The experimental formation taking advantage of the personnel he had available to him looked good on paper but with little experience playing together, they allowed hosts Huddersfield Town to heap pressure on them every time they tried playing out the back.
He watched his Toffees take the lead through a well-worked move by Tom Davies to set up Alex Iwobi, but then Moise Kean saw his goal to double the lead chalked off for offside. The Terriers equalized just before the break after another defensive lapse and then started the second half the hungrier side too.
The game seemed to swing the hosts’ way at the hour mark though after a rush of blood to the head of striker Kean. Frustrated at being fouled in the middle, he faced off against his opponent and a shoving match ensued with the referee deciding Kean had raised his hand high enough to be aggressive and flashed a red card.
“The sending off of Moise Kean changed everything, our approach and we had to adjust to too many things. I didn’t see the first part of the incident, I saw when they were pushing each other so I cannot say.
“I think it [the sending off] is still in many ways a mistake, we cannot lose our temper but he’s a young player, hopefully he can learn from that. But the reaction of the team was very good.
“I liked the second goal and the way things finished for us. The character, the dedication, the commitment of the players was great and I think that’s what the fans were expecting from this team.”
In all honesty Everton could have been out of sight in the first half were it not for a series of misplaced passes and missed chances. The second half was a more even battle especially once the Blues were down a man.
“The game was more or less exactly what we were expecting. The chances we had in the beginning, we didn’t take them and we gave them so hope.
“And after they were growing in confidence and especially when we were playing with 10 players. That was something we were expecting and managed at the end in a good way. I’m pleased for our players.”
The manager reserved some special praise for goalscorer Alex Iwobi who looks a different player under Benitez, and Tom Davies too who was making his first start of the season and set up Iwobi for the opener.
“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."@rafabenitezweb on tonight's hard-fought #CarabaoCup victory. pic.twitter.com/fWcSP12ww6— Everton (@Everton) August 24, 2021
Benitez finished off by adding that Ben Godfrey had traveled to West Yorkshire with the squad but was not ready to feature in the gameday squad, which is welcome news for the defensive corps, and also thanking the away support that was behind the goal Everton were attacking in the second half.
“I think I will say the majority of the fans were great from the beginning [of my tenure]. 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.”