There is renewed optimism around the famous old ground. The sense of panic was snowballing in the terraces following back-to-back home defeats either side of Christmas, but after an encouraging draw against an in-form Tottenham, here was the huge win the fans have so desperately craved.
Goodison under the lights is known for its aura, but the locals have become restless in recent times. For all Romelu Lukaku’s brilliance in leading the line this term, so few of his team-mates have followed his example and so few of his goals have led to tangible success.
Lukaku was again relied upon to hand Everton the advantage in the Capital One Cup semi-final with Manchester City, getting on the end of Gareth Barry’s cross to nod past Willy Caballero despite having already picked up an ankle knock.
But it was a night when the good side of Goodison shone, as Barry had hoped for with his pre-match call to arms.
The decision to stick with Joel Robles in goal for the first leg may have had something to do with this, but the selection of Muhamed Besic provided the side with an inner steel that has been lacking.
There has been frustrations over the fitness of James McCarthy, who was rushed back too soon from a hip injury, and Tom Cleverley – whose calf problems reared themselves again in the first-half – but Besic has taken his opportunity.
The midfielder made twice as many tackles as the rest of Everton combined in the first-half, helping disrupt City’s creative powerhouse Yaya Toure and launch counter-attacks with possession won.
Evertonians are knowledgable watchers of their side, and the appreciation for Besic – whose stats of six tackles, five dribbles, two shots and 58 passes reflect the completeness of his performance – was shown in him winning 60 per cent of the vote for man of the match on social media.
There was a sense among Everton fans against Stoke, with the side 3-2 in front heading into the final 15 minutes, that had David Moyes still been in charge the Blues would’ve seen out the game having tightened up the midfield.
Besic remained on the bench as he watched Mark Hughes’ side stage a dramatic late comeback, with Steven Naismith, Romelu Lukaku, Arouna Kone and Gerard Deulofeu all remaining on the pitch.
In the week leading up to Spurs last Sunday, I was convinced the Bosnian should’ve started. He has been made to bide his time since his £4million arrival from Hungarian side Ferencvaros in July 2014, but with the side leaking more goals at home than anyone else, this was his time.
The opening 45 minutes against Mauricio Pochettino’s side was every bit as one-sided as Everton’s dominant display before the interval against Norwich a few weeks’ ago, but Martinez didn’t address this at half-time regardless of Dele Alli’s equaliser so close to the interval.
Just as Besic ought to have been introduced for either McCarthy or Cleverley against Stoke, his energetic and tenacious playing style was what the Blues were devoid of against Spurs until his introduction on the hour-mark.
Besic hasn’t looked back. Whether by accident or design, Martinez has opened up a can of tattoo clad frustration.
Hugo Lloris made a flying save to deny an exquisite volley that would’ve raised the roof of the Gwladys Street, but the manner he helped take the game away from a rampant Spurs was every bit as impressive.
Besic’s skill in the centre-circle to move away from David Silva last night would not have been out of place on the training fields of Real Madrid under Zinedine Zidane these days, but it brought back memories of another fine midweek victory over City.
The drag-back to set up another Everton attack was reminiscent of Marouane Fellaini’s pirouette on Craig Bellamy in the 2-0 win over the Citizens six years ago, and comparisons can be made between the two midfielders.
Fellaini became a fans’ favourite for his curly hair and impassioned goal celebrations, but it was that moment of skill that many Evertonians remember as an act that demonstrated a point had been turned for the Belgian on Merseyside after questions had previously been asked over the £15million signing.
Besic was brought to Finch Farm for considerably less but with a reputation for having performed so well against Lionel Messi at the World Cup, despite being unable to prevent the Barcelona player from scoring a wondrous goal in the group stage game at the Maracana.
The 23-year-old made the worst possible start to life at Goodison when he tried to be too clever in a dangerous part of the pitch, minutes into his debut against Chelsea at the start of last season.
His costly mistake led to Diego’s Costa wrapping up a heavy 6-3 defeat – a jolt to the Blues’ pre-season objective of a top-four finish which in truth Everton never really recovered from.
Despite the error, Evertonians have taken to the German-born Bosnian, and the manner in which he operated in the three with Barry and the brilliant Ross Barkley – most crucially in the final six minutes with the side reduced to 10 men – was quite superb.
Martinez’s desperation to rush McCarthy back from injury is understandable given the side have won once in seven league games in his absence, but after the Spaniard’s glowing assessment of Barry’s renaissance this season, the opportunity is there for Besic to stake a claim for a regular place. He’s made the best possible start.