Everton beat Rotherham United 3-1 on Wednesday night to win the battle of the much-changed teams and book their place in the Carabao Cup third round. Both teams made eight changes from their most recent league outings, which gave the match a disjointed feel at times, but a makeshift home side had too much for their Championship visitors.
A first-half goal from Gylfi Sigurdsson and two from Dominic Calvert-Lewin after the interval ensured progress in a competition in which Everton have advanced beyond the fourth round just once since 2008. Manager Marco Silva will want to improve that record but for now can reflect on the continuation of his unbeaten start after a mostly second-string XI got the job done.
Silva witnessed a professional display from those drafted into the team. There were flashes of quality throughout, reminders of the potential possessed by the promising youngsters within this squad, but the standout performers were Lucas Digne and Kurt Zouma.
Both summer signings impressed on their full debuts, and while injuries to Michael Keane and Phil Jagielka mean Zouma will start again against Huddersfield on Saturday, it was Digne making the most compelling case for retaining his place this weekend. With Leighton Baines off the pace against Bournemouth last time out, Digne has given Silva plenty to ponder for the next league game.
Set pieces and zonal marking continue to pose more questions than answers as Rotherham briefly jangled Everton nerves by reducing the deficit to 2-1. The main issue at present is how static the approach leaves Everton when defending set pieces, with players frozen on the spot while opposing players benefit from attacking the ball and punishing the statuesque marking around them. At this stage, this new method seems to benefit attackers far more than it helps Everton defenders.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- A professional performance from his players rewarded the wholesale changes as Silva made good use of his squad.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Maarten Stekelenburg, 6 -- A spectator until a diving save a few minutes from full-time, the veteran goalkeeper remains an adequate but not always convincing backup option for first choice Jordan Pickford.
DF Jonjoe Kenny, 6 -- Typically solid and committed in defence and able to freely gallop forward from the right-back position, though his crossing was not always the most accurate.
DF Mason Holgate, 6 -- There were times when the 21-year-old needed to be stronger, allowing a physical Rotherham attack to outmuscle him on occasions, but otherwise it was a relatively straightforward night for a young centre-back still learning the role at this level.
DF Kurt Zouma, 7 -- An authoritative presence against limited opponents, strong in the air and quick across the ground. A first league start with Everton awaits on Saturday and opponents Huddersfield will provide a tougher test.
DF Lucas Digne, 8 -- Composed and classy, all of the things you would expect from a player recruited from Barcelona. The Everton left-back grabbed a deft assist and pushed his claims for a first league start this weekend.
MF Tom Davies, 7 -- No doubt a proud moment for the local-born midfielder to lead out the team as Silva named him captain for the night, and Davies delivered a mature performance, offering a disciplined presence in a very attack-minded lineup.
MF Gylfi Sigurdsson, 7 -- A welcome goal opened the scoring and continued his impressive start to the season. With an eye toward Saturday, his early withdrawal just past the hour mark underlined his importance to Silva and this team.
MF Sandro Ramirez, 7 -- An intelligent display saw an assist for the first goal, with only wasteful finishing from others stopping him from adding to his creative exploits. Ironically, with Ramirez linked with a loan move before the transfer window closes, this could be his last Everton performance, and it was probably his best.
MF Kieran Dowell, 6 -- Appeared lost in an unfamiliar central midfield role for much of the first half but gradually improved in the second, showing signs of his neat footwork, dribbling ability and attacking threat in the final third.
FW Dominic Calvert-Lewin, 7 -- A curious evening saw the young striker toil without much success for 60 minutes before two goals transformed his contribution, with the second of his two strikes a delightful curled finish into the far corner.
FW Oumar Niasse, 5 -- His clumsiness and persistence can unsettle defences and make things happen, but this was one such occasion when his unpredictability merely caused frustration.
MF Theo Walcott, 6 -- A few glimpses of his pace in possession but he was mostly able to ease through this brief substitute appearance.
FW Cenk Tosun, N/R -- Forced one save from distance but most likely enjoyed sitting out much of this cup tie after his punishing workload in recent games.
MF Morgan Schneiderlin, N/R -- Calmly slotted into central midfield for the final few minutes.