Edinson Cavani fired Manchester United into the semi-finals of the EFL Cup as his superb late goal inspired a 2-0 win over Everton
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have been imperious on the road this season and headed to Goodison Park having won all eight of their domestic away games by scoring at least three times on each occasion.
They peppered the Everton goal during the first half but had nothing to show for their efforts before the game became a more physical and fractious affair after the interval.
One such occasion saw Cavani grab at Yerry Mina’s throat but the former Paris Saint-Germain star remained on the field to arrow a wonderful left-footed strike into the bottom left corner from 25 yards, with Anthony Martial making sure as Everton left themselves exposed chasing an equaliser.
United had their hosts boxed in during the opening exchanges and only a desperate sliding block from Seamus Coleman denied Donny van de Beek after Paul Pogba’s seventh-minute backheel.
An under-siege Robin Olsen made a double save to thwart Cavani from a narrow angle, although the Sweden international was rooted to the spot when Mason Greenwood glanced agonisingly wide from Alex Telles’ delicious left-wing cross.
Pogba nodded into Olsen’s hands after Mina turned another dangerous delivery by Bruno Fernandes behind.
Everton belatedly found some poise and Dean Henderson was at full stretch to keep out a trademark Gylfi Sigurdsson free-kick eight minutes before half-time.
Cavani thrashed into the side-netting amid suspicions of handball early the second period, before the veteran Uruguay striker tangled with Mina and a nasty collision with Fernandes and Eric Bailly forced a groggy Richarlison out of the contest.
A poor touch from Martial let an opportunity slip by and suggested extra-time beckoned before Cavani sensationally had other ideas.
Everton streamed forward but, after Olsen denied Marcus Rashford, Martial had time and space to seal the deal.
What does it mean? Fourth-time lucky for Solskjaer in semis?
Solskjaer’s United reign continues to attract mixed reviews, thanks in no small part to the semi-final heartache they suffered last season. Manchester City, Chelsea and Sevilla all progressed to finals at their expense in the EFL Cup, FA Cup and Europa League in 2019-20. The Norwegian must now be confident he has the attacking firepower to take the next step.
Cavani class shines through
A combination of poor transfer planning and desperation might have brought Cavani to Old Trafford before the deadline but the 33-year-old has wasted no time in showing why he has been one of the premier forwards in European football for the past decade.
He fired six shots, with four on target and one blocked over the course of the 90 minutes, always looking the most likely United man to find the breakthrough. As Mina can vouch for, Cavani’s combative side was also on display and his 10 duels contested was only matched by Nemanja Matic in the visitors’ line-up.
Everton leave Calvert-Lewin feeding off scraps
For all United’s prowess in front of goal on the road this season, they have frequently shown themselves to be defensively vulnerable. It will therefore have frustrated Carlo Ancelotti to see Calvert-Lewin only manage 12 touches during the first half – fewer than any other outfield player. By full-time he had 30 touches set against 16 duels contested – very much summing up the terms on which Everton’s star striker was forced to approach this match.
England international Calvert-Lewin was on the periphery for long stages and four matches without a goal is his longest dry spell of a campaign where he has 16 for club and country.
Key Opta Facts
– United have reached the EFL Cup semi-finals for the 16th time, second only to Liverpool (17) in the competition’s history.
– Everton failed to register a single shot on target in the second half, with Sigurdsson having 57 per cent of their total attempts (four of seven).
– United are the first team to win away at Everton twice in the same season since Chelsea in the 2007-08 campaign.
– This was United’s 14th consecutive away win in domestic competition, with the Red Devils last failing to win on the road in non-European competition against Tottenham back in June (1-1).
Third plays second in the Premier League when United travel to Leicester City on Boxing Day, with bottom club Sheffield United entertaining Everton on the festive fixture list.