Hull City 2-3 Everton
Andros Townsend came off the substitutes bench to strike a stunning goal in extra time and an outstanding reaction stop from Asmir Begovic sent Everton into the fourth round of the FA Cup after an almighty scrap with Hull City.
A disastrous start by the Blues saw them fall behind inside 45 seconds before Demarai Gray and Andre Gomes with a rare headed goal put them in the drivers seat before the interval. However a failure to put the game to bed in the second half gave the home side hope and a delicious equaliser to the game to extra time… and that Townsend blast.
The Road to Wembley saw Everton begin their FA Cup campaign on the other side of the country with a visit to the KCOM Stadium, home to Championship strugglers, Hull City.
The Tigers, like the Blues, currently languish three places above the relegation places in their respective league tables and like the Blues were probably looking forward to a game that a. wouldn’t directly affect their survival aspirations and b. might provide their fan base with some light relief and a chance to enjoy a cup run.
Tigers Head Coach Grant McCann reported mixed injury news in his pre-match media gathering, beginning with the positives.
“We have Tom Huddlestone, Matt Ingram and Will Jarvis back,” said McCann. “But, we’ve lost Josh Magennis to a hamstring injury and Callum Elder which is a worse injury than what we thought actually. He’s probably going to miss the rest of the month. It’s disappointing to lose him because he’s a big player for us. Mallik Wilks has picked up a metatarsal injury which will keep him out for about eight weeks. We’re disappointed for Mallik, it’s been stop-start for him this season. It’s frustrating for us and Mallik but, he’s around good people who will help him recover.” Returning to the positives, McCann noted on Tom Huddlestone, “Tom has got real knowledge and experience of the Premier League and the Championship. He’s missed 10 days of training and has come back in to train a couple of days this week. We’ve got to put everything into perspective when we’re thinking about picking the team.”
Hoping to cause a cup upset, McCann named his starting eleven: Baxter, McLoughlin, Greaves, Bernard, Smith, Williams, Smallwood (c), Docherty, Honeyman, Lewis-Potter and Eaves.
Everton manager Rafael Benitez also had mixed news on the team selection front with Dominic Calvert-Lewin rested following his return to first team action last weekend in the home loss to Brighton having missed four months with a quadricep injury and a tough Premier League game against Leicester looming on Tuesday evening. Also missing from the trip to Hull with injuries were Richarlison (calf), Andros Townsend (foot), Tom Davies (knee), Fabian Delph (calf) and Yerry Mina with a mysterious unspecified injury according to the official Everton website.
Also missing from the squad was French international left back Lucas Digne who Benitez advised, “If on 31 January we finish the transfer window and he’s here, okay, we do what we have to do. At the moment, in his head, he has what he has and we have to deal with the players who want to be here. [He was in the squad for Brighton] because as a manager you have a responsibility to try to do what is best for the Club and sometimes you pay for that.”
In brighter news, the Spaniard had the option to blood one or both of his early January signings Vitaliy Mykolenko and Nathan Patterson as he noted, “Maybe one or both can start… but they have been 15 days without training, so we have to consider if they are fit enough for an important game like this. Both players have shown they want to do well and perform. If we have to play them, they can play, but in terms of fitness… we have to consider all the aspects.”
He continued, “They are young full-backs, with energy, desire and passion and, hopefully, they can give us something right now. But we are not just thinking now, we are thinking about the future. If they come now and make an impact, I will be really pleased because we are in a difficult position in the table, but we expect they will be here for, maybe, 10 years and be key players like Seamus Coleman has been all this time.”
Needing to avoid the potential banana skin exit against lower league opposition, Benitez stunned many Blues fans in naming his starting line-up: Begovic, Coleman (c), Keane, Godfrey, Mykolenko, Allan, Gomes, Kenny, Gordon, Gray and Rondon.
For this tea-time televised treat, our referee was Kevin Friend.
