An entertaining Carabao Cup tie saw the home side progress 8-7 on penalties after Dieng in the home goal turned Tom Davies penalty onto the post.
When the balls came out of the felt bag for the third round Carabao Cup draw, they produced the first time the Hoops of Queens Park Rangers had faced the Toffees of Everton in any format of the originally named Football League Cup.
Rangers started their Championship campaign in a hurry with three wins and a draw in their first four outings before two more draws leading to back-to-back defeats to high-flying Bournemouth and hot-n-their-heels Bristol City. In the Carabao Cup, they reached tonight’s fixture by overcoming Oxford in the first round before needing penalties to see off Leyton Orient.
Last Saturday’s added-on time loss to Bristol City was a tough one for manager Mark Warburton to take and he expressed his feelings saying, “There were many positives, we could have scored five or six in the second half and that would have been fully justified. However, the fact is we conceded two goals that we shouldn’t have to drop three valuable points and we have to respond to that. It sounds bizarre but, we’ve played very well in two games (Bournemouth and Bristol City) and come away with nothing.”
The R’s boss added, “So playing a side like Everton, if front of a packed stadium, is the perfect opportunity for us to show a response. You have to be excited by a tie of this magnitude. We’re playing a Premier League team who’ve enjoyed a strong start to the season – Saturday’s result at Villa aside – and they’ve got a quality squad. Everton are a club with a huge history and I’ve no doubt that Rafael will want to progress in the competition – just like we do.”
Looking to take a memorable scalp, Warburton named his starting eleven: Dieng, Adomah, Dickie, Dunne, Barbet (c), McCallum, Ball, Dozzell, Chair, Willock and Austin.
After the disappointing loss at Villa Park, Everton needed to respond as much as their hosts did but, manager Rafael Benitez had major injury concerns to contend with after confirming that Jordan Pickford (shoulder), Seamus Coleman (hamstring), Richarlison (knee) and Dominic Calvert-Lewin (quadricep) were all possibly out of contention for possibly three weeks. And with James Rodriguez having flown out to the UAE to look into a possible move to a club in the Emirates or maybe Qatar, so he was definitely unavailable again.
Benitez speaking to the media on Monday noted, “The team has shown character and a very good attitude and I am happy with that. Now, we have to take all the positives from the past games and training sessions… and try to be sure we are ready for this one. You can replace players in some positions and it is fine. In other positions, we are short of some people and it is a big risk if you lose one of these players you cannot replace. But, at the same time, you have to put a strong team on the pitch to compete and win. You don’t have the time to recover properly and you have an important game [Norwich] coming soon. But, in the meantime, you have to be sure you make the right decisions.”
As to the players reaction to the Villa Park loss, the Spaniard advised, “All of them want to impress and do well, they have to impress not just the manager, they have to impress the fans. They are professionals and want to show they can play. I could see today [Monday] in the training session, they were focused and keen to do what we wanted.”
And he again paid tribute to the part the Blues fans can play when he added, “Always, I say, the fans at home are amazing. But, the fans away are even better. It is difficult to travel during the week, you have to go and expect your team will do well. If not, they continue going to every game away. It is amazing the support we have, hopefully they can carry on and we can send them back with smiles on their faces.”
With his resources somewhat stretched, Benitez named his starting eleven: Begovic, Kenny, Holgate, Godfrey, Digne (c), Gomes, Davies, Townsend, Iwobi, Gordon and Rondon.
The powers that be deemed fit to saddle both sides with Kevin Friend as the referee.
A quiet opening to the game until Willock tried a shot from just outside the area on ten minutes, Holgate with the block and it led to a QPR free kick and a lecture for Andre Gomes from the referee. Rangers forced the first corner of the game off Godfrey and sloppy play from Iwobi gave Austin a shooting chance that saw him fire high and wide.
Everton with a quick break down the right saw Iwobi gain the area and his cutback cross find Gordon who controlled and saw his shot well saved by Dieng in the home goal. Pressure from the Blues down the left led to their first corner which came to nothing. Willock then got forward on the Rangers left to play in Chair who drew Godfrey out of the middle and when he found McCallum, Begovic could only parry the shot onto the head of Charlie Austin and Gordon was unable to stop it crossing the line to put the home side ahead in the 19th minute.
Everton got forward to win a corner on the right that Townsend sent into the six yard area with no Blue (in black) able to get on the end of it and QPR smuggled it away, only for Everton to regain possession and Gomes screw a weak shot well wide of the target. Iwobi to Digne and onto Gordon who found Gomes for a second shot and the same result, screwed wide of the target… new shooting boots needed Andre !!
Willock was causing Everton problems down the right side, twice getting through weak attempts at tackles to cross the back post where Austin couldn’t get up high enough but, a warning sign for the Blues to heed. McCallum crossed along the line of the area from left to right and Digne uncomfortably conceded another corner that Dickie headed high and wide.
