Heroes aplenty for QPR as they dump Everton out of the cup in epic penalty saga
Carabao Cup Third Round
QPR (2) 2 Austin 18, 34
Everton (1) 2 Digne 30, Townsend 47
(QPR win 8-7 on pens)
Rangers made it through to the last 16 of the League on a night of high drama and raucous entertainment at the KPF Stadium.
Two first-half goals from the evergreen Charlie Austin asked the questions and although Rafa Benitez’s men found two equalisers through Lucas Digne and Andros Townsend, a third goal was beyond them.
Then, in spite of the backing of their massed bank of fans at the School End where the penalty shoot-out took place, the visitors were unable to get the better of Mark Warburton’s Championship side.
The shoot-out lasted 16 kicks and most were struck with amazing precision and nerve. A blip finally came when Seny Dieng saved Ben Godfrey but a retake was ordered because the keeper shifted off his line and it was put away second time around.
Yet the Rangers keeper got it right when Tom Davies stepped forward for the following kick, turning the ball onto a post. It was then left for Jimmy Dunne to fire in the winner.
It rounded off a perfect, madcap night that will live long in the memory. Everton fell foul of Brentford in a penalty shoot-out at Griffin Park 11 years ago and it was a little bit of west London history repeating.
The League Cup has not been particularly kind to the Hoops in recent decades, but the competition is guaranteed to always have a special place in their hearts because of 1967.
That first Wembley final. That all-white kit. That comeback.
Perhaps that is why these nights under the lights seem to capture the imagination of home fans.
The official attendance may have been a modest 12,888, (2,837 of them Evertonians) but the noisy atmosphere they generated was a credit to all.
Austin underlined how lucky Rangers are to have such a committed Premier League-quality striker in their midst as he plundered two first-half goals.
Midway through the first half, Austin pounced to nod over the line after Asmir Begovic could only spoon Sam McCallum’s low cross-shot up into the air.
The goal owed much to some sterling work on the left flank from Chris Willock and Ilias Chair who worked the ball back for McCallum.
Andre Gomes fizzed a low strike just wide of an upright as the Toffees raised their game and there was a huge let-off for Rangers when Yoann Barbet slipped, allowing Alex Iwobi a clear run on goal and Dieng made another superb stop.
The reprieve did not count for long as, in the next attack, Townsend floated a superb chip over the Rangers defence and Everton skipper Digne stormed in to side-foot home.
But Austin got above Godfrey to flick home his second header four minutes later, courtesy of a sublime curling cross in from the left from Ilias Chair.
Willock was a revelation in the first half and he continued to cause problems for the Everton defence with his direct running and linking play. One more piece of nimble-footed work in the inside-left channel ended with another hanging cross Austin almost managed to convert.
Rangers were caught napping at the start of the second half when they failed to deal with a low inswinging corner to the near post. Salomon Rondon got a touch, Mason Holgate made half-contact. But Townsend was lurking at the far post and swept gleefully home.
There was the welcome sight of Luke Amos coming off the bench midway through the second-half as the midfielder returned from a cruciate injury that has kept him out of action since October last year.
And although Everton came close to winning it when Michael Keane came off the bench to head just over with his first touch, this was a night destined to be glorious for the Hoops.
Hoops: (4-2-3-1) Dieng – Dunne, Dickie, Barbet, McCallum (Kakay 66) – Ball, Dozzell (Amos 63) – Willock, Chair (Duke-McKenna 75), Adomah – Austin Subs not used: Thomas, Dykes, A Gray, Walsh
Toffees: (4-3-3) Begovic – Kenny, Holgate, Godfrey, Digne (Keane 80) – Gomes (Doucoure 58), Davies, Gordon – Iwobi, Rondon (D Gray 73), Townsend Subs not used: Allan, Lonergan, Branthwaite, Simms