The newly appointed Toffees boss watched his side beat Millionarios in his first game in charge at the weekend, and praised several players post-match
Rafa Benitez said he was pleased with Everton’s new signings after seeing Demarai Gray and Asmir Begovic star in a Florida Cup shootout win on Sunday.
Everton beat Colombian outfit Millionarios 10-9 on penalties after being held to a 1-1 draw in normal time in Benitez’ first game in charge since replacing Carlo Ancelotti in the managerial hot seat.
The Toffees fell behind to a first-half Andres Llinas Montejo effort, but Gray came off the bench to net a 64th-minute equaliser before Begovic stepped up to be the hero in the shootout.
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Benitez hails Gray
Benitez reserved some special words of praise for ex-Leicester City winger Gray, who completed a GBP1.6 million ($2.2m) move to Everton from Bayer Leverkusen last week, but also warned the 25-year-old that he must now prove he can deliver the goods on a consistent basis.
“He’s a player who I followed for a while. He’s a talented player and he needs to be consistent – he knows that,” the Spanish boss told the Toffees’ official media channel after the game.
“Playing behind the striker is a position I liked to see if he was capable of, like he did, to be fair.
“I’m happy for him because it’s a boost always for a player to score goals and to make a contribution for the team.
“These players need to show this character and consistency – it’s what you need if, at the end of the season, you want be in a better position and a good position.”
Begovic’s penalty heroics
Begovic joined Everton from Championship outfit Bournemouth on a one-year contract earlier this month, and Benitez is now expecting him to provide competition for first-choice goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
The Bosnian saved two penalties in the Toffees’ friendly victory at the weekend before stepping up to score one himself, and could retain his place against Pumas UNAM on Wednesday.
“He’s a keeper with experience. We were looking for this kind of competition for Jordan Pickford so it’s important to have someone with this kind of performance to rival Jordan,” said Benitez.
“It’s positive for him and it’s positive for us.”
What else did Benitez say?
Benitez has also added former Newcastle winger Andros Townsend to his ranks at Goodison Park, and is confident that he can be a key player for Everton after seeing his qualities up close during his stint in charge at St James’ Park.
“He’s someone who I know from my time at Newcastle,” he said of the ex-England international, who left Crystal Palace at the end of the 2020-21 season.
“He’s a player with quality. I was checking his fitness stats, too, and he was one of the best players in the Premier League in terms of work-rate.
“We have a player who can give us something more because he has the desire and he’s in a position that the team needed. I think he can do well for us.”
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