This sorry defeat hurts everyone associated with Everton but there was a reason Anthony Gordon was on his haunches, with his face in his hands, at the end.

Around him there was chaos, Queens Park Rangers' players were celebrating an 8-7 penalty shoot-out win and stewards chased after idiotic pitch invaders, but the 20-year-old was struggling to come to terms with the loss.

Sure Tom Davies, the player who saw Everton's eighth penalty of the shootout saved onto the post, will need picking up but there were many other reasons why Gordon was taking this one especially hard.

Gordon had given his all, across the 90 minutes more than any of his team-mates, on an evening where a woefully poor first-half performance had left Everton trailing at the break.

Yes, the Blues equalised the game within three minutes of the re-start through Andros Townsend (one of few to emerge with credit like Gordon) and dominated the second period, but they had given themselves only 45 minutes to turn around a tie that was running away from them.

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Going out on penalties is always cruel, and there were strong appeals for a spot-kick in normal time, but Everton could have few complaints. They had allowed this third round clash to get as far as a shoot-out and so knew the risks involved. They only had themselves to blame. Add defeat to Championship side QPR, at Loftus Road, to the long list of misery the club have experienced in this competition. Nights like this make you think it will never happen in the League Cup.

Gordon, as he crouched alone near the centre-circle, would have been left to think how many more chances he will get this season, with the League Cup now off the table?

He also, would have been asking what more could he have done?

In truth, not much more. And so the hope is that he can use this as a platform to earn playing time in the league.

Based on this, he's the only fringe player who deserves the manager's consideration.

Remarkably, this was only the eighth time the Academy product has started a game for Everton and even though he's produced moments in the Premier League this, in the capital, was the best performance of his fledgling Blues' career.

No wonder he was knackered as the game came to its conclusion.

Gordon had played with an intensity and desire from the first moment, trying to set a tempo and a standard that his team-mates should have set for him, the youngest player in the team.

For too long in the first period, too many failed to use him as the example to follow. The second-half, yes, Everton played and controlled the tie more like they should have done and more players came up to the levels Gordon was exhibiting.

Rafa Benitez may well be asking his players - if he hadn't done at half-time - why was a 20-year-old leading by example? Why was Gordon pressing and closing down like he meant it, and others not? Why was Gordon using the ball well and too many others giving it away incredibly cheaply? Why was Gordon positive and playing with intent when, too often, those around him in black, were ponderous and passive?

Gordon wasn't perfect, he knows he should have scored when the game was at 0-0, seeing his strong effort saved by Seny Dieng after Alex Iwobi had picked him out, but his game was impressive here.

Strong, quick, positive and at tempo, with the intent to cause damage. But apart from Townsend's chipped ball in for Lucas Digne's goal, which made it 1-1, moments of quality were few and far between.

Benitez went over to Gordon at the end, offering a consoling pat on the side of the head, but the youngster was almost in a state of disbelief.

As the fifth penalty taker up, he had shown incredible confidence to step up. In line with his overall performance, he did his job.

When you come into ties like this, away from home and against lower league opposition, you must come with the mindset that Gordon did.

Not only was it essential to match QPR for work-rate and determination but also, to use it as a chance to stake a claim and grab an opportunity to start a game.

There were some players here who will start against Norwich City but others who were offered the platform to give Benitez food for thought.

Of the players who have started this season on the fringes of Benitez's thinking, only Gordon will be in the manager's mind now, in that regard.

Benitez did not entertain the idea of sending Gordon out on loan, during the transfer window, believing he was better served with him, and his coaches, at Finch Farm, learning about how he wants to play but, moreover, the new manager had liked what he'd seen in him. There are players ahead of Gordon in the pecking order, and had Luis Diaz arrived from Porto as Benitez wanted, then competition would have been even more fierce, but this evening he did what Benitez will have hoped for.

Diaz's start to the season makes the failure to convince James Rodriguez to be part of the deal, even more frustrating, but here was Gordon shouting loud and clear that Benitez can use him. He is ready.

Yes, as his Benitez's way, he will soon be onto Gordon about what he could have done better and where he can improve, but he must take that as a compliment.

The conversations about what many of his team-mates could, and should, have done better at Loftus Road, will be less so.