The following is an expanded version of the initial match report published straight after the game
There was a moment with about 15 minutes gone and Everton already a goal to the good where the mind drifted to wondering how many the Blues might get this afternoon. James Rodriguez was starting his first game in more than a month, sitting deep in more of a play-maker role alongside a Portuguese international in André Gomes and a potentially enterprising Alex Iwobi.
Anthony Gordon was relishing his rare opportunity to shine, having already come close to scoring himself with Everton’s first real attack and then carved Rotherham’s defence open with a pass that Cenk Tosun clipped past the advancing goalkeeper to make it 1-0. And Lucas Digne was back at left-back having made an improbably quick recovery from ankle surgery.
That kind of complacency is harmless as a watching fan but it’s potentially damaging if it’s adopted by the players. And yet, hubris is exactly what appeared to infect the Everton team as they lost control of this tie for long periods, allowed the Millers to equalise and then remained vulnerable to an FA Cup shock until Carlo Ancelotti reminded them, perhaps, during the break before the start of extra-time, that they were supposed to be the Premier League outfit in this equation.
With an important League game at Wolves looming on Tuesday, the extra 30 minutes’ toll won’t have pleased the manager but his players at least responded, restoring their lead thanks to a beautiful pass from James and eventually closing out a match they should have won at a canter without much further bother.
The 70 minutes that preceded extra-time were pretty grim and despite the quality in their ranks there were times when it threatened to plumb the depths of the last FA Cup tie over which Ancelotti presided just over a year ago against Liverpool’s youngsters. The starting line-up this afternoon may only have featured two players from that horrendous display at Anfield in Digne and Seamus Coleman but there were unnerving parallels in the sheer levels of ineptitude and lack of drive and tempo.
It should never have been this way, particularly after Gordon had gone on a mazy run in the second minute and then effected a brilliant turn away from his marker in the ninth and before playing Tosun in with a well-weighted pass to hand the Turkish international his first goal of the season, one he secured with a very good finish.
But from the moment that Rotherham, a team currently sitting 23rd in the Championship, mounted their first few attacks and realised there wasn’t much to fear from a midfield boasting Gomes and Tom Davies, they began to grow in confidence and ambition. Davies had struggled in the League Cup tie against Salford earlier this season to really stamp his authority on a game against inferior opposition and he was largely disappointing again today. Gomes, meanwhile, continues to confound, sometimes looking lively and purposeful in cameos off the bench but then failing miserably to deliver when handed the chance to really stake a claim to a starting role.
You sensed that Everton were almost gambling that the visitors wouldn’t have the quality to find their way past Robin Olsen, particularly given some wayward first-half shooting from Michaels Ihiekwe and Smith in the 21st minute. However, they found Matthew Olosunde on Rotherham’s right flank increasingly difficult to handle and it was the American who eventually wiped out Tosun’s opener, but not before he had forced a good save from Olsen in the 22nd minute, the rebound of which was met by a weak effort from Matt Crooks and cleared. The ball only made it as far as Daniel Barlaser, though, and Olsen had to push his crisp shot from 20-plus yards over the bar.
Crooks then narrowly missed with a glancing header off a corner and Olsen had to nip in and punch ball away from Ihiekwe's a few minutes later as the visitors continued to apply pressure.
Everton briefly came to life again towards the end of the first period but at the end of a well-worked move that saw Seamus Coleman collect a “one-two” pass from Alex Iwobi, Tosun could only scuff the Irishman’s cross wide of the far post.
If the latter half of the first half had been poor from the Blues, worse was to follow in the second. Olosunde sounded another warning immediately after the restart when he eased past Digne and went down in the box under the attentions of Gomes but referee Stuart Atwell saw nothing in the challenge.
Then, after Iwobi had dragged an effort across goal at one end, Rotherham levelled the tie at the other, capitalising on sloppiness in Everton’s midfield and a wayward header from Davies that fell to Olosunde and he drilled the ball past Olsen in the 56th minute.
The required response from the Premier League side failed to materialise and Olosunde out-stripped Digne and centred where Wes Harding arrived from the other full-back position but his attempted curler was well wide.
With an hour gone, Ancelotti withdrew Gordon, whose early flourishes had faded as Everton’s cohesion had evaporated, in favour of Bernard and Iwobi for Doucouré and then swapped Davies for Gylfi Sigurdsson and Digne for Yerry Mina five minutes later but the changes sparked very little life into the home side’s performance.
They didn’t win their first corner until Rodriguez’s shot from 20-odd yards was deflected behind in the 73rd minute and would finish normal time having registered just a single legitimate shot on target. That’s because Tosun’s strike off a James free-kick from the left was adjudged by Video Assistant Referee Paul Tierney to have been offside.
