The Europa League decor went up at Goodison Park and Everton re-emerged from the hole they've been digging for themselves in the Premier League to win in Europe again. It took another stirring recovery from the concession of an early goal, a late penalty for handball and the eventual backing from the stands at Goodison Park – the Grand Old Lady morphed from a pit of angst to a bearpit in the second half – but the Blues will take a vital lead to Kiev next week.
They would, of course, have preferred to have kept a clean sheet and removed away goals from Dynamo's side of the equation, but the knowledge that one goal of their own in Kiev's Olympic Stadium next week would significantly enhance Everton's chances of making the quarter finals of a European competition for the first time in 30 years.
Should they do so, it will largely be down to Romelu Lukaku. The size of the Belgian's price tag means that he has borne the bulk of the expectation and criticism for the team's struggles in the Premier League this season but his seven goals in as many Europa League games has already elevated him to the status of Everton's all-time leading goalscorer in Europe. Tonight, it was his sheer will and determination that set up the equaliser for Steven Naismith and his composure from the spot that allowed him to stroke home the goal that won this leg of the tie from the spot.
There were plenty of plaudits to go around, though, as Martinez's men shook off a frustratingly subdued start and grew into the contest with a performance that magnified in intensity and effectiveness until it peaked with about 20 minutes still to go. Phil Jagielka seemed to wear the frustrations of a wasted domestic season on his sleeve and, along with Lukaku and the seemingly omnipresent James McCarthy, he appeared to be dragging the Blues to victory through force of will with a towering display.
The captain might have had the opening goal, too, had Lukaku been a little more aware or less selfish when Oleksandr Shovkovskiy's rush of blood to the head left him stranded 30 yards from goal having been dispossessed by the Everton striker and his goal empty. The Belgian went for glory and missed badly while Jagielka, for some reason the furthest Blue shirt forward, was tearing forward on the overlap to his left.
As wayward as Lukaku's 33rd-minute effort may have been, it represented the first shot on goal from the home side after two uncharacteristically poor deliveries from corners by Luke Garbutt. At that stage, Martinez's side was a goal down and on the receiving end of the now familiar mix of groans and boos from the home fans as the team struggled for cohesion and momentum.
The manner in which they had conceded the goal hadn't helped. Antolin Alcaraz, playing in place of John Stones who was laid low with a virus, was at the centre of the defensive uncertainty that undermined Everton's start to the game. His failure to clear ball in the second minute led to a dangerous cross from the Kiev left that Tim Howard pushed back into danger and it was an ill-advised header by the Paraguayan that required an intervention by McCarthy to slash the ball behind for a corner 12 minutes later.
From that set-piece, with the Blues' biggest men marking a clutch of Kiev's supposed danger men beyond the penalty spot, Oleg Gusev ghosted from the back post to the front, while his marker Ross Barkley was blocked off from following him by another white shirt. That left the midfielder free to sweep the ball home inside Howard's near post from close range.
Everton eventually got their act together but not before Alcaraz had almost doubled the size of the mountain they were facing with an awful back-pass that almost put Dieumerci Mbokani in one-on-one in the box with Howard and the Amrican had pushed a low drive from Sergiy Sydorchuk around the post.
Lukaku had a direct free kick tipped over after Barkley had been felled in a dangerous area outside the Dynamo area and, from the resulting corner, Phil Jagielka had an excellent header cleared off the line and Alcaraz's first-time shot was deflected inches over the crossbar.
The Blues remained on the offensive, though, with an increased tempo and directness that has been the hallmark of their Continental campaign and which galvanised a crowd that had grown audibly agitated at the sideways and backwards passing that littered the first half hour. As a result, they pulled level six minutes before the break. Lukaku out-muscled his marker and set off for the opposition penalty area in typical fashion, determinedly shrugging off three robust challenges before poking the ball forward to Naismith. The Scot made no mistake with the finish, side-footing expertly past Shovkovskiy.
It was Naismith's second Europa League goal ? third if you count his crucial involvement in the first goal in the home game against Wolfsburg, which was officially accredited as an own goal to Ricardo Rodriguez ? and it encapsulated the dilemma over Martinez's formation as it relates to his forward players. Naismith has been in iffy form of late ? to be honest, he was far below his best tonight, too ? and his presence alongside Barkley robs the team of width down the left but he pops up with important goals.
That weakness down the left flank, where once Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar formed a lethally effective combination, was frequently noticeable in this contest where a number of over-lapping runs by Garbutt were ignored by both Naismith and Barkley ? perhaps because they reflexively look to attack down the centre now or move the ball to the right. No surprise then that as Everton finished the first half strongly it was from the right flank that another great opportunity to score opened up for Kevin Mirallas but he couldn't pick out a blue jersey from the byline.
