Rusty Everton eke out victory over Ružomberok

Thursday, 27 July, 2017 0comments  |  Jump to last
Jan Kruger / Getty Images

Everton will take a slender lead to Slovakia next week after a largely sluggish performance yielded a 1-0 win over MFK Ružomberok at Goodison Park.

Ronald Koeman fielded £60m of newly-acquired talent in his first starting line-up of the season for this Europa League Third Qualifying Round first leg but it was the man snapped up for just £5.2m from La Liga and a veteran fullback who made the difference.

Sandro Ramirez was only named as a substitute given his late start to pre-season but the Spaniard came off the bench to add pace and energy to what was hitherto a very one-paced Everton side, while Leighton Baines's deflected shot provided the winning goal on the night.

Wayne Rooney started as expected and there were debuts for Michael Keane, Cuco Martina and Davy Klaassen, while Jordan Pickford and Sandro were on the bench.

Maarten Stekelenburg was named between the posts given Pickford's lack of pre-season preparation, while Baines captained the side.

With large sections of the Main Stand closed for renovations aimed at improving facilities for disabled supporters and Ruzomberok bringing just a smattering of travelling fans, the atmosphere inside Goodison Park had a decidedly pre-season feel as the Blues' season got off to a largely pedestrian start.

Everton had the first half chance in the opposition area after eight minutes when a defender shanked the ball awkwardly into the air and goalkeeper Macik inexplicably chose to bat it away rather than catch it. It eventually came to the feet of Idrissa Gueye, arguably the stand-out player of the first half, but he sliced high and wide of goal.

Rooney's first chance to re-open his Everton account was served up by Baines in the 20th minute but he fired wide from an angle and the veteran forward had a better chance eight minutes later but scuffed it at the 'keeper after excellent work by Calvert-Lewin.

A minute later, easily the best move of the first half saw Klaassen exchange passes with Rooney and Calvert-Lewin but he could only hammer the ball into the side-netting.

Gueye stung the palms of Macik from distance at one end while Eric Daniel seized on Ashley Williams' poor pass out from the back to force a low, one-handed save from Stekelenburg before Calvert-Lewin saw the last effort of the half comfortably saved.

Emboldened by their hosts' torpor, the visitors controlled the early exchanges in the second half and Daniel had a half-chance but he hooked it wide.

That prompted a response from Everton when Martina swung a deep cross into the centre that was met by Klaassen but he couldn't steer his header on target.

The contest remained disconcertingly open, however, and after Mirallas's accurate drive had been pushed behind by Masik, Stekelenburg had to intervene with an excellent save when he finger-tipped Maslo's header onto the crossbar.

That led to movement in the Everton dugout as Sandro stripped off ready to come on in place of Calvert-Lewin as Keane's header off a free kick was deflected behind.

The Spaniard's introduction provided an immediate spark of urgency and when Everton won a corner in the 65th minute that was cleared to the feet of Baines, the captain rattled a shot goalwards that took a decisive deflection off Daniel and past Macik to hand the Toffees the lead.

1-0 was nearly 2-0 five minutes later when Mirallas caught hold of another shot that seemed destined for goal but the Slovak's keeper pulled off a fine save to turn the ball behind.

Sandro's first sight of goal himself came with 18 minutes left when he was released into the channel by Gueye but he was closed down and his left-foot shot was blocked by the covering defender.

With time winding down, Koeman introduced Ademola Lookman for Mirallas but it was Ruzomberok's own substitution that almost paid dividends when the ball fell to the feet of Lacny 10 yards from goal but, thankfully, he could only shoot tamely at Stekelenburg.

Kick-off: 8:05pm, Thursday 27 July, 2017

Everton: Stekelenburg, Baines {c}, Martina, Keane, A Williams, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Klaassen (Davies 86'), Mirallas (Lookman 82'), Rooney, Calvert-Lewin (Sandro 61').
Subs not Used: Pickford, Jagielka, Holgate, Barry.

MFK Ružomberok: Macik, Maslo, Maslo, Kruzliak, Kupec, Takac, Qose, Kochan, Daniel, Haskic (Lacny 83'), Gal-Andrezly
Subs not Used: Gerec, Curma, Kostadinov, Hajduch, Menich, Sapara


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