Thankfully for Ancelotti, Everton began extra-time looking more like the superior side and Rodriguez would depart the action in the 94th minute having got to experience his first January cup-tie against lower-division opposition by taking a ball to the face in cold weather, bloody nose and all, and made a telling contribution that underscored his importance to this team a couple of minutes beforehand. Sliding a super ball between two defenders, the Colombian put Doucouré into the clear and the Frenchman made no mistake with a composed left-foot finish.
Bernard should have made the game safe a few minutes later when James’s replacement, Niels Nkounkou, crossed from the left but the Brazilian’s placed shot came back off the post. Tosun choked another shot wide a minute after that and Coleman forced a parried save from Blackman in the Rotherham goal with a strong drive from 18 yards.
The Championship team’s fire had been extinguished by this point and they barely threatened Olsen’s goal in the final 30 minutes, leaving Everton to see out the game and advance, but not without having perpetuated serious concerns about the players’ collective mentality and the suitability of certain players to the Ancelotti project moving forward. If this is what the Italian can expect from his players in future rounds then the Toffees have as much chance of reaching Wembley this season as near neighbours Marine.
Everton's FA Cup campaign begin in laboured fashion this weekend with a home tie against Championship side Rotherham United at Goodison Park which dragged on into extra time before the Blues finally won it.
Carlo Ancelotti had announced that none of Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison or Jordan Pickford would play against Rotherham, with a raft of wholesale changes from the last line-up that lost so appallingly to West Ham. Cenk Tosun led the line with Lucas Digne miraculously declared fit enough to start after a rapid recovery from his bad ankle injury. Ancelotti also hands a fresh chance to Anthony Gordon. Niels Nkounkou is on the bench.
Up front, Dominic Calvert-Lewin was given a complete break despite experiencing something of a goal drought, with both Richarlison and Pickford not playing any part on this one.
In midfield, Alex Iwobi returned after missing the defeat to West Ham while André Gomes started alongside Tom Davies with Bernard on the bench.
At the back, Robin Olsen benefited from Ancelotti's rotation of his goalkeepers and Michael Keane returned after getting a rest on New Year's Day, alongside Ben Godfrey in the centre of defence.
Everton started looking into the low winter midday sun coming over the Park End stand. James released Gordon for a great run forward with the ball but his shot was blocked. Gomes then looked to score but his technique was dreadful.
A nice ball forward from Gordon fed Tosun well, and with his first touch, he chipped the ball delicately over Blackman to open the scoring inside 10 minutes.
James Rodriguez was assuming pivotal control in the centre of the pitch, spraying the ball around confidently until he was rather easily robbed. Iwobi contributed with one of his typically wild crosses over everyone.
Godfrey was alert to rob Lyndsay as he looked to raid the Blues area. Ihiekwe was next to be given a sight of goal but he was way off target. Smith seemed to have a clearer chance but lashed his shot wide as Everton relaxed a little too much. As the Millers gained momentum, three bites of the cherry were not enough in a determined attack, Olsen needing to make a difficult save on the third attempt.
More Rotherham pressure in the form of two corners saw a Crooks header glance off the top of the bar as the Blues lived rather dangerously, tempting fate? Some more fine play by them won another corner that was played too deep.
More pressure from a free-kick saw Lyndsay test Olsen with a fine shot but the flag had gone up for offside. James tried to get Everton into the opposition area but his pass forward was poor. But he did start a lovely passing move down the right that set up Tosun; however, his weak contact on the ball was insufficient to direct it on goal.
Another Rotherham attack rattled the nerves as Gomes headed the ball on for them, with a clearance falling to Woods who almost created a scoring chance for Crooks. But the Everton defence stood firm and finished the half intact.
The match resumed with the visitors still on the front foot, Olosunde running in well and falling as Gomes ran alongside him. At the other end, Iwobi drilled the ball across goal and wide of the far post.
The dismal quality of play showed no real improvement over most of the first half, with Everton resisting plenty of attacks but doing little of note going forward, Iwobi exasperating whenever he got the ball. And, with a poor mix-up by Davies in defence, Olosunde slotted the ball in at the far post, the Blues finally paying the price for an inexplicable lack of intensity since the opening goal.
Ancelotti was sufficiently perturbed to think of immediate changes, while Everton by way of afterthought mounted something that resembled an attack. Iwobi and Gordon then made way for Bernard and Doucouré.
Some dreadful short back and sides nonsense ended with a ridiculous foul by Keane, with Mina on for Digne and Sigurdsson replacing Davies. But they did little initially to stem the one-way flow in the direction of the Everton area, if not thankfully the goal.
From a flat Sigurdsson free-kick, James powered a shot deflected behind to win Everton's first corner of the game but it came to nothing. The Blues worked forward and Godfrey finally crossed to no-one.
Rotherham freshened up with more changes as Everton continued to labour, painfully unable to elevate their game above the Championship standard of their visitors. Coleman tried, winning a corner that was defended at the near post. Coleman finally crossed in but the header was impossible for Doucouré.
