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Football

Shaky FA Cup win over Hull City signifies Everton struggles

Everton FA
Everton defeated Hull City 2-3 in the FA Cup on Saturday, January 8 2022. | PHOTO: Getty Images |

Hull City vs Everton FA Cup

In stark contrast to the destructive turmoil burning the club after a run of one win from 12 games, Rafael Benitez was positively worried ahead of Everton FA Cup vs third-round tie with Championship side Hull City on Saturday.

The head coach even had time for a chuckle when he jokingly suggested the solution to Everton’s recent lack of form was simple: “Don’t do it.”

43 seconds after referee Kevin Friend blew his whistle to start the FA Cup meeting, that smile was wiped off Benitez’s face by Tyler Smith’s opening goal.

Sneaking between Vitaliy Mykolenko and Salomon Rondon, Smith had to beat his teammate Di’Shon Bernard, rather than an Everton shirt, to George Honeyman’s free-kick as he nodded Hull into a first-minute lead.

Only two sides in England’s top flight have conceded more goals from set-pieces than Everton this season. Yet, this isn’t a replica from Carlo Ancelotti’s tenure – no, this is a problem that has emerged under Benitez’s watch as Everton’s manager.

In 20 fewer Premier League matches, Everton has already conceded more goals from set-pieces (eight) this season than they did in the entirety of the previous campaign when they conceded seven.

Hull City 2-3 Everton

Hull City players celebrate after scoring the opener against Everton in a FA Cup clash on Saturday, 8 January 2022. | PHOTO: Getty Images |

Smith easily won first contact from the next dead ball opportunity and Hull City’s imposing forward Tom Eaves had the chance to level the tie in the dying embers of extra time as a corner rebounded into his path. Only Asmir Begovic’s razor reflexes preserved a patchy 3-2 victory for the struggling visitors.

Rather than jolting the Toffees into life, Hull built upon their early advantage, dominating proceedings with shocking ease. Effortlessly playing their way through Everton’s limp trot towards the ball, each pass to a teammate in space from Hull made a mockery of the division-wide gap between the clubs.

Benitez has had Everton hunkered in a painfully reactive low block this season. Yet, perhaps given the perceived strength of their 19th-placed Championship hosts, Everton crept out of their shell on the weekend – but with all the reluctance they may show when presented with the post-game ice baths following two hours of football.

Just as Brighton did the Toffees two days into 2022 by outnumbering Everton’s midfield duo, Honeyman dropped from his more advanced number ten role to give Hull’s central three the numerical edge over Andre Gomes and birthday boy Allan.

Chants of, ‘You’re getting sacked in the morning’, rang around Hull City’s MKM Stadium as the dread of Premier League results began to creep in once more. However, for all the inadequacies in defence – which aren’t aided by fielding a waning Seamus Coleman as part of the back three – Everton can call upon genuine quality at the other end of the pitch.

Throughout a match Benitez later revealed he was playing with pain, Demarai Gray was a menace. Carving open a pair of chances for his teammates, Gray wasted off a game-high five shots, thriving particularly as City legs tired after the interval.

Everton

Everton had to put their best performance to defeat Hull City and qualify for the fourth round of the FA Cup. | PHOTO: Getty Images |

An outrageous piece of control foreshadowed Gray’s swiftly taken equaliser after 20 minutes. Everton’s leading scorer dovetailed with Anthony Gordon inside a crowded penalty area to silence the suggestions that Benitez would be going anywhere.

Gordon was again involved as Andre Gomes nodded the visitors into a lead ten minutes later that underlined their manager’s position, which – admittedly – has repeatedly been reaffirmed by the club’s hierarchy.

By the time Ryan Longman curled Hull level in the 71st minute, Everton had carved open the chances to be home and hosed but lived up to their billing as a side with the 18th-worst conversion rate in the Premier League since October (7.9%).

Second-half substitute Andros Townsend, who Benitez flatly described as ‘injured’ following the match, belted the Toffees ahead once more.

But the fact that it took an audacious swerving strike from range – aided by questionable goalkeeping – in extra time for Everton to step into the next round, clearly shows the fall of the club that is currently sitting 15th in the Premier League table with only 19 points, eight points above the relegation zone, after 18 rounds of matches.

Nathan Sialah is a journalist by profession with interest in politics, sports, cryptocurrency and human interests with 5 years experience in Radio and Digital Journalism. This has helped Sialah develop a responsible approach to any task he undertakes or any situation that he is presented with.

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