8 Mar 2014 21:46
Blues boss said fate went against his team
Everton’s Romelu Lukaku in action against Arsenal during the FA Cup Quarter-Final
Disappointed Roberto Martinez refused to play the blame game after Everton’s hopes of a return to Wembley were dashed.
Two late goals from Arsenal substitute Olivier Giroud condemned the Blues to a heavy 4-1 defeat at the Emirates in their FA Cup quarter-final today.
Arsenal FC v Everton FC: FA Cup quarter final pictures from The Emirates
Romelu Lukaku had equalised Mesut Ozil’s early opener but, after a poor miss from Ross Barkley, Gareth Barry conceded a soft penalty from which former Blue favourite Mikel Arteta regained the lead for the Gunners.
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Martinez, though, wouldn’t point the finger and instead insisted fate had been against his team.
“I felt the key moment of the game was who would score the second goal,” said the Everton boss.
“We started the second half well and made it very uncomfortable for Arsenal and then had a really good chance.
“In those situations, Ross Barkley hits the target nine times out of 10.
“When you get a chance like that outside the box, you know Ross is one of the best footballers technically to take advantage.
“If you wanted anyone to have an opportunity like that, you wanted it to be Ross.”
Of the game-changing 68th-minute penalty, Martinez added: “I can see why the referee gave it even if I don’t agree with the decision fully.
“It’s a ball that gets blocked by Gareth, and is at the attacker’s feet and there is contact and you have to give a penalty.
“But the ball is being challenged by both players, and contact shouldn’t mean the punishment of a penalty. It could have gone either way.
“Sometimes you need a bit of luck to get through.
“From that point, we just gambled and lost defensive intensity and the scoreline doesn’t reflect our performance.”
Everton fell at the quarter-final hurdle for the second successive season and have still not won at Arsenal since 1996.
And Martinez said: “We’ve no complaints. For long spells, I was happy with how we approached the game. I thought we settled well and it was a matter of trying to get that second goal.
“You know it’s going to be difficult coming to visit Arsenal after their disappointing result (at Stoke last week). They wanted to have a reaction. They were clinical and played very well.
“I thought Ross Barkley was a real threat, especially on the counter-attack. We had two or three incidents where if we were sharper we could have taken advantage.
“Ross looked sharper and fresher than he has following his injury.”
Martinez defended his policy of playing second-choice goalkeeper Joel Robles in domestic cup competitions, with the Spaniard not at fault for any of Arsenal’s goals.
“I wasn’t tempted to play Tim Howard,” said the Everton boss. “Joel won the FA Cup last season and has been playing in every single round.
“Phil Jagielka was a big miss because of his understanding with Sylvain and his knowhow.
“But I still think John Stones is an incredible prospect. He will benefit from this experience.”
Martinez is confident his players can now redouble their efforts in the Premier League with European qualification still well within their grasp.
“It gives us more focus for what we have in front of us,” added the Catalan. “33 points is a huge amount to fight for.
“We are disappointed as we wanted to give a real good day out to our fans. The support was magnificent.
“We need to get rid of this disappointment and focus on the 11 games we have left.”
Arteta kept his nerve to score from the spot having been forced to retake after Giroud was guilty of encroachment.
And Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said: “I thought it was a penalty, but I was very worried and relieved after the retake. You have to give credit to Arteta.”
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