scoring once again.
That would not be all either, with Millwall winning the game late on through yet another set piece.
2. Full strength XIs don’t matter in the FA Cup
A lot has been made this season about some teams disrespecting the magic of the FA Cup by fielding weakened XIs. It is especially criticised when Premier League sides with nothing to play for in the division do so.
⚠️ TEAM NEWS! ⚠️
— Everton (@Everton) January 26, 2019
So it would have been a breath of fresh air for the critics when Marco Silva’s starting XI to face Championship strugglers Millwall was announced an hour before kick off.
The Toffees currently sit 11th in the Premier League, fittingly 11 points off the relegation battle and 14 away from the fight for European spaces – in other words, Everton have little to focus on in the league.
As a result, the FA Cup would represent the Toffees’ only hope of a meaningful season. In the past, Premier League teams have taken on Millwall with weakened XIs and paid the price, but Silva ensured there would be no such calamity at The Den on Saturday evening.
Everton’s starting XI had a combined number of 205 Premier League appearances this season, including 176 starts. Yerry Mina brought the lowest number of games played with 10, though that came due to an injury-hit start to the season. The subs bench brought another 91 appearances with only back-up goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg yet to feature in the league this season.
But that would not help them see off Championship side Millwall as the Premier League regulars were undone by three set pieces. In contrast, Watford made 11 changes against fellow Premier League side Newcastle United earlier in the day but still went through with a 2-0 win.
3. Richarlison a glimmer of light on a gloomy evening
Richarlison’s £50m move to Everton in the summer raised an eyebrow among many after the Brazilian struggled in front of goal for Watford despite a promising start.
10 – Richarlison has scored 10 goals in 24 appearances for Everton this season, twice as many as he managed in 41 games for Watford last season. Process. #FACup
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 26, 2019
But against Millwall he once again showed by the money spent may just be good investment for the Toffees, in putting Everton 1-0 up from virtually nothing.
Receiving the ball outside the box, Richarlison tested his luck from range and, thanks to a mixture of good fortune and a good strike, the Brazilian saw his shot squeeze into the back of the net.
It was his 10th goal in 24 games for Everton this season, joining Gylfi Sigurdsson on double digits. Remarkably, it saw him double the tally he managed for Watford last season – with just five in 41 games for the Hornets.
The Brazilian was arguably Everton’s best player on the day and their only real goalscoring threat at times with the Toffees creating just six chances against their Championship opponents. But it would not be enough to save his side from a cup exit.
4. Jordan Archer frustrates Millwall fans once again
After going so close to reaching the play-offs last season, things haven’t exactly gone to plan for Millwall this year, with the South London club languishing near the bottom of the Championship.
As a result, the fans would have undoubtedly been hoping for a good cup run to ease their pains, similar to that of 2016/17 when they reached the quarter-finals.
And, for most of the first half, the home side looked to be holding their own against their strong Premier League opponents. That was until Jordan Archer did what Jordan Archer is unfortunately becoming known for – producing a howler.
With Millwall’s defenders giving him time outside the box, Richarlison chanced his arm with a shot on goal which slightly deflected off Shaun Hutchinson. The ball dropped just in front of Archer but still should have been a comfortable save for the goalkeeper. But Archer allowed the ball to squirm under his body off the wet surface, giving Everton the lead.
A sight Millwall fans are becoming too familiar with, those unable to get to The Den were quick to voice their disproval on Twitter.
— Mossy (@KieranMoss16) January 26, 2019
We are very solid in most areas, except one. Goalkeeper. Jordan Archer is terrible, Ben Amos appears to somehow be worse!! Why are we still persevering with a keeper who regularly makes 10 mistakes a season?! #Millwall
— Max Woodward (@maxdwoodward) January 26, 2019
Jordan Archer concedes from outside the box, well imagine my shock
— Harry (@HarryCH97) January 26, 2019
Jordan Archer is a liability and has been for years. End of. #Millwall
— Neil Fissler (@neilfissler) January 26, 2019
Jordan Archer is so suspect
— Billy Brown (@BillyAlanBrown) January 26, 2019
Fortunately for Archer it would not be a costly error with Millwall coming from behind twice to knock out their Premier League opponents.
5. The argument for VAR rises again
Millwall’s second equaliser may have been another poor defensive moment for Everton but it will be remembered for its controversial nature.
💥 | SCENES! pic.twitter.com/pgV89K4kqn
— The Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) January 26, 2019
Shane Ferguson’s free-kick was sent into the penalty area resulting in a scramble in front of the goal mouth with the ball bouncing into the net off Jake Cooper.
But replays showed the goal should not have counted with the ball going in off Cooper’s arm. Though it looked fairly incidental, with VAR it would have undoubtedly been ruled out.
To make matters worse, it was reported the replay was shown on the screens at The Den for all to see, including incensed Everton players. VAR is being used in selected FA Cup ties this year, but it needs to be in every game to ensure fairness and to stop potentially controversial knockouts.