The Toffees had the bit between their teeth now and they started the second period with the same forward intent that had characterised the last 10 minutes of the first. Alcaraz tried his luck from 30-odd yards with a raking shot that the 'keeper initially spilled before gathering at the second attempt, Naismith glanced a header just wide , Shovkovskiy fisted away Garbutt's wicked free kick, Barkley had a shot blocked after a rare glimpse of attacking confidence from him, and Seamus Coleman drifted a header of his own just past the far post... all within 10 minutes of the restart.
Kiev were largely on the back foot, spending long periods penned into their own half but Mbokani almost capitalised on hesitation by Howard from a corner but headed into the stantion behind the goal and Andriy Yarmolenko flashed a decent effort narrowly over from the edge of the box.
In between, Arouna Kone had come on for Everton to replace Mirallas who had, again, been a peripheral figure and the Ivorian saw a header saved from McCarthy's cross after Coleman had gone down in a heap in the Dynamo area before Barry was played in neatly by Naismith but scuffed his shot disappointingly wide.
Two more moments involving Lukaku almost engineered a second goal, the first a low shot from the angle that the goalkeeper smothered and then a nice one-two exchange with Naismith that would have given the Scot a great chance to put Everton ahead but he couldn't dig the ball out from between his feet and the chance was lost.
Having given their all since the half-hour mark, Martinez's men began to flag a little as the game moved into the last 20 minutes. Christian Atsu was stripped and ready to come on at one point to offer more pace and energy but when the second change was made it was Osman who got the nod.
The veteran midfielder has shown his ability to make an impact off the bench in the past and he proved to be the crucial difference for the Blues this evening. He was picked out with a brillant reverse pass by McCarthy that sent him to the byline and when his attempted cross was blocked by the arm of Danilo Silva, referee Carlos Velasco pointed to the spot.
Lukaku stepped up, stutter-stepped to prompt Shovkovskiy into diving to his right and then stroke his shot down the middle with enough power that it found net off the 'keeper's foot.
Perhaps due to fatigue or a desire not to get caught out at the back being too adverturous, the drive to increase the margin wasn't quite there in the remaining seven minutes but had Osman been able to get more than just a faint glance on a late header from the irrepressible Lukaku's cross, he might have capped an excellent cameo off the bench.
As it is, Everton will travel to Kiev next Thursday with a one-goal aggregate lead and with the knowledge that Dynamo's need to attack might play into their counter-attacking hands.
More importantly, the victory and the manner of it provided another potential catalyst to the Blues' mis-firing domestic form. In many ways, the first third of this game felt like a Premier League fixture, right down to the poorly-conceded set-piece that echoed Olivier Giroud's goal off a corner at Arsenal 10 days ago. Unlike at the Emirates or at Stoke the following Wednesday, Everton found the resolve, the impetus and the wherewithal to not only claw their way back but find a way to win.
The raucous atmosphere that developed over the course of the contest certainly helped. Once the effort on the field had become visible, Everton were roared on by a vociferous Goodison crowd that, if the like of which shows up again on Sunday, should ensure the points needed to secure safety from relegation will come from the six remaining home games.
If that particular corner has finally been turned, we'll find out against Newcastle at the weekend but, for now, the players have ensure that their European dream lives on.
Romelu Lukaku led the line ahead of Steven Naismith while Gareth Barry and James McCarthy formed the central midfield axis. Darron Gibson was on the bench alongside Muhamed Besic, Arouna Kone and Christian Atsu.
Howard needed to be alert in the early minutes to bat away an aggressive shot as the visitor's pace looked to unsettle the home side. Kiev looked to have done their homework, pressing the Blues and closing down any available space.
Everton won the first corner in the 7th minute but it was cleared with ease. But it was from a corner at the other in the 14th minute that stunned the Blues, a simple corner from Yarmolenko clipped inside Howard's near post by Gusev as he characteristically flapped at the ball, and Everton were catastrophically an away goal down before the quarter-hour mark.
With a massive mountain to climb against a side showing zero intimidation, the pattern of the game became all too familiar, with slow passing across the back and zero penetration going forward as they were shockingly incapable of retaining possession, Jagielka even resorting to hoofball but Lukaku was called for a foul.
Sustained passing outside of the Kiev area led to a lost ball when it was played in to Naismith, and the visitors were bounding up the field with pace, in complete contrast to the crablike lack of forward progress when Everton regained possession. One long ball did see Lukaku run onto it but his cross to Barkley was intercepted.
Sydorchuk tried a long-distance shot that Howard parried from a corner that was cleared quickly to Lukaku who had a glorious chance when he dispossessed the keeper well outside his area, but it was too much for Lukaku to get his long-range punt at the open goal anything like on target. At the other end, a pathetic Barry backpass straight to the lurking Bezua could so easily have been the second goal.
A free-kick within striking distance saw Lukaku curl one jthat needed a clip over the bar from the keeper and a couple of better chances cem from the corner, Jagielka's powerful header headed off teh line at the fgar post befre Alcaraz's shot was deflected over.
