Everton and Rotherham United played out a blinder of an FA Cup tie at Goodison Park as the Toffees were pushed all the way by their Championship opponents in the Third Round of the famous knockout competition.
The Toffees named a strong side for this cup clash, with Carlo Ancelotti making eight changes to the side that was beaten last week on home turf by West Ham in the Premier League, with the likes of Lucas Digne – returning from a lengthy injury lay off – Michael Keane and Cenk Tosun all coming in for the hosts.
Meanwhile the Millers also made four changes to their starting eleven which was beaten at the back end of December by Barnsley at the New York Stadium with the quartet of Jamal Blackman, Angus MacDonald, Michael Smith and Matt Crooks coming in for the away side as Paul Warne opted for a more direct approach to proceedings.
There was a few early half chances for the home side with Anthony Gordon and Andre Gomes threatening to make the breakthrough as Everton started on the front foot.
It was Ancelotti’s side who inevitably hit the front as Tosun dinked calmly over the onrushing Jamal Blackman after being played clean through by Gordon – a goal that Millers’ manager Warne will have been disappointed by after the youngster was given far too much time to play the ball through the heart of the Rotherham backline.
The home side continued to dominate throughout the opening stages of the first half, with James Rodriguez drifting about the pitch with ease as he dictated the tempo of the game from a more unfamiliar deeper role in comparison to what the Columbian is used to.
A first real chance of the afternoon for Rotherham came and went as Smith worked himself some space before smashing way off target in an opportunity in which the big striker would’ve expected to have done better.
There was then a superb set of saves from Robin Olsen in the Everton goal to deny the away side an equaliser as he acrobatically saved from both Matt Olosunde and Dan Barlaser as the away side began to grow into the tie.
Crooks was providing a great link between the Rotherham front line and midfield and certainly made things tick in the final third as we reached the half hour mark in the game, with the former Glasgow Rangers man sure to have impressed his manager with his first half performance.
Moving into the second period and both sides were getting a bit of joy down the flanks, with both Alex Iwobi for the hosts and Olosunde for the visitors getting into good positions during the opening stages of the half.
And it was the Millers’ winger who had the biggest say out of the two as he levelled the scores with a brilliant finish on the turn that found the bottom corner, leaving Olsen with no chance after the ball had looped into his path.
Rotherham’s tails were now up and a shock looked potentially on the cards for the struggling second tier side, with their Premier League hosts clearly rattled by that goal.
The game slowly became more scrappy following the equaliser, with both teams struggling to dominate possession.
A big chance for Everton then fell their way late on as substitute Yerry Mina flicked the ball to Tosun who was thwarted well from close range by Blackman to keep the scores level.
There was then late drama as VAR ruled out what Everton thought to be the winner as a review chalked off Tosun’s second of the afternoon for offside following a James Rodriguez freekick.
Neither side were able to find the net again in the closing stages meaning that the tie headed for extra time.
Into the first period of extra time, and it was Everton who hit the front again as substitute Abdoulaye Doucoure slotted home from Rodriguez’s simple through ball – a strike that was harsh on the Millers.
It was then almost three for the hosts as Bernard struck the post with the goal at his mercy, with the Toffees showing their superior fitness during the extra 30 minutes.
Ultimately it was the Toffees who emerged victorious over the plucky and determined Millers who on another day would have got better for their efforts as they pushed their hosts all the way but to no avail with Ancelotti’s men securing their passage into the Fourth Round of the cup following a big scare.
FULL TIME: Everton 2-1 Rotherham United (AET)