One foot in the group stage

By Paul Traill 18/08/2017 20comments  |  Jump to last

Mad traffic in around Ste’s and leading through to Birkenhead tunnel meant we parked up a little later than expected, but still in good time to enjoy a beer or two in the pub before excitedly making our way to Goodison Park. We timed it pretty perfect, arriving just a minute or two before kick off and instantly my eyes were drawn on the atmospheric Hajduk Split supporters, making plenty of noise and movement in the far corner. “Their going to be noisy” I said to Ste. That they were.

The trouble aside, their supporters certainly made for a lively evening and did get the Everton supporters going at times, though you can’t condone them throwing seats and causing the riot they did, forcing the game to be stopped temporarily. It’ll be an interesting trip to Split for those attending, that’s for sure.

We were a goal to the good by then, when Leighton Baines, the class-act, skipped past a defender and put in a peach of a delivery for the towering Michael Keane to simply head home. It was a bit of an old-skool dart and cross from Baines, and let’s hope we can continue to utilise Michael Keane’s considerable height with set piece deliveries, particularly with a set piece specialist signed and ready to deliver.

On 44 minutes we had doubled our money with another unlikely scorer in Idrissa Gana Gueye this time finishing nicely following good harrying by Davy Klaassen, and then a beauty of a ball from Wayne Rooney. At 2-0 we were happy enough, but we could have added a third before the break when Wayne Rooney was thwarted by Dante Stipica. Still, at the break we were hopeful of putting this tie to bed in the second half.

One of the lads who sits near us is often very critical of Ronald Koeman’s Everton only being able to play well in one half of a game, usually the latter half. While on this occasion, such was our high tempo and aggressive pressing, our first half was the best we’ve performed in our four games this season, the same could not be said of our sloppy second 45 minutes, when Jordan Pickford had to be alert on a few occasions to help preserve our two goal advantage. In the first half he was hardly threatened, all efforts straight at him, but he was needed in the second half when really it should have been Everton forcing that third goal.

Had we have been offered a 2-0 win before the game we would of course have taken it, however leaving the game at full time you felt slightly disappointed that we were not out of sight. As it stands, Hajduk Split are in the game, and should we surrender an early goal over there, particularly with their hostile crowd, we could be in for a touch night.

Still, with one foot in the group stage and four clean sheets in four games, it’s hard to complain. I’ll be interested to see where we stand in a month’s time. By then we will have played Manchester City away, Hajduk Split away, Chelsea away, Tottenham Hotspur at home and Manchester United away, plus a Carabao Cup fixture.

Tough games ahead, but if we can stay solid at the back and add a top striker in the next week or so, we can give these teams a good crack.

Player ratings

Pickford: Though his first half saves appeared easy, his positioning seemed perfect to draw the easy save. His second half saves were more difficult and he did well to help ensure Hajduk Split didn’t score an away goal. One counter-attacking kick which found Dominic Calvert-Lewin in the second half was majestic. We’ve got a great goalkeeper there, hopefully for a long time. 8

Baines: He’s started the season in great shape has Leighton and long may it continue. Great assist for our first goal. 8

Keane: My man of the match. Very solid at the back and capped it off with his first Everton goal. He’s settled in superbly and is a brilliant and composed centre back. Like Jordan, he could be a big player for us for a long time. 8

Williams: Did pretty well. Certainly seems more comfortable playing alongside Michael Keane than Phil Jagielka. 7

Martina: Though I was a bit baffled when he arrived, I can see why he was signed now. He can put a good ball in and gets up and down the pitch pretty well, can play a few positions and brings experience. For a free you can hardly complain. Had a good evening. 7

Schneiderlin: Hasn’t quite got going yet this season and may be a little nervous about his place with Gylfi Sigurdsson now arrived. He was withdrawn at half time, probably because he had received a first half yellow card. 6

Gueye: Took his goal well, got about the pitch well and distributed pretty well. A good night for Idrissa. 7

Mirallas: A bit in and out of the game. 6

Lookman: Had a good first half but was a bit in and out of the second. A bit unlucky not to score in the second half. 6

Klaassen: Had a good 10 minutes towards the end of the first half when he played a part in our second goal and set Rooney up for his other opportunity, but he didn’t quite kick on in the second half and was substituted to allow Wayne Rooney to drop back into midfield. 6

Rooney: Great assist for Idrissa’s goal but he cut a frustrated figure in the second half and was caught offside (by a very trigger happy linesman) on numerous occasions. He improved when he dropped back to the no. 10 position. 6

Davies (for Schneiderlin): Came into the game effortlessly. He’s a real gem. 7
Calvert-Lewin (for Klaassen): Full of running but still lacks that bit of composure. 6
Besic (for Mirallas): Nice to see him back on the pitch after over a year. He seemed to have been brought on to kill the game off a bit. He did OK, though his yellow card for a bad tackle was so unnecessary and preventable. 6

Reader Comments (20)

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Iain Love
1 Posted 18/08/2017 at 07:58:08
I thought Schneiderlin was excellent in the 1st half, his crossfield passing added to our tempo that was missing in the 2nd.
Dean Johnson
2 Posted 18/08/2017 at 08:16:21
For me it was the change of Schneiderlin to Davies that upset the rhythm. Otherwise agree with it all.

