Everton had to work very hard to beat home side Huddersfield Town 2-1 today in the Second Round of the Carabao Cup, and were able to find a late winner despite being a man-down for the last half-hour of the game with the game level.
Asmir Begovic - 7.0
Jordan Pickford’s backup was a safe pair of hands in the Championship last season and did well today, including an excellent fingertip save to push a likely winner over the bar. He was only beaten twice by powerful point-blank headers from corners that he could do little about, though, his hesitance to come and claim the ball could be blamed.
Jonjoe Kenny - 4.0
Continues to show how unfit he is for Everton. Did little right all game long, either defensively or in the opposing half. Wasn’t helped by Townsend in front of him having a lacklustre first half too.
Mason Holgate - 5.5
Covered up for a lot of Kenny’s shortcomings on the right in the three-man backline. Maybe only partly responsible for the goal that stood, he was generally second to balls in the air which is not a surprise given his poor aerial record. Did use his pace and lanky limbs to good effect in the first half but faded later on.
Michael Keane - 5.0
Everton’s most senior defender on the pitch was also one of the poorest. The return of fans to the stands has really shown him up in bad light as he seems to be letting the noise get to him. Watched his man streak by him on the goal and then failed to attack the ball. Even in a back-three he continues to look like the weak link. When he got the time and space to drive play forward his passes often didn’t.
Jarrad Branthwaite - 5.0
Not a good outing for the youngster. Started off looking nervous making turnovers and never really got into the pace of the game. Fans who thought he was ready to play in the Premier League will get a reality check on him, he needs consistent minutes and it’ll likely only be at the Championship level.
Niels Nkounkou - 6.5
A tactical tweak from Rafa Benitez allowed him a lot more license to attack, and he came close as well with a couple of shots from close range but still needs a lot of work on his finishing. Didn’t necessarily help much on the defensive front, making things a bit more hairy for Branthwaite behind him.
Iwobi tucked in, playing as a second striker at times.— Tactically Everton (@TacticallyEv) August 24, 2021
This gives space for Nkounkou to play almost as a left winger. Branthwaite tucks round almost as a left back and making a flat back 4.
Nkounkou spent the majority of the game in the opposition half because of this setup. pic.twitter.com/KpLl9LNB7T
Andros Townsend - 6.5
Bit of a Jekyll-and-Hyde showing for the player today, especially considering he should have been fresh after only playing a handful of minutes on Saturday. Didn’t do much on the ball in the first half despite popping up everywhere, but then showed his wisdom and experience in the second half when the Blues were flagging with a man down. His attacking initiative to nip into the box with no striker on the pitch earned him the winning goal.
Tom Davies - 7.0
The only criticism you can have of the midfielder today would be that he should have done more when given a chance to start against a lower league midfield. When he took the initiative to attack, he set-up Everton’s opener with an excellent give-and-go to run into space. Really should have seen more of that, but as defensive midfielder he did well enough.
Jean-Philippe Gbamin - 5.5
First start in over two years and showed signs of a lot of rust. The physical attributes are great and his desire to become a box-to-box midfielder of note a la Abdoulaye Doucoure is there, but needs some work. Responsible for a number of turnovers especially in areas of the pitch where a better opponent would have punished the Blues severely, but lasted the full ninety which is a great sign.
Alex Iwobi - 7.5
Is Rafa Benitez going to pull off the most astounding magic trick of his storied career by making a competent footballer out of Alex Iwobi?! Second straight game that Iwobi has played very well, looked active and made himself available for the ball. What’s even more, he showed that he has a finishing touch as well with a sumptuously taken goal to get the Blues on the board.
Moise Kean - 6.0
Look, don’t listen to what the haters on Twitter have to say about Kean’s ‘attitude’ and ‘hatred of Everton’. The striker showed he was ready to play and did very well to get into position a couple of times early on. An inch here or there and an assistant referee with prescription glasses, and he would have had a hat-trick today which would have not led to his tantrum that saw him raise hands (not above neck-level though) on an opposing player and then get sent off.
Andre Gomes - 7.0
Has always looked at his best against sub-standard opposition and did that again today. Afforded the space to pick a pass, he and fellow substitute Lucas Digne shredded the Terriers defence to allow Alex Iwobi to get a cross in for Townsend’s goal.
Lucas Digne - 6.5
His experience was needed late on with Everton a man down and back into a four-man backline. Shut things down on his flank and played a pivotal role in getting the winner.
Demarai Gray - 6.5
Really small timespan to give him a grade on, but provided an outlet for the Everton team as the only recognizable goal threat late on as Huddersfield pushed up looking for an equalizer.
Benitez now with a huge smile on his face as those fans are singing "Rafa is our gaffer!"— Adam Jones (@Adam_Jones94) August 24, 2021
Rafa Benitez - B
‘Rafa the gaffer’ took a bit of a risk making nine changes, but I guess we can forgive him because anyone who can make Iwobi (among others) look competent and a second-string Everton somewhat resemble a coherent attacking force deserves all sorts of kudos.
Might have waited too long to make changes and kept Gbamin on instead of Davies, but his tactical tweaks with the 5-4-1 to best utilize the personnel he had available to him were spot on.