Everton survived a spirited Huddersfield Town and a bizarre set of refereeing decisions to scrape through to the Carabao Cup Third Round by a 2-1 score.
Rafa Benitez had made nine changes for this clash and the Blues looked disjointed in the first half but yet had enough quality to create a couple of excellent openings for Moise Kean. Jean-Philippe Gbamin was making his first start in nearly two years, and looked the part too, rusty in positioning and passing.
It took a great Tom Davies run to break through the hosts backline with a give-and-go that saw him come out of the 5-4-1 midfield and find Alex Iwobi running into space. The Nigerian forward made no mistake with his finish slipping the ball into the far post.
A minute later Moise Kean looked to have made it 2-0 with a tidy finish of his own but the assistant referee flagged him for offside even though he looked to be on. With no VAR in place for this clash, play went on despite Kean’s fury at the referee.
The Blues hadn’t really looked comfortable with Huddersfield pressing up into the three-man backline of Mason Holgate - Michael Keane - Jarrad Branthwaite, and were able to take advantage with a setpiece goal just before the break. Keane lost his man in the scramble from a corner and the header was unstoppable, 1-1 at the break.
The second half started with the Terriers really pushing the pace and they found a second goal soon after from another corner, which was also chalked off by the same assistant referee, supposedly for a striker obstructing Asmir Begovic though in all honesty it was more of a make-up call because there was not much in it.
And then with the game starting to heat up, Kean got involved in a unnecessary shoving match that resulted in him getting a straight red despite not really getting his hands in his opponent’s face. Everton’s protestations were in vain though with the Huddersfield man only getting a booking with half an hour left to play.
Benitez switched to a 4-4-1 immediately, with Andre Gomes on for Branthwaite, Lucas Digne replacing Davies and Gray coming on later for Niels Nkounkou whod wasted a couple of half-chances in the first half.
With eleven minutes to play though a delightful passing sequence between Digne, Gomes and Iwobi saw Townsend sneaking into the box and slamming into the roof of the net to put the ten-man Blues up 2-1.
There were some more nervy moments late on but Everton were able to see it out and scrape into the Third Round of the Carabao Cup.