Everton always seem to be one defeat from crisis but it didn’t happen yesterday thanks to a spirited comeback and magical winner from Andros Townsend.
The knives were out for Rafa Benitez after Championship Hull took the lead through Tyler Roberts after just 43 seconds with the travelling Bluenoses chanting for their manager to be sacked and a banner that read: ‘Get out of our club’.
But in adversity, the players got their boss out of a big hole. Demarai Gray levelled and Andre Gomes scored his first goal in almost three years to put Everton ahead. They weren’t to be denied even after a Hull equaliser from Ryan Longman took the match into extra-time.
Andros Townsend’s late strike saw Everton battle past Hull 3-2 in a thriller after extra time
Hull were lively from the off and took a stunning lead inside the first minute from a free-kick
Hull forward Tyler Smith (centre) headed home to give the Tigers a dream start in the match
Everton fans showed their displeasure with Rafa Benitez and had a banner calling for him to go
Subs not used: Pickford, Patterson, Holgate, Onyango
Bookings: Mykolenko, Godfrey
Goals: Gray 21, Gomes 31, Townsend 99
Referee: Andy Madley
Townsend had come off the bench for his first action since mid-December after cracking a bone in his foot.
It proved an inspired return as he hit a Brazilian-style swerver after 99 minutes. It turned out to be enough for Everton’s first away win since August thanks also to a brilliant late stop from Asmir Begovic to deny Tom Eaves.
A relieved Benitez said, ‘Andros is injured but he wanted to play to help the team. We had to suffer until the end but the FA Cup is massive and it was important to win.’
Everton haven’t won a trophy for 27 years so their problems predate Benitez, a problem to which he alluded when responding to the fans’ hostility. ‘The problems are coming from a time ago. It is not the last three months,’ he said. ‘I have experience to fix the issues. If fans understand that, they will support the team.
‘Some things have been wrong for so many years so you have to be sure you are behind the team.’
The sour mood wasn’t helped by conceding again from a set piece in the opening minute. George Honeyman swung in a free-kick and Everton defenders hesitated to allow Smith to head in. Begovic was the busier goalkeeper and twice saved from Eaves and when Hull fans started chanting ‘You’re getting sacked in the morning’ to Benitez some Everton supporters joined in.
The momentum shifted after 21 minutes, however. Two of Everton’s younger players Gray and Anthony Gordon exchanged quick passes before Gray slotted his sixth goal of the campaign.
The visitors’ mood then improved when they went in front after 31 minutes. Jonjoe Kenny ventured forward and his cross was on the money for Gomes to head in from 12 yards.
Demarai Gray led Everton’s fight back and scored the equaliser after driving at Hull’s defence
Everton took control and added a second before half-time with Andre Gomes’ (No 21) header
Hull boss Grant McCann made a triple change after 64 minutes and it worked with all three involved in the equaliser seven minutes later.
Tom Huddlestone won a tackle to dispossess Kenny and allow George Moncur to run to the edge of the Everton box. He fed Longman and the Hull No16 curled it beyond Begovic.
The drama continued into extra-time when Everton restored their lead after 99 minutes in stunning fashion.
Moncur gave the ball away cheaply but there still looked very little on for Townsend until he hit a fantastic shot with the outside of his right boot.
But it was Hull who found an equaliser from nowhere thanks to Ryan Longman’s curling strike
Townsend then struck his long-range effort in the 99th minute to put Everton 3-2 ahead
But Hull were very unlucky not to equalise thanks to an excellent save from Asmir Begovic