Rafa Benitez says 10-man Everton’s Carabao Cup victory at Huddersfield Town on Tuesday was the product of “character and determination and commitment” – qualities epitomised by the selfless pair of Alex Iwobi and Tom Davies.
Andros Townsend swatted in a 79th-minute winner in front of the ecstatic travelling Evertonians, after manager Benitez’s team were rocked by Moise Kean’s dismissal 14 minutes into the second half.
Everton originally led when Iwobi, who finished the game playing through pain, guided in a low finish from Davies’s 26th-minute pass.
The hosts equalised when Tom Lees headed in moments before half-time and Everton had to weather a Huddersfield storm before Townsend struck the decisive goal.
“I was quite pleased with the way we approached the game,” said manager Benitez.
“We had chances, we were in control and after we scored our goal, I would say that it was easy – but it was not so easy.
“When they scored their goal at the end of the first half, they had more belief that they could get a result.
“The sending off was a mistake, obviously. He's [Kean] a young player and has to learn from that.
“But the reaction of the team was very good.
“I like to see Tom Davies work so hard with a little problem in his quadriceps, I like to see Alex Iwobi limping but still trying to help the team, and I like the second goal and the way we finished.
“The character, the determination, the commitment of the players was great and I think that's what the fans are expecting from this team.”
Everton were roared on by a packed away end and the visiting supporters created an ear-splitting din when Townsend hit the net.
There was audible appreciate, too, for a performance high on effort and intensity.
Everton finished the game the stronger of the two teams despite their one-man deficit and could have scored a third goal when substitute Demarai Gray sprinted clear for an effort repelled by the legs of goalkeeper Lee Nicholls.
“I think I will say the majority of the fans were great from the beginning [of my tenure],” said Benitez.
“We know when you start playing and the team is working and showing commitment on the pitch, the fans are happy with that.
“They can see we are trying to improve every single player, they know the difficulty of the Financial Fair Play rules for us and they appreciate we are professionals and are fighting for our club.
“That is very clear and today they showed again this support – and this is the main thing for me, that they know we will be here, trying to our our best every day, every hour.”
Benitez made nine changes from Saturday’s Premier League draw with Leeds United.
There was a first start for more than two years for midfielder Jean-Philippe Gbamin and a number of players appeared for the first time this season.
Ben Godfrey travelled to West Yorkshire but wasn’t named in the matchday squad – Benitez explaining the defender was “coming back from isolation… we didn't have time to make sure he was fine”.
Those who did figure ultimately achieved a hard-won victory over a Championship team that summoned a rousing response to the setback of conceding first.
“Huddersfield work hard,” continued Benitez, whose side will learn their third-round opponents in Wednesday’s draw.
“I was talking with the [Huddersfield] coach before the game, we knew, analysing how they were playing, they would try to play well.
“I think the game was more or less exactly what we were expecting.
“We didn’t take the chances we had at the beginning and gave them some hope, then they were growing in confidence… especially when we were playing with 10 players.
“That was something we were expecting, something we managed at the end in a good way.
“As I said, the reaction of our players was quite good. So, I’m pleased for our players and, hopefully, Huddersfield will do well during the season.”