Everton complete Carabao Cup win over Salford but defensive injury problems grow

The Merseysiders may head into this weekend with only two fit centre-halves

Moise Kean of Everton scores penalty during the Carabao Cup match between Everton and Salford City at Goodison Park
Moise Kean of Everton scores penalty during the Carabao Cup match between Everton and Salford City at Goodison Park Credit: GETTY

Carlo Ancelotti may have seen the Carabao Cup as a means to attract buyers who will trim his squad. In the event, another injury to a defender led to a reminder of how much more he must add to it.

Everton may head into this weekend with only two fit centre-halves after youngster Jarrad Branthwaite became the latest to be stricken as the Merseysiders progressed with a comfortable 3-0 win over Salford City. Given Mason Holgate’s potential absence for the next three months, the urgency to complete a deal for Chelsea’s Fikayo Tomori or an alternative has gone up a notch.

Ancelotti would not confirm interest in him, but acknowledged the concern.

“If there is a possibility to find a centre back we have to look,” he said.

“Considering Holgate is also out and Jarrard we do not know how bad he is. We have to consider the fact Mason does not need the surgery. Maybe we can manage until Mason comes back.”

Ancelotti was forced to summon left back Lucas Digne from the bench against the fourth tier side, using him in an unfamiliar central defensive role for 66 minutes. The Italian had already been compelled to select Michael Keane, the only starter from last weekend’s impressive opening weekend win at Spurs.

Gylfi Sigurdsson and Theo Walcott were the highest profile starters in a line-up full of those with much to prove. Alongside youngster Anthony Gordon, the Icelander was a class above the opposition. His application could not be doubted and - if his salary allowed - he would be a useful squad player to retain for his set-pieces alone.

His corner created the opening goal for Keane, an eighth minute header which hinted at a straightforward victory, and could have had a couple more assists with better finishing. In the end Sigurdsson settled any nerves on 74 minutes with Everton’s second before Moise Kean added a late penalty.

That might help the young striker’s confidence. Asked to lead the line alone, he had earlier lacked the movement and penetration to finish several productive midfield sequences, most notably when heading Sigurdsson’s cross against the crossbar early in the second half.

 More impressive was academy graduate Gordon, who was denied by Jordan Turnbull’s clearing header in the first half and showed more threat on the left than Walcott on the opposite side.

“Anthony was really dangerous,” said his manager.

Everton increased the tempo after half-time, missing numerous opportunities to secure the tie and nearly paid when Richie Towell skied an easy chance to equalise on 57 minutes.

But Sigurdsson added the second after another example of Gordon's excellence. Gordon was then shoved to the floor to enable Kean the third.

There was still time for Gordon to hit the post in the 90th minute as he showed why he is the most likely to force his way in the next Premier League line-up.

Player ratings

Everton (4-1-4-1)

Virginia 7; Kenny 7, Keane 7, Branthwaite 5, Nkounkou 7; Sigurdsson 8; Davies 6, Walcott 5, Gordon 8, Bernard 6; Kean 4

Subs: Digne for Branthwaite (24)

Subs not used: Pickford, Allan, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin, Doucouré, Coleman

Salford City (4-3-3)

Hladky 7; Threlkeld 6, Turnbull 7, Eastham 6, Touray 6; Towell 5, Lowe 5, Hunter 5; Wilson 5, Henderson 5, Thomas-Asante 4

Subs: Andrade for Wilson (61), Gibson for Threlkeld (74), Elliott for Thomas-Asante (74)

Subs not used: Armstrong, Gibson, Elliott, Denny, Evans, Golden

Referee: Marc Edwards

Booked: Turnbull

Man-of-match: Sigurdsson