Rupert Sullivan
3 Posted 18/08/2017 at 08:20:54
I can't agree with all of your ratings to be honest, I thought that Mirallas played a blinder all game and I could not see why he was taken off.

Pickford made 3 top class saves - which when you think about the pressure that an away goal would have brought to the second leg, for me makes him Man of the Match.

Gana and Martina were also outstanding. Overall an excellent team performance, with several players vying for the MotM award. NIce to Besic back in, and playing well too.

Franny Porter
5 Posted 18/08/2017 at 08:46:07
Its all about opinions and we all see different things, but for me Mirallas offered nothing last night. For me, he is a sub at best and needs to be replaced.

I thought Martina looked really good and perhaps Koeman does know more than us about Everton right backs! On that showing, I'd rather see him there than anyone else who has played that role this season so far.

Klaassen looked good and thought his little touch in the area for Baines was outstanding but not really picked up on.

Pickford, best we've had since Martyn. Love the way he bollocked Rooney in the second half for a sloppy pass. Southall would've done the same.

One thing though, we are absolutely desperate for a big strong target man; hope we can get this over the line this next week.

Finally, if I was going to Split next week, I'd be shitting myself.

John G Davies
6 Posted 18/08/2017 at 08:56:45
Dean, 1

Agree with that.
Tom is going to be a very good player. But he is a kid who is developing his game. He will have his ups and downs same as all young players.
Some have him down as being our main man,he should start every game, and Koeman is at fault for not seeing that.

Foolish comments from those saying that.

Tony Abrahams
7 Posted 18/08/2017 at 09:28:25
Think the first few months of this season are going to be a massive learning curve for Tom Davies, John G.

Reason? We are going to be moving players around, and also the ball so much quicker, and this will take most young footballers by surprise, and is definitely something that they need a bit of time to adapt too.

I hope he can keep getting on the pitch, because it's obviously the best place to learn, especially if he's to become the complete midfielder, that I genuinely think he can become.

A few years to go if he his to stand any chance of becoming that complete player, but I'm glad he's ours, and it was interesting watching Erwin Koeman, (if it was him) and the way he was talking to Tom, whilst he was warming him up at half-time last night.

John G Davies
8 Posted 18/08/2017 at 09:42:25
This kid is going all the way to the top in my opinion Tony.
We need to nurture his development and we will be rewarded with a young scouser who will be a pleasure to watch in Royal Blue.
He will get on the pitch but probably not every week as some want.
Very rare that a kid comes into the team at 18 and stays there.
As you say it's a learning curve. Good thing is that Tom obviously understands that.
Dave Abrahams
9 Posted 18/08/2017 at 11:30:05
Good report Paul, that pass from Pickford was the pass of the game and was immiediatly applauded by the crowd, very good first half to be followed by a not so good at all second period.

I hope Mirallus is used again this season as a makeweight transfer before the deadline, he is brilliant as a flattering to deceive performer.

As you say this tie should have been finished last night.

Tony Marsh
10 Posted 18/08/2017 at 11:42:34
Hajduk Split are a very average side and we should be wiping the floor with them. The gulf in class between the Premier League and the Croatian national league is huge. The Croatian League is the equivalent of the English Division 1. To be honest, I don't know why our fans worry about this farcical competition; it is a hindrance to our crack at the top 4 which I believe is wide open again this season. If we take it as Man Utd and Man City are nailed on top 4 the remaining 2 places are up for grabs. The Thursday to Sunday fixtures will kill of our hopes of top 4 no doubt.

We will've played 4 games in the Europa League before we reach the group stages and could end up playing in Ukraine, Kazakhstan or god knows were once the draw is made. Sorry it's just not for me.

We should throw everything at making the top 4 as this is the only way to progress to the imaginary next level. Top players want to play in the Champions League not the Europa League; until we make it to the Champions League, we will neither keep or attract world class players. On that note, the result last night is irrelevant... Sooner were out the better.

Dave Williams
11 Posted 18/08/2017 at 12:09:08
Good report Paul but only a six for Morgan??
I'd give him a very comfortable eight for a high class half and we really noticed the difference without him!
Gana was an eight too for me and I'd say Pickford is already a better keeper then Martyn.
Dave Pritchard
12 Posted 18/08/2017 at 12:34:07
Agree with Dave W about Schneiderlin. Thought he was very good. Of the midfielders I think it will be Klaassen who would most likely make way for Sig in the next game if Sig is fit enough. Mirallas just never sems to take his chance to impress and I don't think he'll start too many games this year. If Pickford continues as he has started we will have a top keeper again at last.
Dean Johnson
13 Posted 18/08/2017 at 12:35:50
John, yes you're dead right. I speak as a huge fan of Davies but he's started the season a bit slow. Perhaps as the team is setup differently and there are lots of new players, it will take him a bit of time.