And the fantastic 3,500 travelling supporters were absolutely stunned inside 45 seconds as a free kick from the right found the head of Smith and the Tigers were into the early lead they could surely have only dreamt of.
Hull were understandably boosted and a terrific cross from the right found the head of Eaves and it took a fingertip save over the bar by Begovic to prevent a second Hull goal inside the opening five minutes. The Blues first foray into opposition territory saw Gray win a corner that came to nothing. Hull again attacking down the Everton left flank saw Honeyman loft a cross and Begovic fouled as he put the ball over the bar.
A shocked Everton were struggling to find any form and through the first quarter of an hour were second best and had a lot of work to do to gather some composure and gain a foothold in the game. And they had Begovic to thank as he beat away a powerful shot from Eaves who’d got beyond Coleman and bore down on goal. Smallwood again fed the powerfully built Eaves and he held play up leading to Lewis-Potter winning the ball and firing a speculative shot high over the bar.
Finally on twenty minutes, things clicked for the Blues as a loose ball from Lewis-Potter was pounced up on by Demarai Gray and after play a neat one-two with Anthony Gordon to get free in the Hull penalty area, he coolly slotted the equaliser beyond the dive of Baxter.
A headed flick-on by Rondon found Anthony Gordon saw him off to the races and with Gray on his left side, AG took on the shot only for it to hit the outside of the post – the pass to Gray might have been the better option but, great to see his self-confidence. Everton were now beginning to warm to the task and another shot from Gray won a corner that was played far too long and wasted.
A clear but probably accidental handball by Greaves, didn’t result in an Everton penalty – no VAR outside of Premier League club grounds – and Hull breathed a sigh of relief. Everton now had settled and Michael Keane getting forward purposefully collected a fine pass from Gordon and Baxter was happy to paw his low shot away for a corner that produced nothing.
Just past the half hour mark and the improving Everton gained the lead as Gomes fed Gordon, he relayed the ball outside for Kenny to cross and Andre Gomes arriving through the middle got ahead of a defender to head the Blues ahead.
Hull responded, a long throw causing some concern and a clearance from Mykolenko before a shot came in from Docherty that Begovic pushed away for a corner that was defended. The response then from Everton saw Rondon play in Gordon who struck a rising shot over the bar. Hull won another corner that saw Bernard rise at the back post and send his header well wide of the target.
With Gomes beginning to become more of an influence on the game pushing forward, Gordon was fouled and Kenny sent in a free kick that led to a shot from Ben Godfrey being deflected behind for a corner that Eaves put behind for a second in quick succession and Hull cleared. Into the final five minutes of a half that began so badly and Everton were now enjoying most of the possession but they allowed Hull to clear their lines and win a corner that was easily cleared by the now slightly calmer Everton rearguard.
One added minute was announced and a foul by Mykolenko saw Williams felled in a similar position to that from which the opening goal came, the Ukrainian booked for his challenge, and Begovic punching the set piece clear to bring the half to a close.
No changes by either manager for the second half that saw Everton attacking the end of the KCOM Stadium where their terrific – sold out yet again – travelling support were massed and no first minute mishap this time, thanks heavens.
Coleman breaking out of defence fed Gray and his cross found Rondon who couldn’t turn quick enough to feed Gordon for a shot and the chance was lost. Nice play and dribbling from Gomes saw him find Gray in the area, Hull smothering him to concede the first corner of the half that Baxter comfortably punched clear. More good possession by the Blues with Gomes prominent led to Gray finding Gordon on the right and Baxter again did well to beat the shot away.
Passing the hour mark and Everton now looked comfortable and won another corner as Keane drove forward to find Gray, his shot deflected behind and from the set piece, Mykolenko fired wildly over the bar.
Hull made three changes on 63 minutes with Williams, Docherty and Smallwood replaced by Longman, Moncur and Huddlestone respectively. Three minutes later, Andros Townsend came on with Anthony Gordon getting a fine reception for his efforts from the travelling fans.