Everton should have drawn level in the 29th minute as a long ball, flicked on by Rondon, saw Barbet slip allowing Alex Iwobi to latch onto it, and shoot with Diengm racing out to narrow the angle, making a fine save to concede a corner that was defended. But Everton did draw level a minute later, on the half hour mark, as Gordon found Townsend and his chip over the Rangers defence was met by Lucas Digne with a side foot volley that beat Dieng at his near post.
They always say that teams are vulnerable after scoring and so it proved as Rangers retook the lead in the 34th minute as Everton failed to clear a throw-in and a cross from the left by Chair beat Godfrey and Austin guided it beyond the flailing dive of Begovic with a deft header. And Rangers kept on coming, Begovic denying the lively Willock who had impressed on loan at Newcastle last season from Arsenal.
Willock was clearly determined to play a major part in this game as he again got forward down the Rangers left to cross and when the clearing header from Godfrey fell to him, he tried a first time volley that lacked direction and power but, he was proving a real handful for the Blues defence. Everton forced a late corner as Adomah headed a Townsend cross behind but, Godfrey couldn’t get on the end of the set piece from Gomes sent long to the back post.
One added minute was announced and passed by without further incident and the R’s led at the halfway stage.
Half Time: 2-1
No changes by either manager for the second half that saw Everton attacking the goal behind which the travelling support was ensconced. Gordon saw a cross defected behind for an early corner and the Rangers defence failed to clear the low set piece, allowing Andros Townsend to equalise from three yards inside two minutes of the restart, much to the delight of those travelling fans.
McCallum was booked for a foul on Townsend ahead of Rangers getting forward again to win a corner off Holgate that was defended to create a break with Gordon doing well to find Townsend in the box and his layback to Rondon saw the Venezuelan, leaning back, fire high over the bar. The game was swinging end-to-end and Begovic comfortably saved a shot from Chair before the Blues won another corner on the right that ended up with Tom Davies pulling a shot wide of the near post.
The first change came on 58 minutes, Abdoulaye Doucoure replacing the largely ineffective Andre Gomes.
Everton were finally looking to get on top and a cross from Gordon won another corner that saw Townsend, at the second attempt, cross too far and out for a goal kick. Barbet conceded another corner but again, nothing came from it as Townsend at the second attempt fired hopelessly high and wide, acknowledging the fact to his team mates with hands raised in acceptance of his rush of blood.
Amos replaced Dozzell for Rangers, their first change coming on 63 minutes and then Kakay replaced McCallum three minutes later, ahead of Holgate and Austin coming together in the box, all smiles and no penalty as referee Friend waved play on, and into the final twenty minutes with the game nicely poised and with no extra time, the chances of a penalty shoot-out to decide who was to progress began to loom on the horizon.
The Blues second change came on 73 minutes as Demarai Gray replaced Salomon Rondon, manager Benitez clearly making a tactical change in the event of penalties. Within seconds, Everton had appeals for a penalty for a foul on Doucoure denied, as he got to a cross from Kenny and appeared to be bundled off the ball.
Rangers made their third change, Duke-McKenna replacing Chair with fifteen minutes to play.
Both sides were still looking to win it in normal time Austin failing to get on the end of a cross from the left and Rangers defending well as Townsend and Gray combined down the Everton right flank. Digne into the box on the left won another Everton corner and Michael Keane came on to replace the Frenchman and almost made the perfect impact, getting his head to cross but not keeping the ball down. Rangers countered from the goal kick with Willock crossing again from the right, Holgate getting the ball away for throw-in. Godfrey has slipped into the left back position with Keane partnering Holgate in the centre of the Everton defence for the final stages of an entertaining cup tie.
Townsend saw a shot charged down and Duke-McKenna was penalised for a foul on Davies to give Everton a free kick thirty yards out that produced nothing. Time was ticking away, would either side take a chance to win it or prefer to settle for the lottery of penalties? Dieng came way off his line to claim a free kick cross decisively and launch a counter attack that Doucoure and Holgate dealt with well.
Three added minutes were signalled, could a winning goal be found? The answer was no and so it was down to penalties to decide who was going forward to the fourth round draw.
Full Time: 2-2
Stand-in skipper Mason Holgate won the toss to see the penalties taken at the Everton end of Loftus Road, with Everton shooting first
Holgate scored 1-0 Austin scored 1-1
Keane scored 2-1 Ball scored 2-2
Townsend scored 3-2 Barbet scored 3-3
Gray scored 4-3 Willock scored 4-4
Gordon scored 5-4 Adomah scored 5-5
And so to sudden death…
Doucoure scored 6-5 Duke-McKenna scored 6-6
Godfrey saved but, had to be retaken due to Dieng not being stationary on his linesman