Morgan was the player of the first half for me, followed by Lookman and Martina. Was just great to see us play well for once so far.

But what is it they say? Playing crap and winning is a sign of

Nah, I'm not gonna say it :-)

Dave Ganley
14 Posted 18/08/2017 at 16:37:54
Yes I agree that Schneiderlin played very well in the first half, some of the passes that he sprayed from one side of the pitch to the other and right on the recipients foot were excellent. He has started the season slowly and seemingly unsure but last nighy I thought he was back to his best with his passing tackling and general reading of the game. I just thought he was taken off because of the yellow card. When Gana and Morgan play like that then there is room in the team for both as they were everywhere and so productive both in defence and attack.

The 2nd half was a let down and it was good to see Koeman jump on that and let the team know it was unacceptable. Overall it was a good result and I fully expect us to finish the job next week. We are starting to see signs of a very good side. It's very early days I know but get on a decent striker and we could see something special. With Coleman and Bolasie due back this season the squad is all of a sudden starting to look like one that can compete for honours.

Onwards and upwards

Peter Mills
15 Posted 18/08/2017 at 21:02:22
The cross-field passes did look very attractive, but I couldn't help thinking sometimes that they weren't actually achieving very much.

They weren't stretching the opposition, who still had 10 men behind the ball, they were just looking to the right instead of to the left.

Tony Abrahams
16 Posted 18/08/2017 at 21:27:34
Agree Peter, because nine times out of ten, the next pass goes back to the fullback.

i much prefer to see it when we can suck a team in, and then get the ball out quickly to the fullback, to create a two on one.

Thought Lookman messed a couple of these up last night, but it was encouraging to see us moving the ball about so much quicker at times?

Dean, I think Davies, is doing alright, but Koeman, is getting his own players in now, and because of this the demands on players who played last year will now increase ten-fold, and Tom, will have to really step up, to stay involved, now he's playing with much better footballers?

Only my opinion ofcourse, but Koeman, can no longer be exasperated simply because most of this team, are now his signings, and if he can't get his ideas across, then it's nobody's fault but his own.

Peter Mills
17 Posted 18/08/2017 at 21:38:09
Yep, Tony, I like Lookman but he needs to learn from the master. Ademola's first touch tends to bring the ball down dead at his feet, Wayne's first touch has always gained him half a yard of space.
James Stewart
18 Posted 18/08/2017 at 23:39:30
Credit where its due. I have been on his back recently but last night Schneiderlin was awesome. It all went tits up when he was taken off and but for Pickford's class we could have been embarrassed by conceding a couple.
Jeff Armstrong
19 Posted 20/08/2017 at 10:23:49
Tony, Man U finished 6th last season, but are currently in the Champions league this season, how, by winning the Europa league, that's how...fourth is a massive ask for this squad,as is winning the Europa,but we should be going all out for all four of the competitions we are in ,you just never know we're we might end up...
John Everton
21 Posted 21/08/2017 at 16:45:00
From my seat: Hajduk Split (H)... the alternative version

I normally watch the Blues from Row E of the Upper Bullens (at the base of the white ‘V' to be precise) but for this game I forewent my usual spot and decided to treat a friend, Neil, to a Goodison experience. I bought two seats online for Row K, further towards the Park End. In fact, near the absent away supporters' block!

Welshman Neil Smith played in Everton's Youth side in the late fifties along with Derek Temple, to namedrop, but pursued a distinguished career in the Cheshire Constabulary. His location and Police duties prevented him from becoming a regular attendee at the ‘Grand Old Lady', so this was to be something of a rare treat. You're getting the feeling that things went wrong already? The power of the written word!

I picked him up from his Sale home at 5.50pm and we headed West. Now this was the day that a metal plate on the M.6's Thelwall Viaduct decided to break loose. Suffice to say that, despite all the warnings, the reports on the radio didn't convey the severity of the traffic problem.

Congested doesn't go anywhere near describing the vehicular carnage on the Cheshire/Greater Manchester lanes heading for Warburton Toll Bridge over the Manchester Ship Canal. They couldn't cope! In a nutshell, we sat in queues through Carrington and Partington and, having crawled some six miles in 1 hour 50 minutes, reached the point where we turned left and headed for the nearest pub.

From my seat? Which one? The driver's? Or the faded brown 1950's upholstery in the Vine Inn, Dunham, where John Smith's sells for under ٠ a pint? Glad the Blues won, despite the Croat animosity under where we would have sat. Saw the final five minutes on YouTube when I returned home……. and will have to try taking Neil to a match again.

Guy Hastings
23 Posted 22/08/2017 at 16:14:26
Ajax 1-0 down from first leg. If they go out to Rosenborg will Dolberg be in our sights? He may not be available for the Europa campaign but will he feel his Ajax loyalty stretched as far as it can go. Assuming we don't go out on the night, that is.

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