Everton narrowly triumphed over a spirited Hull City side 3-2 in a far from convincing display by Rafa Benitez’s side.
The magic of the FA Cup struck again with a highly competitive five-goal thriller which served up a pulsating spectacle for the neutrals. Paired with some controversial penalty decisions by referee Kevin Friend, this was a game many couldn’t take their eyes off.
After what was a shock start from Everton, going one goal down within 45 seconds, the Blues managed to advance to the next round by the skin of their teeth to beat the Tigers 3-2 after extra time.
The opening 15 minutes saw Grant McCann’s men fired up for this exhilarating fixture. Everton had barely got out of the traps when they found themselves a goal down after 45 seconds through a delightful ball into the box by George Honeyman to assist Matthew Smith’s bullet header. Defensive mishaps and lack of marking were to blame. A tale of the Toffees season so far.
However, following a turgid start, Everton looked to be asserting some control after equalising, with the first goal coming from Demarai Gray following a great passage of play between Gordon and Gray (21).
Referee Kevin Friend then quickly waved away a potential penalty shout for Everton that VAR would have surely given.
Soon followed was an Andre Gomes header, assisted by Anthony Gordon (31) to put the Toffees 2-1 ahead in the tie.
An improved end to the first half ended with the Blues 2-1 to the good.
A poor Everton continued to struggle for form as they’d been in the last few months. Hull City continued pushing, unfazed by Everton; and looking to further exploit the Toffees suspect defence.
A stunning strike by Ryan Longman (71) pulled it level for the Tigers. For Hull, it epitomised the Tigers grit to dig deep and push Everton all the way.
In a largely low key extra time period, Everton came away fortuitous winners following substitute Andros Townsend’s wonder strike from outside the box (99). However, Hull City’s on-loan goalkeeper, Nathan Baxter won’t have been happy with himself after misjudging Townsend’s effort only to parry the ball into his own net
Late action included a brilliant Begovic moment who pulled off an instinctive, world-class save to deny Keane Lewis-Potter an equaliser.
Benitez may be blowing a sigh of relief after this victory. Still, tensions surrounding the Spaniard’s managerial position continue to grow amongst fans as many are left unconvinced about the result and his decisions. Benitez’s ongoing selection of Salamon Rondon is a key feature of the fans contempt, which still bewilders much of the Everton faithful. Many are unsure where he fits in this Everton side, with yet another underwhelming performance upfront. Boos from Everton fans and chants by Hull City fans stating, “You’re getting sacked in the morning” only fuel the despair that many feel over his time at the club so far.
Defensive problems continue to plague the toffees, with Everton caught sleeping in defence from the get-go. Benitez’s insistence on five at the back tells you everything regarding his confidence in Everton keeping the Tigers at bay.
Inconsistency in defensive performances has troubled non more so than Michael Keane. The 28-year-old lost possession of the ball 19 times in this match. Keane also didn’t register a single tackle after 120 minutes of game time, with Hull City managing to fire 21 shots and 7 on target. These are particularly worrying numbers for Michael Keane, who looks to be continually struggling to meet the necessary expectations week in, week out.
Demarai Gray & Anthony Gordon
However, some bright sparks find their way into what is proving to be rough period for Everton.
Demarai Gray once again proved his exceptional quality by showing himself to be the difference in this tie. A goal in the 21st minute for the Birmingham born winger was a showcase of some individual brilliance and trickery, which he carried on throughout the game. Gray is quickly becoming one of the most crucial players, continuing to stand out and adding to his goal tally.
Anthony Gordon again is proving to be a great talent, playing a brilliant 1-2 with Demarai Gray for the first goal and a well-placed cross for Andre Gomes to finish the second in the 31st minute. After a solid first half, it seemed baffling why Benitez thought to haul him off in the 66th minute. His absence was definitely felt in the remaining period of the game.
It was an impressive performance for McCann’s men, who pushed Everton all the way.
Stand out players included George Honeyman (left) whose impeccable work rate, and defensive contributions helped the Tigers battle in what was a compelling cup tie.
Rising talent Keane Lewis-Potter (right) also showed glimmers of class and was unlucky not to have scored in extra time. A very intelligent player who clearly has a bright future ahead of him.
Substitute Tom Huddlestone displayed his veteran status in the midfield for all to see, settling the team and looking exceptionally good doing it.
Everton made hard work of this 3rd round meeting. However, the Toffees mustn’t dwell with fixtures coming thick and fast. Benitez must rectify the growing problems within the side before it’s too late.