The game had gone a bit quiet and Everton ideally needed a third goal to quell any thoughts of a Hull throw-everything-forward finale to the tie… and would you Adam and Eve it, as I typed that comment, Huddlestone won possession to find Moncur and on to Longman who curled a superb shot into the top corner giving Begovic no chance. Game on with 19 minutes to play.
Now it was the home sides turn to be re-invigorated and Lewis-Potter bent a shot too high, Everton hitting back with Townsend finding Gray to bend a shot beyond Baxter and sadly the far post too. Abdoluaye Doucoure replaced Jonjoe Kenny on 74 minutes as the game again began to switch end to end with the home side piling forward before having to defend desperately as Townsend and Gray combined again, the shot from Gray appearing to strike the arm of Greaves but with no VAR, no penalty ensued.
With a league game against Leicester at Goodison on Tuesday, the last thing Everton wanted was extra time and a possible penalty shootout to settle this cup tie, so the final twelve minutes really needed them to find a winner from someone, somehow.
A decent move was spoilt by Gray being marginally offside and Hull were denied by the woodwork as a quick counter saw a shot from Lewis-Potter beat Begovic and cannoned away off the near post. Into the final five minutes of normal time and it was still too close to call as Townsend was dumped to earn Everton a free kick on the right flank that was wasted.
Townsend away on the right crossed into the area where Doucoure rose but, couldn’t direct his header on target and Andre Gomes was replaced by Jean-Philippe Gbamin. Rondon tried to get away from McLoughlin and went down, referee Friend waving away half-hearted appeals for a penalty. Four added minutes were announced, could either side find a winner?
Everton survived two Hull crosses into the area, and Huddlestone was booked and normal time elapsed and ushered in thirty minutes of extra time and possible penalties.
Hull with an early corner that was cleared as the first half of extra time began slowly but, with Hull looking the more interested before Alan and Townsend broke up their attack to mount q counter attack that saw Gray stray offside much to jeers from the home fans. Gomes bring the Blues forward fed Gray who went on a mazy run as Hull defenders converged on him, his shot eventually half blocked and cleared.
The game was now almost at walking pace, Greaves enveloping Rondon in midfield earning the Blues a free kick. Everton were trying to build patiently and that patience was rewarded eight minutes in as Andre Gomes found Andros Townsend and five or six paces later he jinked to his right and unleashed a terrific shot that Baxter got a hand to but couldn’t stop from bulging the onion bag.
The goal took some of the wind out of Hull who had battled hard but, Everton needed to stay alert having relinquished one lead already, and maybe push on for an insurance goal. Rondon couldn’t get on the end of a right wing cross from Townsend and then he couldn’t get on the end of nice through ball from Gbamin as Greaves got back to concede a tenth Everton corner. One added minute signalled and Longman fired over to see out the remaining seconds.
Lewis Dobbin replaced Demarai Gray for the start of the second added session, his fresh and hungry young legs hopefully to cause the Hull defence problems.
It was Hull with a quick break who threatened early on, Michael Keane getting back to concede a seventh corner to the home side that Coleman cleared. Hull made their last change with Hinds coming on and from another left wing corner Asmir Begovic made an outstanding reaction save to deny Eaves from short range.
Dobbin with his first involvement won a corner in front of the travelling support that saw Townsend cross long to Godfrey who retained possession to run some seconds off the clock before being booked for time-wasting at a throw-in.
Five minutes left in extra time and it was hit and hope now for the home side as they began to throw long balls forward in hope more than design. Cenk Tosun replaced Salomon Rondon who got a warm round of applause, a cameo role for the Turkish forward. Hull won a late free kick for a foul by Mykolenko, Honeyman only finding the head of Doucoure before racing back to dispossess Dobbin as he looked to break away.
Doucoure drove forward as two further added minutes were signalled and Everton were cute enough to slow down the play before Allan had either ideas and saw a shot blocked and fall to Tosun to win a corner as his shot was parried by Baxter.
And finally the final whistle sounded and Everton were able to draw breath after a pulsating cup tie.