Everton 3 - 0 LOSC Lille
If there was some collective disappointment among Evertonians that the team hadn't given the best account of themselves against a very ordinary looking Lille last month, that feeling was vindicated tonight under the Goodison lights as the Blues dismantled the French side with a calm efficiency and retained their position on top of Group H.
The margin of victory may have matched that against Wolfsburg in September when Everton won 4-1 but this was an altogether more complete performance, albeit against lacklustre opposition whose only real threat to Tim Howard's clean sheet came from one impressive shot by Ryan Mendes in the first half and a succession of largely harmless corners.
Indeed, with Divock Origi given short shrift by a Blues back line marshalled by Phil Jagielka and bolstered by solid displays by Tony Hibbert and Sylvain Distin, Lille were mostly toothless and that left Roberto Martinez's side to express themselves at the other end. Romelu Lukaku, in particular, took up that invitation by putting on his best personal performance of the season thus far and though he was denied the goal he deserved by a controversial offside call in the second half, he was instrumental in the margin of victory.
Lukaku's return to the starting XI in place of Samuel Eto'o was one of four changes Martinez made to the team that started against Swansea last Saturday and the Belgian was almost off the mark with just a minute gone as Naismith played him with a first-time lay-off but Victor Enyeama pulled off a superb save to divert his shot wide of the far post and behind for a corner.
The roles were reversed a couple of minutes later as Naismith raced on to Lukaku's flick-on but the Scot couldn't lift the ball over Enyeama as the 'keeper raced off his line and McGeady was unable to steer the loose ball home as it bounced awkwardly in the box.
It was a hugely encouraging start from Everton and they ensured that they followed through by taking the lead in the 27th minute. James McCarthy, who was excellent throughout, found Aiden McGeady in space down the right and the latter's cross found Leon Osman at the far post who controlled it on his chest and rammed home a bending shot from 10 yards out with the outside of his foot. The veteran had come in for Ross Barkley, had cemented a good day for him personally by marking the occasion of his contract extension with the opening goal.
Lukaku, meanwhile, was demonstrating that the training-ground sessions with Duncan Ferguson could be bearing fruit with some impressive hold-up play and distribution – two areas that have been a weak point this season – but his tutor was no doubt shaking his head in dismay in the Everton dugout when the striker was presented a gilt-edged chance to double the lead from McGeady's cross but he guided a free header well wide of the target.
The Blues did double their lead three minutes before the break, though. A terrific tackle by McCarthy halted a Lille counter-attack and allowed Osman to spring the offside trap with a slide-rule pass for Naismith. Enyeama again made an excellent stop to deny him but Jagielka broke free of Marjo Basa from the resulting corner and stooped to bury a routine header.
Importantly, Everton didn't take their foot off the pedal in the early part of the second half and remained dangerous going foward on the back of tireless industry from the likes of McCarthy, Naismith and Lukaku. The Belgian was confident enough to wave off Leighton Baines when he won a free-kick 25 yards from goal but Enyeama was on hand to foil him again with a diving, two-handed save that pushed his well-struck effort behind.
Lukaku was involved in the killer goal, though – an 18-pass illustration of the School of Science that went through every player in the team. Holding the ball up impressively, he waited for Baines to break on the overlap down the left before releasing a perfectly-weighted pass that the fullback centred to Naismith in front of goal. The Scot eschewed the kind of first-time finish with which he had scored against Leicester on the opening day of the Premier League season, choosing instead to wrong-foot Basa with a neat first touch and then rifling into the roof of the net.
It was effectively "job done" at that point and the margin of victory combined with an injury to Gareth Barry – one that was probably self-inflicted when he left plenty of both feet in a heavy challenge with Corchia – allowed Martinez to bring on Christian Atsu for McGeady and Darron Gibson for Barry to close out the game.
After having one "goal" chalked off by a correct offside decision in the first half, Lukaku would have a second harshly taken away from him when he appeared to have timed his run to perfection to latch onto another defence-splitting pass as the Blues threatened a fourth but they had to be content with 3-0.
