Everton travelled to Olomouc in the Czech Republic for what should have been a formality after securing a four-goal lead with home advantage in last week's first leg of this Europa League qualifier. But David Moyes was taking little for granted, but he did drop Cahill to the bench — the mercurial Ausie has been totally useless so far this season...
The opening minutes saw Everton in disarray at the back, though, with a sequence of poor play from the Everton defence starting with a terrible pass from Baines that put the static Joseph Yobo in trouble, letting the ball run through that was picked up on the edge of the Everton box by their striker, who was through on goal 20 yards out. Hibbert chasing back had to lunge in and caught him. Last man, denying a goalscoring chance: straight red card... although he may well have got a touch of the ball.
From the resulting free-kick, Bajer crashed a fine strike off the Everton crossbar, and Everton thankfully survived an early scare.
Everton slowly settled and regained their composure, looking eventually more confident. Near the break, some great work by Osman let him evade his marker and get down toward the byeline for a an accurate cut-back that picked out an unmarked Steven Pienaar in front of goal. He had plenty of work to do to control the high ball and strike it superbly well away from the keeper and into the top corner of the net. Nice!
Everton looked better in the second half, with the benefit of the goal behind them, and David Moyes took the opportunity to put on youngsters Jose Baxter and James Wallace — his senior debut after countless games spent warming the subs bench.
Sultes finally scored for Olomuc with 10 mins to go, and the tie well and truly over. Everton move on to the group stage and six games (home and Away) against somewhat more challenging European opposition.
Everton's impressive reversal of form following their opening day tonking by Arsenal, though not upheld through the trip to Burnley on Sunday, that led to a convincing 4-0 victory over Sigma Olomouc in the first leg means that David Moyes's side just have to avoid a total collapse in order to book their place in the inaugural Europa League.
The goals flowed freely at Goodison Park last week and while the manager would no doubt take a boring draw in the second leg, another solid victory with some more goals shared around could only help his team as they look ahead to another tricky away fixture in the Premier League against Wigan at the weekend.
Moyes doesn't have many options when it comes to squad rotation anyway, but he will probably resist the temptation to use the big first-leg lead as an opportunity to tinker with his starting line-up.
Phil Neville will surely line up alongside Joseph Yobo in central defence and if there is a change, it might come in midfield where Dan Gosling could get an opportunity at Leon Osman's expense or up front where Jô is often rotated with Louis Saha.
Of course, if things are looking good in the second half, there will be plenty of scope to give some of the youngsters a valuable taste of European action and to give Yakubu his first run out since November last year. Players like Jose Baxter, Kieron Agard and Seamus Coleman could be ripe for some greater exposure in that instance.
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|SIGMA OLOMOUC (4-4-2)|
|Janotka (73' Sultes)|
|Bajer (73' Otepka)|
|Petr (84' Stepan)|
|Subs not used|
|Osman (66' Baxter)|
|Pienaar (66' Wallace)|
|Jo (76' Yakubu)|
|Subs not used|