Salomon Rondon scores twice as Everton defeat Boreham Wood 2-0 at Goodison Park to end a non-league fairytale.
Luke Garrard’s Boreham Wood team’s dream could be coming to an end.
The National League side, on the other hand, had every right to depart Goodison with their heads held high following an emotional night they will never forget.
Salomon Rondon’s second-half double destroyed their chances of becoming the first non-league club to reach the sixth round since Lincoln City’s heroics five years ago.
Even if the Hertfordshire didn’t win the game, they won a stadium full of admirers for their bravery, especially given the circumstances.
There were fresh reminders of the atrocities of the Russian invasion of Ukraine before kick-off, following the Toffees’ display of support when Manchester City came to town on Saturday night.
Left-back for Everton Vitaliy Mykolenko, who was purchased for £14 million from Dynamo Kyiv in January, was named captain for the evening.
The Toffees wore Ukrainian flags on the pitch, which were clutched by their Nation League opponents.
One of the stands was covered with a banner that read “We Stand With Ukraine” and featured an image of Mykolenko against a background of the now all-too-familiar yellow and blue.
In emotional scenes, both sets of players came together to hold aloft a larger banner that read: “Imagine all the people, sharing all the world,” with John Lennon’s renowned peace song playing over the speakers.
Farhad Moshiri, the chairman of Everton, has already cut ties with Russian businessman Alisher Usmanov.
The majority owner had already terminated his club’s commercial activities with Usmanov’s businesses the day before, potentially losing the Toffees at least £30 million each year.
Usmanov was also sanctioned by the authorities in the run-up to Boreham Wood’s night of nights because of his ties to rogue Russian president Vladimir Putin.
When manager Garrard and those goliath-hunting players were selected for the game that would commemorate their night of nights, it was hardly the kind of scenario they could have imagined.
Despite this, their Premier League opponents, who were ranked 79 places higher in England’s football pyramid, had done their part to make them feel welcome.
Everton paid for their one-off all-black Goodison Park uniforms, as well as their transport, hotel accommodations in Liverpool, and pre-match lunch.
Garrard and the chairman of the Hertfordshire club proudly paraded before the first whistle, much to the joy of their 1,800-strong travelling fans.
There were 400 more people in attendance than when Mark Ricketts scored the winning goal in the 1-0 triumph against Bournemouth that set up this match – with Crystal Palace in the last eight.
Despite the weirdness of so much going on against the backdrop of the Ukrainian war, Garrard’s players remained composed.
True, they were under a lot of pressure in the last eight minutes.
Mykolenko was the first player to fire a shot, at least for Everton.
Taye Ashby-Hammond, on the other hand, arrived with a reputation for being cool and composed, and he demonstrated this with a strong parry. Aside than that, the 22-year-old was little more than a bystander.
Everton manager Frank Lampard had pledged that after the first whistle, there would be no more Mr Nice Guy, despite sending Garrard a text thanking him on the win over Bournemouth.
But, in the midst of a season in which they are in danger of being relegated from the Premier League for the first time since 1951, his much-changed squad scarcely put their minnow opponents on edge.
Right back at you, Scotland. Nathan Patterson, who was signed from Rangers for £10 million just before Mykolenko, made his debut.
But, like the majority of those around him, he couldn’t seem to discover anything to spark his interest.
Lampard took over from Rafa Benitez, who was failing to inspire his players.
After a shaky start to his reign, they came into this match one spot and one point above the bottom three. They didn’t exactly exude confidence.
At halftime, boos from the blue majority of the sold-out audience did little to improve their mood.
However, Lapmard’s team ramped up the tempo and, in the 57th minute, the strain began to lessen.
Rondon was on hand to stab home a low cross from Jonjo Kenny.
And six minutes from time, the striker put the game out of reach for Garrard’s brave warriors with a header that just cleared the line.