THERE was penalty drama once again for Queens Park Rangers in the Carabao Cup, with Rangers overcoming Premier League giants Everton at the Kiyan Prince Foundation stadium to reach the fourth round of the competition.
In a topsy turvy game, the R’s lead twice courtesy of Charlie Austin’s first half double, but were twice pegged back, initially through Lucas Digne and then Andros Towsend.
But, on a memorable evening under the lights in W12, the R’s eventually stole the show in the most dramatic of fashions, with Jimmy Dunne scoring the decisive spot-kick during a nail-biting finale.
Heading into this one Mark Warburton made five changes from the side that suffered defeat on the weekend, with Dunne, Albert Adomah, Andre Dozzell, Dominic Ball and Austin coming in for Jordy De Wijs, Moses Odubajo, Stefan Johansen, Andre Gray and Lyndon Dykes respectively.
This meant that the R’s lined up with Seny Dieng in goal behind a back five of Adomah, Rob Dickie, Dunne, Yoann Barbet and Sam McCallum.
Dozzell partnered Ball in midfield behind a creative duo of Ilias Chair and Chris Willock whilst the returning Austin led the line for Rangers.
Of course, the Super Hoops sealed their place in the third round of the famous cup courtesy of victories over Leyton Orient and then Oxford United, whilst our Premier League opponents booked their spot in the third-round draw courtesy of a 2-1 victory over Huddersfield Town.
Rangers started the game positively as they looked to maintain possession of the ball, something the W12 faithful are somewhat accustomed to, with Dozzell and Ball seeing a lot of it early on.
As we approached the tenth minute a real cup atmosphere rang round the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, with duo Ball and Barbet winning some crunching challenges, igniting an energetic crowd.
Willock had the first chance of the tie, but it was deflected off Mason Holgate, only for Chair’s subsequent corner kick to be cleared away.
But, despite Rangers early pressure, Rafa Benitez’s side were also quick to show their class.
A fine flowing move eventually falling to Anthony Gordon on the edge of the box, who was only denied from giving the Toffee’s the lead by a strong outstretched Dieng.
However, in the 18th minute it was Warburton’s side who took the lead.
A fine run and ball from Willock eventually picked out Chair, who with his back to goal found McCallum on the left-hand side and the Norwich City loanee smashed the ball across the box, with Everton keeper Asmir Begovic only able to palm it into the direct of that man Austin who calmly headed home his second of the campaign.
After going behind the visitors looked for an instant response, with Andre Gomes going close on a couple of occasions, but it wasn’t to trouble Dieng in the Rangers goal.
In the 29th minute, Everton and Alex Iwobi thought they had found a route back into the game after capitalising from a uncharacteristic Barbet slip, but Dieng once again was equal to it.
But, only a minute later full-back Lucas Digne found himself free at the far post and was able to slot home from close range, ensuring mid-way through the first half it was all square once again.
Despite being pegged back, only four minutes later the R’s were quick to restore their lead.
A wonderful cross from the Moroccan Chair found Austin who was able to use the pace of the ball to flick it past a helpless Begovic for Rangers’ and his second of the evening.
Heading into the final few minutes of what proved to be a real exciting start to the cup tie, it was the Championship side who continued to threaten.
32-year-old Austin initially going close, before Willock saw his half-volleyed effort going wide.
And as referee Kevin Friend blew for half-time a joyous cheer rang around W12.
But, as we kicked off for the second half, it was the visitors who quickly drew level.
A low corner eventually fell to former Rangers loanee Andros Townsend who was able to sweep home from 3-yards.
In a topsy turvy game it was the Merseyside outfit who looked most likely to lead for the first time this evening, with goal scorer Townsend at the forefront of the Toffee’s attack.
A quick move from the former Tottenham Hotspur youngster eventually set up Salomon Rondon who could only fire wide, and it was the 32-year-old who continued to trouble, with his header going just past the post soon after.
And it was the Premier League side who continued to push forward, some more fine-flowing football on display from the visitors.
The 63rd minute was a moment to behold, with the returning Luke Amos taking to the field in replace of Dozzell, his first appearance in the Blue and White hoops following his long-standing knee injury.
As we approached the final fifteen minutes of this pulsating clash, substitute Abdoulaye Doucoure had a shout for a spot-kick, but referee Friend quickly waved play on, before Everton youngster Stephen Duke-McKenna arrived for a dream appearance against his boyhood club.
Substitute Michael Keane almost instantly made an impact, when he headed over Dieng’s bar from a seemingly point-blank range.
But, as we reached the final ten minutes the game was perfectly poised for a climatic end in W12, as both sides pushed for what would surely be the winner.
With the clock ticking down and minds starting to turn to a penalty shootout, an additional three minutes was greeted with a cheer from the R’s faithful.
A nice turn from Duke-McKenna found Amos, before finding Willock with an eventual scramble in the box, seeing the 24-year-old bringing Holgate down and the promising move coming to a premature end as a result.
This meant as the officials final whistle blew around the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, we knew we would be heading to a penalty shootout for the second time already this season.
Everton 1-0 QPR Holgate scores
Everton 1-1 QPR Austin scores
Everton 2-1 QPR Keane scores
Everton 2-2 QPR Ball scores
Everton 3-2 Townsend scores
Everton 3-3 QPR Barbet scores
Everton 4-3 Gray scores
Everton 4-4 QPR Willock scores
Everton 5-4 Gray scores
Everton 5-5 QPR Adomah scores
Everton 6-5 Gordon score
Everton 6-6 QPR Duke-McKenna scores
Everton 7-6 Godfrey scores
Everton 7-7 QPR Amos
Everton 7-7 Davies miss
Everton 7-8 QPR Dunne scores