Everton’s Carabao Cup campaign ended in a 2-1 loss to Chelsea, but the first objective of the David Unsworth tenure as interim manager was successfully completed – restoring some pride and passion into the team performance.
Everton, particularly in the second half, looked an entirely different prospect to the team that has turned up in recent weeks as they fought for every ball and gave Chelsea no quarter. Such was the pressure that Everton exerted, Antonio Conte was forced to bring on first team regulars in the shape of Fabregas, Pedro and Morata before Willian sealed the narrow victory.
David Unsworths’ second stint at interim Everton manager could hardly have thrown him a more difficult start than a visit to reigning league champions Chelsea, but you would never have guessed it from his pre-match talk of ‘the team being mentally and physically tough and going to win a game of football’.
For the visit of Everton to Stamford Bridge, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte made a number of changes in selecting: Caballero, Rudiger, Cahill, Christensen, Zappacosta, Ampadu, Drinkwater, Kenedy, Willian, Batshuayi and Musonda.
A little over 48 hours since being handed the task of revitalising Evertons’ season, David Unsworth sprang a few surprises in naming his starting line-up including a full debut for 19-year old Congolese born midfielder Beni Baningime. The full line-up read: Pickford, Baines, Jagielka (c), Williams, Kenny, Davies, Baningime, McCarthy, Lennon, Rooney and Mirallas.
In charge of proceedings was referee Neil Swarbrick.
Lining up in a 4-5-1 formation, it quickly became apparent that David Unsworth was keen to see both Mirallas and Lennon get forward to support Rooney in a 4-3-3 set-up. And in a decent start by the Blues, playing in grey, Kenny found Rooney for the first shot that was blocked.
The early signs were quite promising as the team appeared to have a better shape and looked more comfortable on the ball with debutante Beni Baningime calm and assured in the midfield with Tom Davies buzzing around harrying Chelsea players quickly.
Chelsea were seeing more of the possession, but Everton were closing down quickly and not allowing the home side to get into any real rhythm until the 26th minute when following a corner, Musonda swung a cross to the back post that Rudiger met with a perfectly directed looping header back across goal beyond Pickford for the opening goal.
Ashley Williams was booked shortly after for a block on Zappacosta and a few minutes later, Zappacosta found Batshuayi and he rolled away from Williams on the edge of the box, but his shot lacked power.
Everton tried to respond with a decent passing move that broke down on a loose ball from Williams that alllowed Chelsea to break quickly with Zappacosta seeing his shot hit the side netting.
Chelsea went into the half time break ahead, but Everton had looked much better than in recent weeks and the early signs for David Unsworth were certainly encouraging.
Half Time: 1-0
Everton came out for the second half in determined fashion with Davies, Jagielka and Williams all biting into early tackles with Davies booked in the 49th minute for a foul on Ampadu. James McCarthy joined him in the referees notebook for a high boot on Kenedy as Everton maintained a strong start to the half.
A fine, flowing move down the right flank involving Davies, the impressive Baningime saw Kenny cross for Mirallas to nod down for Rooney who was unluckily offside. A poor clearance by Caballero almost gifted Aaron Lennon an equaliser, but the former Man City goalie recovered to spare his own blushes.
Everton were now on top and having much the better of the play and Rudiger was forced to condede a hurried corner. Mirallas threw cross into the box for Lennon who appeared to be pushed by Ampadu.
Jagileka was booked on the hour mark as the substitutions began with Fabregas replacing Drinkwater. Calvert-Lewin came on for McCarthy three minutes later, the Irish international having had a decent return to first team action.
Rudiger was booked for a foul on Mirallas as Everton contnued to press hard for an equaliser and Ampadu got away with a second push in the box, this time on Jagielka as the home side rode their luck a little.
A great cross from Lennon off the right wing gave Mirallas a one time shot that Caballero did well to turn away. Chelsea swopped Musonda for Pedro and Everton withdrew Lennon for Lookman and his first action was to get on the end of a lovely ball from Davies after a patient build-up, only to hit the side netting with his shot.
A terrible backpass from Rooney put Batshuayi to round Pickford, but with the empty net about to be filled, Phil Jagielka somehow got back to prevent the goal. Oumar Niass replaced Rooney and Chelsea sent Morata on for Batshuayi for the final minutes.
Into extra time and Willian played a perfect wall pass with Pedro to bend a shot across the face of goal and in off the post – cruel luck on Everton to go two down so late in the game.
But the Unsworth Everton responded and roared on by the travelling fans, bagged a consolation marker as Calvert-Lewin bundled home in the 93rd minute.
Full Time: 2-1
Yes, this was a defeat for the Blues, but the difference in attitude, pressure, self-belief and willingness to work their socks off was clearly apparent.
Ahead of the game, nobody would have given Everton much hope of victory at Stamford Bridge, I’ll bet Antonio Conte wasn’t expecting half the battle his side got.
Very impressive and my personal Man of the Match was Beni Baningime – an outstanding debut that bodes well for his and our future.