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Everton’s nightmare Carabao Cup exit is the latest cruel joke in their trophy drought

Everton 1-1 Fulham (Fulham win 7-6 on penalties): The draw for the Carabao Cup semi-finals had opened up but it was the visitors who took advantage

Richard Jolly
Senior football correspondent
Wednesday 20 December 2023 07:57 GMT
Everton’s wait for silverware continues
Everton’s wait for silverware continues (Getty Images)

Many an Everton manager has tried to end a wait for silverware that now dates back almost three decades. Now, at a point when even the most pessimistic inside Goodison Park had reasons to wonder if it might be their year, a former Everton manager has extended it. Marco Silva’s second win at Goodison this season and third in 2023 means Fulham instead advance to the League Cup semi-finals, for the first time in their history. The draw may have been opening up for Everton, a run of 10 wins in 14 games suggesting they had the form to carry them to glory, but this was an anti-climactic night for an in-form team.

For Everton, it must rank as the latest in the list of missed opportunities that have followed their 1995 FA Cup win. Even after they trailed for 41 minutes and hauled themselves level, they were a penalty away from winning the shootout: instead Amadou Onana rolled the tamest of spot kicks straight at Bernd Leno. When, with each side having exhausted their list of preferred takers and the shootout tied at 6-6 apiece, Idrissa Gueye put Everton’s eighth effort on to the post, Tosin Adarabioyo seized the chance to seal a semi-final spot.

While Silva’s side were nowhere near as fluent as they were in their five-goal demolitions of Nottingham Forest and West Ham, this was a landmark result for them nonetheless. A first major semi-final beckons since Roy Hodgson led them to the last four – and then the final – of the Uefa Cup in 2010.

Tosin Adarabioyo scored the winning penalty for Fulham (Getty Images)

Sometimes it does not matter how a team progresses; simply that they do. For 27 minutes, Fulham led without even having registered a shot on target. Then Alex Iwobi, making his first return to Goodison since his summer sale, had a shot pushed past the post by Jordan Pickford. It was the only time the England goalkeeper had to make a save in the first 90 minutes. When he denied Bobby Decordova-Reid in the shootout, it ought to have allowed Onana to win the tie.

Nor was it Everton’s only stray touch. It may be of scant consolation that it is now five games since an opponent scored against them, the shootout aside. One of their own did, however, in inadvertent fashion. After a goal on Michael Keane’s return to the team at Turf Moor came an own goal. If Fulham had wondered who would score in the absence of the banned Raul Jimenez, they got an unexpected answer.

Marco Silva returned to haunt Everton (Getty Images)

Fulham had scored 16 goals in four games before Saturday’s trip to Newcastle and it seemed that Jimenez’s ridiculous red card at St James’ Park had stripped them of their threat. Rodrigo Muniz was afforded the chance to stand in for the Mexican, but their brightest attacker was also the oldest one. First Willian rolled a free kick just wide. Then he fed the overlapping Robinson whose cross was deflected in by Keane. To his credit, Keane recovered to score a thumping penalty in the shootout.

But Robinson, formerly of Everton’s academy, had a part in each goal. As his former club applied pressure, he twice failed to clear and when James Garner’s shot bounced up off the left-back, Beto headed in to take the game to penalties.

The forward opened his Everton account in the first round, when they had trailed at League Two Doncaster, and, four months later, his second goal in the competition afforded them a lifeline, albeit only for a few minutes.

Everton’s slender squad and injury problems means manager Sean Dyche has relatively few options but he made influential changes. When Beto came on, Dominic Calvert-Lewin went off, Dyche seeming to rationalise that he could not overwork his main forward, while Garner, who had taken on the injured Abdoulaye Doucoure’s usual duties as the No 10, stayed on to play his part in the leveller. Arnaut Danjuma brought a spark following his arrival and he volleyed just wide in injury time. Both Danjuma and Beto scored in the shootout, but Dyche had no real specialist penalty takers to bring on.

His side could end up rueing a slow start. If they lacked the inspiration that has characterised their winning run in the league, it may have been no surprise. Perhaps it was simply a consequence of their colossal effort to cancel out their 10-point deduction in four league games. Maybe they lacked a similar siege mentality, a galvanising cause, in a competition where they had no such obstacle to overcome. They roused themselves to equalise but then two poor penalties means their wait for a trophy goes on. On nights like this, it feels never-ending.

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