Everton v Stevenage
Everton booked their place in the third round of the Capital One Cup for the 12th year in succession – but they had to do it the hard way against a stubborn Stevenage.
Marouane Fellaini emerged from the substitutes’ bench in extra-time to secure a dogged 2-1 win over the League One outfit and set up an away tie at Fulham in the next stage of the competition.
The Belgian struck in the 116th minute, seizing on a loose ball and firing in from 10 yards out.
Plucky Stevenage had earlier silenced Goodison by taking a surprise first-half lead through Luke Freeman.
But the Blues rallied and were back level on the stroke of half-time when the impressive debutant Gerard Deulofeu curled home from the edge of the box.
Everton missed a plethora of chances throughout the duration of the 120 minutes with Arouna Kone enduring a frustrating first full Goodison appearance in front of goal.
The Blues stuck to their task, however, and ensured a dreaded penalty shoot-out was avoided through Fellaini’s decisive late finish.
As expected, Roberto Martinez shuffled his pack, making eight changes to the team that took the field against West Bromwich Albion at the weekend. Four members of the Blues squad made their first starts, including on-loan Barcelona forward Deulofeu.
The Spaniard had been left kicking his heels on the substitutes’ bench in Everton’s two opening Premier League fixtures and his intention to impress in his first outing in a Blues shirt was apparent.
Playing wide right in a front three, Deulofeu was a constant outlet and a continued problem for the Stevenage defence.
He gave left-back Roarie Deacon the run-around all evening and his quick feet, skill and low cross provided an early chance for fellow full debutant Kone who somehow saw his point-blank effort blocked inside a crowded six-yard box.
Having set up one Blues move, Deulofeu then came close to finishing two more but his 25-yard curler flashed just past the upright and cross-shot from an acute angle was dragged through the six-yard box.
Off-target efforts were the story of the first half for Everton as Ross Barkley twice fired narrowly wide, as did Leon Osman and Steven Naismith.
It was one-way traffic but the visitors – totally against the run of play – nudged themselves ahead on 36 minutes through Luke Freeman.
After a break down the left wing, a loose ball landed at the feet of the midfielder and from the edge of the area he smashed past Blues goalkeeper Joel Robles in front of a stunned Gwladys Street.
Everton were unperturbed by the setback, however, and continued to pour forward at will.
As the fourth official held aloft the board for two minutes of stoppage time, Kone wasted another golden chance to draw the scores back level and open his account for his new club, blazing rashly over the bar from Bryan Oviedo’s cut-back.
Just as it seemed the Toffees would enter half-time trailing, Deulofeu pulled the Blues back level with a superb low finish.
The 19-year-old collected possession on the edge of the box, checked inside on to his left foot and bent a fine effort into the far corner of the net. It was a goal his first-half performance had merited.
Phil Jagielka was replaced by Sylvain Distin at half-time, but It was more of the same after the break as Everton’s Premier League quality saw them control the game when in possession.
It was a similar story in the final third too.
Osman’s shot was blocked, Boro keeper Chris Day palmed out Naismith’s attempt and Kone’s night of frustration continued when he was caught on his heels at the far post following Barkley’s mazy dribble and subsequent cross-shot.
Deulofeu then curled into the arms of Day and later saw another effort saved again, this time a low, skidding shot.
As time ticked by, hope grew amongst the healthy travelling contingent from Stevenage that the tie could be extended into an extra 30 minutes – and they almost got more than they hoped for when substitute Greg Tansey – grandson of former Everton left-back Jimmy – saw an optimistic shot from distance scrambled to safety by Robles.
With the scores level after the allotted 90 minutes, extra-time ensued. Martinez threw on Fellaini to try and conjure up a winner, with the Belgian replacing Barkley who left the field to a deserved standing ovation.
The substitution paid dividends as the midfielder grabbed the all-important winner – at the third time of asking.
Playing effectively as a second striker, Fellaini had already forced Day into a parried low stop and headed inches over from the resulting corner.
But with four minutes of extra-time remaining, he pounced inside the area, hammering a right-foot half-volley into the back of the net to book the Toffees' third-round trip to Craven Cottage.