A scrappy moment in front of the Rotherham goal, it looked like Tosun could score but his weak header was easily anticipated. That inspired Rotherham to create a sweeping attack that came very close to scoring.
Rodriguez swung in a lovely free-kick that Tosun got to first, and buried, but the dreaded VAR said his shoulder was an inch offside. Rotherham won a late corner that saw Everton break and win their own late corner. Sigurdsson's delivery was punched away as the whistle went for full time, and 30 minutes of extra time before possible penalties.
In the early minutes of extra time, Everton again went ahead with a simple goal created by James, whose pass forward to Doucouré gave him a fine opportunity to strike his shot away from Blackman and inside the post.
Coleman's shot was deflected, Sigurdsson's corner cleared. More chances came thick and fast, Bernard hitting the post, Coleman and then Gomes driving wide. Nkounkou fired in a lovely low cross, with Tosun, the meat in a Rotherham sandwich, denied the vital final touch.
The second half of extra time started with a head injury for Yerry Mina that extended the suspense even longer. When the game finally got going again, Rotherham had a fresh burst of energy and Everton had to be yet more resolute in defence.
Everton played out extra time against the valiant Millers without further embarrassment — other than the overall display which was pretty poor for a top-flight club with such an illustrious history in this competition.
Scorers: Tosun (9'), Doucouré (93'); Olosunde (56')
Everton: Olsen, Coleman, Keane, Godfrey, Digne (65' Mina), Davies (65' Sigurdsson), Gomes, Iwobi (61' Doucoure), James (95' Nkounkou), Gordon (61' Bernard), Tosun.
Subs not Used: Lössl, Holgate, Branthwaite, Simms.
Rotherham United: Blackman, Harding (83' Clarke), MacDonald, Ihiekwe, Wood, Olosunde, Wiles, Barlaser, Lindsay (76' Jozefzoon), Crooks (67' Vassell), Smith (77' Hirst [Y:106']).
Subs not Used: Johansson, Vickers, Jones, Tilt, Miller.
Everton's FA Cup campaign begins this weekend with a home tie against Championship side Rotherham United at Goodison Park which will once again be empty of fans as the country remains under lockdown.
Having had their Carabao Cup hopes dashed at the quarter-final stage by defeat to Manchester United 2½ weeks ago, the Blues will be hoping to get closer to Wembley this time, with the prospect of getting key players back fit for future rounds if they can negotiate the Millers.
Carlo Ancelotti restated his target for European qualification this week in an interview with Gazetta dello Sport but also pledged to “honour … the oldest football tournament in the world … in the best way possible,” and that suggests that he will be putting out a strong side for this third-round fixture.
The teams he fielded in the League Cup featured varying degrees of deviations from his first-choice line-up depending on the strength of the opposition and while wholesale changes aren't expected, Ancelotti could hand fresh chances to impress to the likes of Niels Nkounkou and Anthony Gordon.
The young duo were stand-out performers in the early rounds of the League Cup, forging an exciting partnership down Everton's left flank that hasn't been seen since the Fifth Round win over West Ham, but with Lucas Digne still out, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them reunited against Rotherham.
Up front, Dominic Calvert-Lewin is in need of a break but with so few alternatives to lead the line and the fact that he is experiencing something of a goal drought, he might be selected to lead the line again or Richarlison could be handed the centre-forward's role.
In midfield, Alex Iwobi could return after missing the defeat to West Ham while the likes of André Gomes and Bernard will be angling for starts.
At the back, Robin Olsen could benefit from Ancelotti's rotation of his goalkeepers and Michael Keane should return after getting a rest on New Year's Day, perhaps alongside Mason Holgate or Ben Godfrey in the centre of defence.
Rotherham, who have had a few more days' rest than expected after their games against Middlesbrough and Cardiff City were postponed either side of their defeat to Barnsley, come into the match sitting second from bottom in the Championship.
Paul Warne's team have won just once in nine games and, as such, should make for routine opponents for an Everton team that won four Premier League games on the bounce prior to last Friday.
This being the FA Cup, of course, nothing can be taken for granted and it will require that the Toffees are fully up for it to ensure that they are in the hat for the draws for the next two rounds.
Ancelotti has announced that none of Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison or Jordan Pickford will start against Rotherham but Cenk Tosun will lead the line and Lucas Digne is back fit and available to play.
Kick-off: 12pm, Saturday, 9 January 2021 on BT Sport Extra 2
Last Time: Everton 3 - 1 Rotherham (League Cup, August 2018)
Predicted Line-up*: Olsen, Coleman, Keane, Holgate, Nkounkou, Davies, Doucouré, Gomes, Richarlison, Iwobi, Calvert-Lewin
*Made prior to updates from Carlo Ancelotti