Better strength from Lukaku forced the ball through to Naismith who kept himself onside to slide the ball home, and put a very different complexion on the nervous Goodison crowd, who rallied behind the better effort and pace shown for the goal.
Everton should have scored again when Mirallas beat Shovskovskiy to the ball and seemed to have space and time but could not find Lukaku to finish with his cross.
Kiev came out on the front foot after the break, but Everton responded with some good pressing of their own, a very long-range Alacarz shot forcing a save from Shovskovskiy, who under pressure. A brilliant curling corner from Garbutt, was too clever for everyone and went right through the danger area.
Mirallas was fouled out wide right and Garbutt took the set-piece, curved in superbly to the far post where Shovskovskiy had to punch it away. From the second corner, Naismith had a free header but made a mess of it as Everton made a strong start to the second half.
Everton had to resist some pressure after Barry fouled near the Everton bye-line but were in attack mode soon after, with Kone coming on to replace Mirallas. Naismith set up Barry but his first-time shot was wide.
Everton looked to work chances but they were hard to coke by as clock ticked away, Lukaku and Naismith seemingly trying to set eachother up. Osman replaced Barkley with 16 mins left. Garbutt got down to the corner flag but his cross was overhit,
The game seemed to have reached a plateau for a long period in the second half until Everton got very lucky on 82 mins, Osman's cross hitting Danilo Silva's arm. Lukaku converted a less-than convincing penalty to give Everton a vital lead as they came back from that early goal.
Lukaku did well to cross in from wide right and Osman almost set up Naismith with a glancing header. Mbokani got a yellow for clattering McCarthy near the end.
Thanks to the weird dichotomy between Everton's domestic and European form, Thursday nights in the Europa League have become occasions to look forward to and the Blues now step into the Round of 16 this evening to take on Dynamo Kiev under the lights at Goodison Park.
The dead rubber against Krasnodar aside, the home matches in European competition have been among the few highlights of the season, with Wolfsburg, Lille and Young Boys all comfortably despatched to the tune of 10 goals for and only two against. It's performances like those that mean that the visit of the Ukrainian league leaders is not quite as daunting as it ordinarily might be.
Hopefully, the Grand Old Lady will be full – surprisingly, tickets for the first Continential Round of 16 fixture at Goodison since the agonising defetat to Fiorentina eight years ago were still on sale yesterday – and the crowd up for it as the Blues look to pick up a solid win and a clean sheet to take to Kiev next week.
Roberto Martinez has identified Kiev as an attacking side and, providing Sergei Rebrov hasn't done his homework too exhaustively and opts to park the bus instead, that should play nicely into Everton's hands. An open game should allow the Blues to play to the strengths of Kevin Mirallas – a likely starter given that Aaron Lennon is cup-tied – and, of course, Romelu Lukaku.
The latter Belgian is the second-top scorer in the Europa League this season and will be looking to add to his tally if the midfield can open up the right kind of supply lines. In that sense, the manager has a decision to make in central midfield where Darron Gibson was inspired in the second leg against Young Boys but then less impressive at Stoke in an Everton display that was flat all the way around.
James McCarthy is surely a certain starter so it remains to be seen whether Martinez opts for Gareth Barry and Gibson at the expense of someone like Steven Naismith further forward or opts for a more attacking shape.
Leon Osman is unlikely to start but could make the bench again if he overcomes his latest knock. Both he and John Stones will be assessed for minor injuries prior to the game, with Antolin Alcaraz ready to step in should the latter not make it. Luke Garbutt is in line for a fourth successive start in the continuing absence through injury of Leighton Baines' (quad) and Bryan Oviedo (hamstring). Steven Pienaar, Tony Hibbert and Aiden McGeady are also ruled out.
The Ukrainians, meanwhile, have been boosted by the eligibility of danger-man Andriy Yarmolenko who can play after having a three-match ban reduced to one by Uefa. Midfielders Younès Belhanda and Serhiy Rybalka are both suspended, though, and another of their pacier, more dangerous players, Jeremain Lens ( a rumoured Martinez target at the World Cup last summer) has been ruled out.
This week's Champions League matches may have seen some stirring second-leg performances by away teams – Schalke almost shocked Real Madrid at the Bernabeu and Paris St Germain knoked out Chelsea in dramatic fashion on away goals – but won't want to travel to Ukraine without a lead in hand like they did against Metalist Kharkiv a few years ago.
That night they needed some rare heroics from James McFadden and (arguably) an equally rare powerhouse striking performance from Victor Anichebe to win the tie. Given how well they have played on the road in the Europa League thus far, they won't feel over-awed should they need to win on Kiev's home turf but nothing will beat posting a 2-0 or better victory tonight to set us up for the return leg.
|2014-15 Reports Index|
|Veloso (84' Chumak)|
|Buyalsky (67' Garmash)|
|Gusev (76' Kravets)|
|Subs not used|
- Shots on target
- Shots off target
|Round of 16 Scores|