Lille may not have given Martinez's men much to think about from a defensive point of view but you can only beat the team in front of you and Everton accomplished that with some style, putting to the sword the team that finished last season in third place in Ligue 1 and who who are in this competition by virtue of losing their Champions League qualifier. The Blues have put seven goals past the two most difficult teams in the group and now just need a draw in Wolfsburg to book their passage to the knockout phase.
Everton's Premier League form may still be patchy but their European campaign continues to go according to plan and it will hopefully provide a platform from which Martinez can start engineering consistent form on the domestic front.
Reader Comments (21)
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1 Posted 07/11/2014 at 00:04:15
It was a complete team performance Ă‚â€“ a clean sheet, 3 goals (from a defender and two midfielders) and Lukaku desperately unlucky not to register.
We must now be serious contenders for winning this competition.
2 Posted 07/11/2014 at 00:33:21
Well, youĂ‚d think so were it not for the scandalous policy of drip-feeding the Champions League losers into the Europa League. There will be some difficult teams dropping off the gravy train into our path but we can take comfort from the fact that we have done very well in our CL-esque group thus far.
3 Posted 07/11/2014 at 00:43:42
Yes, there will be some very strong teams in the next round Ă‚â€“ Man City and Liverpool (strong, ahem...) could be among them.
4 Posted 07/11/2014 at 02:05:47
5 Posted 07/11/2014 at 02:07:13
6 Posted 07/11/2014 at 08:13:41
7 Posted 07/11/2014 at 08:39:26
8 Posted 07/11/2014 at 08:46:19
9 Posted 07/11/2014 at 09:13:40
10 Posted 07/11/2014 at 09:09:15
I thought it also showed for the next run of games it should be Lukaku and Naismith up front, if RM wants to play Barkley against Sunderland then please don't move Naismith out of the middle to accommodate him.
I thought this was Lukaku,s best display of the season and it looks like the sessions with Ferguson are starting to pay off.
11 Posted 07/11/2014 at 10:35:30
12 Posted 07/11/2014 at 10:57:43
And I thought we were much more direct in trying to run with the ball through their midfield (McCarthy impressive last night at that). And very quick, pacey, accurate passes esp from Gibson.
13 Posted 07/11/2014 at 11:27:21
However, I fear these demotivated teams, whoever they are, far less than the stronger teams currently in the Europa.
The key issue is that we are practically using the whole squad in Europe (just look at last nightĂ‚s subs bench) and winning confidently.
14 Posted 07/11/2014 at 14:15:09
Lukaku: much much better
The team were patient, strong and incisive.
15 Posted 07/11/2014 at 16:30:56
16 Posted 07/11/2014 at 16:46:28
They seem too disheartened with being shite in the main tournament........ however the winner gets straight back into the Champions League again so they might take it more seriously now.
17 Posted 07/11/2014 at 16:45:04
Man City drops down and wins Europa and finishes in the top 4, does the 5th place finisher get a trip to the CL qualifiers?
18 Posted 07/11/2014 at 18:07:30
And little Mo Besic; seemed to be having a good time on the bench cheering the team on a la Del boy. Hope he has converted to the cause.
19 Posted 07/11/2014 at 18:35:19
I was particularly impressed with Jagielka who was encouraging Lukaku throughout the game. LukakuĂ‚s runs created loads of space in the middle but I just wished McCarthy would shoot when chances arose for him.
He played well and worked really hard but it would be nice to see him hit a 20-yarder sometime. At least two midfielders scored so I suppose I should be happy... :0)
20 Posted 08/11/2014 at 04:03:14
Err... They are rubbish. They are all struggling against lesser teams than Everton.
When your defence is so bad you have conceded over 20 goals with less than a quarter of the season gone, a decent team will throw the kitchen sink at you... This lot have barely squirted the washing up liquid.
At this level, it's rare for a defence to get 5 games on the spin where the opposition has been so poor in attack and after a difficult start we should be grateful for that. Hopefully we'll meet another on Sunday, but let's not dress it up to something it ain't.
Lyndon nails it in his article. "You can only beat what's in front of you and Everton accomplished that in some style." I think most of us got where he was coming from. There are much sterner tests ahead and these confidence boosters against "weaker " teams will do us no harm at all.
Clean sheets win prizes and if we can get into the habit of keeping them, there 'll be less need for merely "hoping" we meet "many more rubbish teams for the remainder of the season".
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