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Venue: Stade de Suisse, Bern
Europa League
 Thursday 19 February 2014; 6:00pm
1 4
Hoarau (10')
Half Time: 1-3
Lukaku (24', 39', 58')
Coleman (28')
Rnd of 32
Referee: Manuel De Sousa

Match Report

As Everton have stumbled their way through a soul-sapping season on the domestic front, Evertonians could be forgiven for forgetting all the promise of Roberto Martinez's first season, when the Blues often passed and entertained their way to the brink of Champions League qualification.

Bristling with confidence and flair under the new manager, the Blues looked during their best moments like a team made for Europe, and while they struggled to establish any momentum in the Premier League between August and November, their group-winning performances in the Europa League at least seemed to bear out those Continental credentials.

In the twelve weeks since their head-turning 2-0 win in Wolfsburg and the resumption this evening of the European campaign, Everton had dropped preciptiously into the bottom half of the league table and won just twice in 16 games, leaving many fans apprehensive about the team's Europa League chances.

Like a footballing Jekyll and Hyde, the Blues returned to Europe tonight in almost unrecognisable form from the hesitant and pedestrian outfit that slogged through a demoralising Festive period and was dumped out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle. Romelu Lukaku caught fire in the Stade de Suisse as the Everton that took Group H by storm in the first third of the season roared back to life, the Belgian grabbing a "perfect" hat-trick and passing up two more gilt-edged opportunities that would have given Martinez an even more unassailable first-leg advantage to take back to Goodison Park for next week.

John Stones may have capped what was generally a disappointing personal performance by conceding a second-half penalty and earning a somewhat contentious straight red for hauling back Guillerme Hoarau with the score at 4-1, but it was a night filled with positives for both this competition and the remainder of the season. Not least a performance worthy of his 28m price tag from Lukaku, a pleasing return to form for Ross Barkley, and the cushion the scoreline gives the team for the second leg.

Much of the build-up to the visit to Bern surrounded the playing surface at Young Boys' home ground Everton's record on plastic pitches prior to today reflected just two wins in 15 games between 1981 and 1991 but Martinez's men dispelled any notion that the turf would be a major factor almost from the first whistle.

They dictated the tempo and possession of the match from the outset and offered indications of the goal glut to come with an early chance for Lukaku that had Yvon Mvogo flying across his goal to turn a header away in the third minute. Bryan Oviedo's miscued cross then rattled off the outside of the post as Everton settled quickly and promisingly.

It was the home side who scored first, though, with a goal out of nothing from Hoarau that he curled well beyond Tim Howard's reach from 25 yards as the Everton defence failed to close him down. It was a potentially significant setback for a team that has been struggling so visibly for confidence and impetus of late but the Blues merely resumed their control of the contest.

Where space and speed of thought and action have appeared so restricted in the League, here Everton were creating and finding lots of space in and around the box and Lukaku forced another one-handed save from Mvogo with a low shot with a quarter of an hour gone. And the Cameroonian 'keeper had to be at his best to turn Barkley's shot behind from the subsequent corner before the same player found himself on the end of a fortunate ricochet but he wasn't able to guide the loose ball back to a teammate.

The visitors' mounting pressure told, however, in the 24th minute. Gareth Barry, enjoying a pleasingly effective performance, clipped a teasing cross into the box that Lukaku steered into the far corner of the goal via Mvogo's glove and Everton were back level.

Four minutes later, they had turned the game on its head with a beautifully-worked goal that was finished off by a rejuvenated Seamus Coleman at the far post. Steven Naismith, profiting from the absence of an offside flag in the build-up, played a one-two pass with Barkley before fizzing a low ball through the 'keeper's legs and across the face of goal for the Irishman to slide in to make it 2-1.

And Everton's luck held at the other end, too, as the Swiss side tried to respond quickly. Hoarau, a handful all evening, fired a volley from the edge of the box that Howard could only push into the path of Raphael Nuzzolo but, thankfully, the ball ended up in the goalkeeper's arms. And Hoarau went very close again when he flashed a header wide of Howard's left-hand post as Young Boys tried to press forward.

