Benitez admits Everton are dependent on two injured stars after a narrow Hull victory

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Rafa Benitez admits Everton are dependent on injured players Demarai Gray and Andros Townsend after their win over Hull.

The Toffees reached the fourth round of the FA Cup with a 3-2 victory at MKM Stadium, but it was far from easy. Underdogs Hull got off to a dream start when Tyler Smith put them ahead less than a minute by connecting with a George Honeyman free-kick.

The impressive Demarai Gray pulled Everton to level 20 minutes later before midfielder Andre Gomes gave them the lead.

But the Premier League outfit could not see it as Ryan Longman scored a brilliant equalizer in the second half. That goal, Longman’s third of the season, sent a draw in overtime.

It was there, substitute Andros Townsend moved up to book Everton’s place in the next round. The winger sent a deep effort against Hull goalkeeper Nathan Baxter, despite being far out, and saw it hit the 23-year-old.

The 99th minute strike helped ease some of the pressure around Benitez. However, the performance was not exactly convincing.

Talking to BBC Sport after the victory, Benitez revealed issues affecting Gray and Townsend. “We know the FA Cup is massive and you could see the atmosphere today,” said the Spaniard.

“We started by making things difficult for ourselves, but the team’s reaction was, as usual, quite good, which means the players are worried.

“You should definitely praise all the players, but Gray played through the pain until we had to switch out because he worked so hard. Townsend is injured and he plays because he wants to help the team. That’s the spirit you expected of our players.

“It is always important to win, and winning the trophy is huge. I think the way we played could have scored three or four goals to end the game in the first half, but we did not and we had to suffer until the end. “

A look at the leaders who have bowed out after FA Cup defeats

Everton had to ‘dive deep’, says Gray

During an interview after the match with BBC Sport, goal scorer Gray said: “Closing so early was not helpful, but we responded well. It’s FA Cup football and I’m sure everyone sees it, but for us it was important to win.

“We had to dig deep, but we’re happy to be in the hat. We knew it would be hard to get here, we are an experienced side and we know what the FA Cup is like.

“Hull delivered a very good match, honor to them, but we showed character and I am glad we won.

“It is important, it would be nice to take on a good cup race and push as far as we can. “For the fans, it’s a great competition, but we have to take it match by match, and today was important, not only for the trophy, but for the team’s morale, and we have to push now.”

READ MORE: Everton enter the battle for the transfer list winger wanted by Arsenal, Tottenham


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