Everton’s fight is intensified by an uneven FA Cup victory

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In stark contrast to the toxic turbulence that engulfed the club after a 12-match victory, Rafael Benitez was positively happy ahead of Everton’s FA Cup match in the third round with Championship side Hull City on Saturday.

The manager even had time for a laugh when he playfully suggested that the solution to Everton’s latest streak of falling behind was simple: “Do not do it.”

43 seconds after Kevin Friend blew his whistle, that smile was wiped from Benitez’s face by Tyler Smith’s opening goal.

Smith snuck between Vitaliy Mykolenko and Salomon Rondon and had to beat his teammate Di’Shon Bernard, rather than a royal blue jersey, to George Honeyman’s free kick as he nodded Hull to a lead in the first minute.

Only two teams in England’s highest league have conceded more goals from set goals than Everton this season. Still, this is not a remnant of Carlo Ancelotti’s tenure – no, this is a problem that has emerged under Benitez’s supervision.

In 20 fewer Premier League matches, Everton have already conceded more goals from set goals (eight) this season than they did during the entire previous campaign (seven).

Smith quickly won the first contact from the next dead ball opportunity and City’s impressive striker Tom Eaves had the chance to equalize the equalizer in the dying glow of extra time as a corner recovered in his path. Only Asmir Begovic’s razor blade reflexes maintained an uneven 3-2 victory for the struggling guests.

Instead of bringing toffees to life, Hull built on their early advantage and dominated the process with shocking ease. Without effort to play through Everton’s sloppy trot against the ball, every airy pass to a team-mate in space from Hull made a mockery of the division-wide gap between the clubs.

Benitez has caused Everton to end up in a painful reactive low block this season. Still, perhaps given the perceived strength of their championship hosts in 19th place, Everton crawled out of their shell at the weekend – but with all the reluctance they can show when presented to the ice baths after the match after two hours of football.

Just as Brighton confused Toffees two days into 2022 by surpassing Everton’s midfield duo, Honeyman jumped from his more advanced number ten role to give Hull’s central third the numerical lead over Andre Gomes and his birthday child Allan.

Song about “You get fired in the morning” rang around Citys MKM Stadium when the fear of Premier League results began to creep in again. But despite all the inadequacies in the defense – which are not facilitated by setting up a declining Seamus Coleman as part of the back three – Everton can invoke genuine quality at the other end of the pitch.

During a match, Benitez later revealed that he was playing with pain, Demarai Gray was a threat. Gray opened up a couple of chances for his teammates, and Gray rattled off a match-high five shots, and flourished especially when City’s legs got tired after the break.

An outrageous check foreshadowed Grays’ quick receipt after 20 minutes. Everton’s leading scorer joins Anthony Gordon in a packed penalty area to silence suggestions that Benitez should go anywhere.

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

When Ryan Longman lowered the Hull level in the 71st minute, Everton had created the chances to stay home and threw, but lived up to their billing as a team with the 18th worst conversion rate in the Premier League since October (7.9%).

Second half substitute Andros Townsend, whom Benitez described as “injured” after the match, toffees forward again.

But the fact that it took a boldly swinging shot from within reach – with the help of dubious goalkeeper play – in the long run for Everton to get into the next round, hardly does much to lift the gloomy collection over the club in recent times.

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