They were undone by another impressive Everton move at the other end, though. Oviedo picked out Barry's over-lapping run with a neat backheel and the veteran midfielder's low cross took a fortuitous deflection to take it into the path of Lukaku who couldn't miss from close range to make it 3-1.

A late flurry by the home side threatened to halve the deficit going into the break but Howard palmed Milan Gajic's shot from distance away to safety before McCarthy somehow denied Sekou Sanogo's seemingly goalbound effort by deflecting it onto the post.

Pleasingly, Everton carried the same pattern of play into the second half, controlling possession where possible and looking increasingly to hit the Yellow and Blacks on the counter-attack. Kevin Mirallas, one of the few disappointments in Blue on the night lashed an early shot well wide after a bout of "handbags" had broken out over an incident between Sanogo and Barkley, and Oviedo was forced off with an injury just before the hour mark.

The Costa Rican was replaced by Luke Garbutt and the England U21 man had barely had time to settle in before it was 4-1. James McCarthy had gone down in a heap in the centre circle but Everton played on and, picking up a ball cleared forward by Stones, Barkley sent Lukaku away behind the Young Boys defence into a one-on-one showdown with Mvogo. As was the case in Wolfsburg, the striker made no mistake and clipped the ball over the on-rushing 'keeper to seal his first hat-trick for the Blues.

An eventful five minutes ended with Stones grappling with Hoarau and the gangly Frenchman going down under his challenge as he tried to bustle his way through, leaving referee Manuel de Sousa with little option but to point to the penalty spot. The young defender was also sent off for an early bath for denying, in the official's opinion, a clear goalscoring opportunity, even though Howard had closed down the angle and Phil Jagielka had positioned himself behind his 'keeper near the goalline to block any incoming shot. Hoarau scooped his spot-kick over the bar, however, thereby spurning the chance to reduce the Blues' lead to two goals.

And despite being a man light, Everton continued to look the better side and to carve out good chances to add to their tally. Garbutt swung a perfect cross in to Lukaku who looked odds-on to score in front of goal but the ball just ended up bouncing off his shins and behind. The Belgian also planted a free header from a Coleman cross wide, his blushes saved by the offside flag, and saw one last chance to notch his fourth of the evening denied by Mvogo. He had been put clean through once more but a crucial moment's hesitation as he checked for offside allowed his marker to catch up and put him sufficiently off his stride that he shot too close to the 'keeper who batted his effort away.

The hat-trick hero left the field with five minutes to go to give Christian Atsu a first run-out since December and Everton saw out the closing stages with more composed passing football that will have supporters purring over the possiblility that a corner has now been turned.

In the vacuum between the defeat at Chelsea eight days ago, sport media's column inches, website commentary and social media punditry was focused on Lukaku for all the wrong reasons following the comments he made about his long-term goals and his desire to one day be playing for a "top club" again.

Thanks to his three goals – he becomes the fourth player to score a hat-trick in Europe for Everton after Alan Ball, Andy Gray and Yakubu – and as complete a performance as he has put on since joining Everton 18 months ago, he will be fodder for football talk for all the right reasons over the next few days. As should Everton. Young Boys had won all five of their Europa League games at Stade de Suisse this season including a 2-0 win over Napoli who were the other team to hit four goals on the road this evening and conceded just once; the Blues obliterated that proud home record and planted one foot in the round of 16 with a truly handsome result.

Martinez's men have found themselves to be in their element in Europe this season and if they can translate that barnstorming form to the Premier League, then perhaps a late run on the Premier League's European qualifying places isn't out of the question. Play like this in the remaining rounds of the Europa League, though, and they could yet find themselves in Warsaw come May...

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Preview

Everton step back onto the road to Warsaw this Thursday as their Europa League campaign resumes after a two-and-a-half-month hiatus with a trip to Switzerland to face Young Boys.

In the interim period since they sealed quailfication to the round of 32 as winners of Group H, the Blues' domestic form nose-dived but has now stabilised and Roberto Martinez will, no doubt, be hoping that a return to Continental competition can provide the spark that finally turns the season around.

With their impressive wins over Lille and home and away against Wolfsburg, it has really only been on their European exploits that Everton have looked anything like the free-flowing confident side they were for much of last season. And there is confidence in the camp despite the tricky away leg they must negotiate in Bern this week.

