Stevenage took Premier League Everton into extra time at Goodison Park this evening before falling to a late 2-1 defeat in the second round of the Capital One Cup.
The League 1 side shocked their illustrious opponents by taking the lead through Luke Freeman before Barcelona loanee Gerard Deulofeu equalised right on half time. Boro held out and put in a brilliant team performance, forcing the game into an additional 30 minutes, before substitute Marouane Fellaini fired home late in the second half of extra time to break Boro's hearts.
Graham Westley named the same eleven that started at Notts County on Saturday with the only change on the bench being Marcus Haber coming in for Dani Lopez. Everton meanwhile made eight changes from their weekend goalless draw against West Bromwich Albion, giving competitive debuts to four players.
Stevenage forced the first corner of the game and when Jon Ashton made contact with the set piece – albeit not on target – it set the tone for an encouraging half from the visitors.
Ross Barkley, fresh from his England call-up, was particularly prominent in the early exchanges, firing over from a short corner and then seeing another low shot trickle just wide of Day’s left-hand post.
Tricky winger Gerard Deulofeu then got past Deacon and fired in a dangerous cross to the back post. It looked for all the world like Arouna Kone would tap home only for David Gray to somehow block the striker’s effort and then deflect the ball behind for a goal-kick.
The right-back was then involved at the other end seconds later when he burst forward into the box and played the ball back to Dunne - the midfielder's shot was blocked and Jimmy Smith’s follow-up fizzed wide.
Deulofeu continued to impress out wide, curling a right footed effort just wide as the hosts continued to press and look to make the initial breakthrough with a sustained period of possession.
On a rare foray forward Stevenage advanced through Darius Charles before the striker was scythed down by Tony Hibbert. Boro’s number 9 went off for treatment but was replaced shortly afterwards by Oumare Tounkara.
Leon Osman went close with a tricky chance from inside the box after more pressure from Everton before substitute Tounkara had a big role play as Boro took the lead on 36 minutes.
Tounkara chased down what looked a lost cause from Michael Doughty, cut inside his defender and played the ball back to the advancing Jimmy Smith. The midfielder mis-kicked but the ball fell kindly to Luke Freeman who turned onto his left foot before firing high into the roof of the net to send the Boro faithful crazy.
Everton replied with Naismith firing just wide and Kone blasting wildly over the bar when it looked easier to score. But with literally the final kick of the half, a minute after the allotted two for injury time, the hosts equalised. Deulofeu dribbled into the box, got a lucky break from a Boro challenge and curled neatly into the bottom far corner.
The hosts kept up the pressure after the break and forged three early chances to take the lead. Ross Barkley tested Chris Day with a curling effort from the edge of the box which Boro’s keeper punched clear before a sliding Steven Naismith was mightily close to meeting a low cross at the back post. The Scottish international then released Kone through on-goal but the Ivorian was thwarted by an advancing Day.
Greg Tansey came on for Jimmy Smith as GW made his second substitution before the impressive Ross Barkley went on a 40-yard run and evaded several challenges before firing narrowly wide of Day’s post.
Boro pushed forward when possible with Oumare Tounkara holding the ball up well, allowing his midfielders to advance in support. They were presented with a rare opportunity as Freeman was hauled down by the right touchline but Ashton’s back-post header from Tansey’s free-kick was straight at Robles.
Deulofeu went close to a second for Everton with just five minutes remaining when his shot was saved by Day. David Gray was then adjudged to have performed a brilliant last gasp tackle on the winger to give the Toffees a late corner, with Day saving a low effort from the set piece.
Simon Heslop replaced the booked Michael Doughty with two minutes remaining and indeed Boro could have won it in normal time when Greg Tansey turned his man and fired in dipping, curling effort which forced Robles into a finger-tip save over the bar.
Stevenage were arguably the brighter team in the first half of extra-time with Freeman twisting and turning his way past his defender and advancing into the box, only to see his low effort blocked. Some heroic defending by Boro also saw the game reach half time in extra time without a change in the score. Firstly Day saved from Kone before a combination of Ashton and Gray (with his legs either side of Chris Day's post!) thwarted Everton again.
With ten minutes remaining Day again saved brilliantly from Fellaini to give the hosts a corner, with the big Belgian then seeing a bullet header from the resulting set piece fly just over the bar.
But the big midfielder was to have the last laugh, latching onto a sliced Boro clearance and a mis-control by Naismith to bury the ball into the back of the net from close range to give Everton a 2-1 win.
A trip to Fulham awaits in Round Three for the Toffees whilst Boro can return to Hertfordshire with a massive amount of pride after their efforts this evening on Merseyside.
Everton: Robles, Hibbert (Coleman 66), Heitinga, Jagielka (Distin 45), Oviedo, Stones, Barkley (Fellaini 96), Osman, Deulofeu, Naismith, Kone
Subs: Howard, Baines, Jelavic, Mirallas
Boro: Day: Gray, Ashton, Hartley, Deacon, Smith (Tansey 52), Dunne, Doughty (Heslop 88), Freeman, Shroot, Charles (Tounkara 26)
Subs not used: Arnold, Jones, Burrow, Haber