The script suggested that if John Stones were to leave Everton, this match between his first club and perhaps his soon to be former club was an ideal way to end a chapter of his career.
It was a fabulous football match which saw Everton, on the brink of another painful elimination from the League Cup, snatch the match in extra time against a Barnsley side that surpassed every expectation.
It was, however, a reminder that, though Stones may be the subject of a £40m bid from Chelsea, he is still very young.
Instead, it was another 21-year-old, Gerard Deulofeu, who turned Everton away from the embarrassment of elimination by a side two divisions down creating the second for Steven Naismith and the third for Romelu Lukaku. Seven years ago, Barnsley had knocked Liverpool out of the FA Cup at Anfield and they should have done the same to Everton in the League Cup in normal time. Instead, another cross from the young Catalan was turned into his own net by Marc Roberts, who spitefully, had been the best of a very good Barnsley side.
Conor Hourihane emphasised it by curling a superb shot against the frame of Joel Robles’ goal. A fifth from Lukaku was, however, far more than Everton and far less than Barnsley deserved. It was, however, not one that suggested the 21-year-old was worth £40m of Chelsea’s money. The night was a reminder that, however talented, he is still very young.
By the time Stones and the rest of the Everton defence returned to the away dressing room for the interval, jeered off by the 5,000 who had crossed the Pennines from Merseyside, there would have been no smiles at all. Barnsley were two up, they deserved to be and Stones had been involved in both the League One side’s goals. Perhaps it was time for someone to pick up the phone to Jose Mourinho.
Barnsley had begun with plenty of the verve that a lower-division side playing at home brings to a cup tie but they inflicted dreadful damage on one of the strongest sides Roberto Martinez could have fielded.
Everton had looked in reasonable control when Stones failed to cut out Marley Watkins’ cross. Pennington, a promising product of the club’s academy who was unfortunate to be brought off at half-time, tangled with his captain, Phil Jagielka, trying to clear. Sam Winnall, who boasts a great surname for any sportsman, drove the ball past Joel Robles. Stones appeared to almost skip over the ball as it sped goalwards. Martinez’s defence in general and Robles in particular failed to deal with Roberts’ deep cross to the far post. Stones might have reacted more quickly and Watkins almost walked the ball in.
Martinez threw on both Ross Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu after the interval which changed the mood particularly on the away end and when Kevin Mirallas acrobatically smashed the ball into the net beneath the Everton supporters, they suddenly sensed blood.
Then when Naismith headed home Deulofeu’s cross and punched the summer air with a tattooed arm, they had it. Everton only had to control the tie and finish it off but then Reece Wabara crossed, Stones failed once more to intercept, and Dan Crowley’s drive put the game back into the realms of wild romance.
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