Sunday 24 September 2017

Oviedo's horrific injury blow adds to Merseyside crisis

STEVENAGE 0 EVERTON 4

Everton's Gareth Barry challenges Stevenage's Luke Freeman
Everton's Gareth Barry challenges Stevenage's Luke Freeman
STEVENAGE, ENGLAND - JANUARY 25: Filipe Morais of Stevenage wins a header with Leon Osman of Everton during the Budweiser FA Cup fourth round match between Stevenage and Everton at the Lamex Stadium on January 25, 2014 in Stevenage, England. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Everton’s medical staff tend to the stricken Bryan Oviedo

Kevin Garside

The traumatic exit of Bryan Oviedo with a double fracture of his leg 20 minutes in at Stevenage mined a worrying seam on Merseyside, where there are now 15 senior players unfit for duty.

While the Costa Rican was unlucky to sustain the type of injury he did, the incident shone a disconcerting light on the demands made of players in the modern game.

Oviedo, tearing back to recover ground around his own box, was not in the best position to intervene but obviously felt the need to contribute. He was stretched and his limb overexposed.

Ultimately his body broke in the intensity of it all, and now his World Cup fate, maybe his career, is in the hands of surgeons.

So Oviedo joined team-mates Seamus Coleman, Darron Gibson, Arouna Kone, Ross Barkley, Sylvain Distin, Steven Pienaar and Gerard Deulofeu in the Everton sick bay, while across Stanley Park Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger, Mamadou Sakho, Jose Enrique, Lucas Leiva, Joe Allen and Sebastian Coates are all under medical supervision.

Everton manager Roberto Martinez is delighted at the progress his team is making, the FA Cup victory at Stevenage being another example of the growing maturity of his side.

And he is enthused by the challenge of tomorrow's derby at Anfield, but there is concern over the rate at which his players are dropping.

"We are losing too many players at the moment. Every club is going through the same thing. The injury to Bryan was one of those moments that really gives you a bad taste," he said.

"You feel terribly sad for him because it is a great moment in his career, with the World Cup around the corner. All we want is Bryan recovered as quick as we can so that he comes back as important as he has been for the squad."

Kevin Mirallas excelled in a central role and in this setting Steven Naismith looked Messi-sharp at centre-forward. There was much promise, too, in the performance of 19-year-old debutant John Stones at centre-back. Though Phil Jagielka left the scene at half-time, he is expected to start at Anfield.

Given the players unavailable, the swatting aside of Stevenage in banana-skin territory raised the prospect of another trip to Wembley for Martinez. Were he to triumph a year after his victory with Wigan, he would become the first manager to win the FA Cup in successive seasons with different teams.

PROUDER

"I have said many times that the FA Cup is the best club cup competition in the world; the magic of being in the final is what we need at Everton," said Martinez.

"You see what it means to the fans. Nothing would make the dressing-room prouder than to give them those sorts of memories but we have to take it step by step.

"The group has a real competitive edge. From now until the end of the season being involved in the FA Cup, would that stop us competing in the league? The answer is 'no'. We need to go as far in the cup as we can to fulfil our potential in the league."

Martinez knows the three points available tomorrow against Liverpool are no more valuable than others. However, the same cannot be said of the boost a win would yield.

"The Merseyside derby can give you the final kick to develop a momentum that can lead to more points," he said. (© Independent News Service)

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