I often ask myself why I follow Everton. Why do I travel the length and breadth of the country time and time again, knowingly putting myself through the pain of mediocrity? I do it because, for those one or two glorious moments each season, there is not a better feeling in the world.
I couldn't make it to Sunderland yesterday evening but six-and-a-half thousand Merseysiders did and were magnificent. We always travel in numbers, but that following looked something else, and the scenes as we scored the second (or rather, as David Vaughan scored it for us) is just a taste of what the Wembley atmosphere will be like. Limbs everywhere.
The 2-0 win was nothing less than we deserved. Every single player, like the fans, was superb: as David Moyes said afterwards, there was not a fault to be found. Tim Howard was barely tested but kept the two-goal lead intact by thwarting a late Stéphane Sessègnon effort. The back four were imperious and dealt competently with an on-form Sunderland attack. John Heitinga was probably the pick of the bunch - as he has been all season long - and rumour has it that Nicklas Bendtner is still struggling to find a way out of his pocket.
In the absence of cup-tied Steven Pienaar and Royston Drenthe, who was given compassionate leave, Magaye 'Marvin' Gueye had comfortably his best game in a blue shirt. His low cross teed up Nikica Jelavić to open the scoring and he linked up well with Leighton Baines. Darron Gibson - who still hasn't lost a game in Everton colours - partnered Marouane Fellaini in central midfield and they look a perfect match. Both are assured on the ball, something we haven't really been able to say since Mikel Arteta departed, and this allows more creative minds to wreak havoc further up the pitch. I'm talking about Leon Osman who might as well have been wearing a Barcelona shirt last night, he was that good.
John Heitinga was probably the pick of the bunch - as he has been all season long - and rumour has it that Nicklas Bendtner is still struggling to find a way out of his pocket.
It is up front, though, where we were especially pleasing. Nikica Jelavić, whose controlled, side-footed finish put Everton ahead, and Tim Cahill, who netted to take the original fixture to a replay, look like forming a really good partnership. They are both strong in the air, both are hard workers and, crucially, both know where the net is.
Of course, though, this win will be quickly forgotten if we fail to put in a similar performance at Wembley on April 14th. As is the case with the Chelsea v Spurs semi-final, and as if to add some extra fuel to the fire, it's derby day. David Moyes' selections and tactics were superb at the Stadium of Light, but he will know as well as anyone that Liverpool at Wembley is a totally different proposition.
They've beaten us twice already this season, but the first could be put down to the incorrect dismissal of Jack Rodwell and the second down to David Moyes resting half his team ahead of the Sunderland game. We want revenge, but I feel it is vitally important to adhere to the cliche of playing the game, not the occasion.
Liverpool will be favourites, naturally, but there really isn't too much between the two sides. We just cannot afford to appear scared of the opponents or the occasion: if we play our own game and have a go at them from the offset, we can win this. Although that's easier said than done, of course.
One thing is for sure, it's certain to be a terrific atmosphere. Fifty thousand Scousers (and fifteen thousand Norwegians - sorry, couldn't resist!) will open the Wembley roof. Here's to a great Merseyside semi-final, an atmosphere unlike no other and an Everton win.
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