It's been many, many years since Everton have played a competitive match on artificial turf but Blues of a certain vintage will remember how much of a scourge plastic pitches were for us in the 1980s before they were banned by the Football and Premier Leagues. Trips to Loftus Road, Kenilworth Road and Boundary Park became dreaded affairs because of our players' inability to properly adapt to the hard, bouncy plastic surfaces.

The technology of astroturf pitches has moved on since but the surface at Stade de Suisse will be sufficiently different that Martinez has reportedly had his charges training on a similar pitch at the home of Widnes Vikings Rugby League club. The manager said this week that he has been watching Young Boys a lot recently because he has been "interested to see how they adapt to playing on artificial turf. That is something we need to adapt quickly to."

If there is an advantage, it has translated into an impressive run of home form in the Europa League. From the third qualifying round on, they won all of their home games, beating Sparta Prague and Napoli and tying their record win in UEFA competiiton (5-0 over Slovan Bratislava) in the process. Plus, they've only lost twice at home in the league this season but hopefully, the Blues can mitigate that home turf advantage through preparation beforehand and concentration on the night.

Martinez will again be without Leighton Baines and Aiden McGeady, two players who missed both the Merseyside derby and the trip to Chelsea because of injury and, citing the longer recovery times that are apparently associated with the surface, the Catalan has decided not to risk Arouna Kone on the artificial turf .

Under-21s striker Courtney Duffus has travelled with the squad in the Ivorian's stead, however, and Christian Atsu is back in the squad after returning from the Africa Cup of Nations with a player of the tournament award in his back pocket. The Ghanaian's last appearance was his ill-fated start in the final Group H game against Krasnodar which he limped out of with a hamstring injury.

The manager says that he has one eye on Sunday's game with Leicester City when it comes to team selection but it's likely he will go with his strongest possible XI in Bern, meaning few changes from the side that lost narrowly at Chelsea. James McCarthy is likely to come back into the side and if the Stade de Suisse pitch is a concern in terms of availability for the weekend, it could be Gareth Barry who retains his spot against Young Boys given that he is suspended for the next Premier League match.

Assuming Martinez doesn't opt for the defensive three-man defensive midfield he deployed against Liverpool, that would mean Muhamed Besic dropping to the bench. Elsewhere in the side, Ross Barkley could make way for Kevin Mirallas who has revelled in the big Europa League games when fit and would be a good bet to get the nod after starting the defeat at Chelsea on the bench.

Martinez has said that his side will be gunning for a first-leg victory which would be a priceless advantage to take back to Goodison Park for the return leg next week. In reality, an away goal and avoiding defeat are the first priorities and, given their form in this competition thus far, that is a realistic goal.

Lyndon Lloyd

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< Chelsea (A) Leicester (H) >
 Everton fans' reports
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  Hadergjonaj booked
  Von Bergen
  Sanogo booked (Bertone 90')
  Gajic (Gerndt 70')
  Steffen (Sulejmanov 79')
  Subs not used

  Stones sent off
  Oviedo (Garbutt 58')
  McCarthy (Alcaraz 70')
  Barkley booked
  Naismith booked
  Lukaku booked (Atsu 85')
  Subs not used
  Baines (injured)
  Hibbert (injured)
  Kone (rested)
  McGeady (injured)
  Osman (unfit)
  Pienaar (unfit)
  Lennon (cup-tied)
  Long (loan)
  Lundstram (loan)
  McAleny (loan)
  Pennington (loan)

  • Possession
  • Shots on target
  • Shots off target
  • Corners

Cup Scores
Aalborg 1-3 Club Brugge
Ajax 1-0 Legia Warsaw
Anderlecht 0-0 Din. Moscow
Celtic 3-3 Inter Milan
Dnipro 2-0 Olympiacos
Guingamp 2-1 Dynamo Kiev
Liverpool 1-0 Besiktas
PSV 0-1 Zenit
Roma 1-1 Feyenoord
Sevilla 1-0 Borussia M.
Torino 2-2 Athletic Blibao
Tottenham 1-1 Fiorentina
Trabzonspor 0-4 Napoli
Villarreal 2-1 RB Salzburg
Wolfsburg 2-0 Sporting
Young Boys 1-4 Everton


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