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Rafa Benitez stunned Darren Bent during Everton’s defeat to Liverpool after taking Andros Townsend off for Fabian Delph, while speaking on Sky Sports’ Soccer Special (1/12, 21:47).

The Reds ran riot on Wednesday to win 4-1 after goals from Jordan Henderson, Mohamed Salah (2) and Diogo Jota. Demarai Gray gave the Blues a slim hope of a comeback midway through the first-half with his fourth goal of the term, but it ultimately proved insufficient.

Benitez tweaked his Everton set-up for Liverpool’s trip to Goodison Park in the Merseyside derby. The Spaniard ditched the 4-2-3-1 he had favoured in eight of their last nine Premier League games for a 4-4-2 shape, with Townsend and Gray offering the Toffees their width.

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Townsend impressed Bent on a poor night for Everton at home to their Stanley Park rivals. The winger’s endeavour to try and ability to create some chances particularly stood out.

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Yet, Benitez opted to take Townsend off for Delph in the 73rd-minute of the Merseyside derby, which befuddled Bent, who could not understand the Everton manager’s decision.

“I don’t quite get it,” Bent said. “He’s taken Andros Townsend off and to be fair, Andros was trying to get on the ball, get crosses in. He’s taken him off and put Fabian Delph on.

“I don’t know if he’s trying to shut up shop and make sure they don’t concede any more. Maybe he just doesn’t want to get absolutely battered, but I can’t quite understand that.

“Andros, his quality was good, he was getting good deliveries into the box. So, it’s a bit of a strange one, but at the minute Liverpool are in cruise control.”

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Was Benitez right to replace Townsend during Everton’s defeat?

Townsend put in a lot of effort to try and dig Everton out of the hole Liverpool put them in. But the winger’s efforts were often ineffective, even though they caught Bent’s attention.

The 30-year-old completed just 10 of 15 passes during 73-minutes on the field, only Gray (8/11), Richarlison (8/12) and Ben Godfrey (6/12) found an Everton shirt less often among those Benitez started, per WhoScored.

Townsend also only created one goalscoring chance and spurned his best chance to net his fourth goal of the season. The winger rose at the back post to try and meet Gray’s cross on six-minutes, but was unable to make contact – proving costly with the scoreline still level.

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