Everton signed off an otherwise miserable Europa League campaign with an emphatic win over Apollon Limassol
Ademola Lookman had the Blues 2-0 up at the break thanks to a rare header and a thumping long-range effort and Nikola Vlasic put the iciing on the cake with an impressive individual effort late in the second half.
Both teams had already been eliminated from the competition and with nothing riding on the outcome, assistant coach Craig Shakespeare took the opportunity to blood some youth players and name a raft of youngsters, none of whom have played any senior football, on the subs bench.
Harry Charsley and Fraser Hornby made their debuts while Morgan Feeney made his first start but it was two wingers with prior first-team experience who lit up the game for Everton in a game they might have won even more decisively were it not for European debutant Kissas in the Limassol goal.
Everton's young outfit acquitted themselves well in the early going and came very close to scoring on two occasions in the first 10 minutes.
Lookman was released into space by a lovely Klaassen pass but the winger delayed his shot too long in front of goal and his effort was ultimately saved well from point-blank range.
More trickery from Lookman was eventually broken up as he tried to dribble his way into the box but the ball fell invitingly to Charsley whose impressive curling effort was heading for the top corner until the 'keeper palmed it behind.
Everton did score with 20 minutes gone, though, with Vlasic the creator this time. The Croatian got a second chance to cross which he did from the byline and Lookman was well-placed at the far post to head home.
And it was Lookman who doubled the lead in spectacular fashion a few minutes later when he picked up a long clearance from Robles and unleashed a powerful shot from 25 yards out that Kissas couldn't keep out.
Sardinero tried to reduce arrears for the home side but he was denied by an excellent stop from Robles.
Then, after Papoulis's effort from outside the box was palmed away, Sardinero popped up again on the edge of the six-yard box but Robles closed the angle and saved comfortably.
Back at the other end, Mirallas took advantage of the space that opened up in front of him but dragged a shot wide of goal 11 minutes before half-time.
Apollon thought they had make it 2-1 in the 39th minute when a free kick from the left bounced into the far corner off a slight touch from Papoulis but the referee's assistant had spotted an offside "goal" was chalked off.
Kissas was forced into a another save as half-time approached when Vlasic fired hard and low and the 'keeper got down quickly to block it with his legs before Papoulis shrugged off Baningime's challenge but sliced wide for Apollon.
A late penalty claim by the Cypriot side when Besic went sliding in on his man was waved away as the Blues took a 2-0 lead into the interval.
Robles was called into the first save of the second period, an awkward block from a long-range effort as the home side carried the greater threat going forward in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
But Everton sparked into life in the 56th minute when Vlasic's backheel put Lookman in again but the latter went for hat-trick glory rather than squaring a return ball and Kissas parried his shot behind.
A somewhat harsh decision to penalise Klaassen for handball right on the edge of his own box gave Limassol a chance from a direct free kick but Pedro's shot cannoned off the defensive wall.
Kissas had to come to Apollon's rescue twice in the space of a few seconds to make blocking saves from both Mirallas and Hornby as a comfortably-positioned Everton occasionally exploited the space afforded by the home side's back line.
Shakespeare's first change of the night saw Hornby make way for fellow striker Nathan Broadhead with nine minutes left.
Great work by the young Welshman almost set Vlasic up but, like Lookman in the first half, he couldn't engineer a shot and was eventually closed down.
The former Hajduk Split man did much better a minute or so later, though, when he prodded Broadhead's flick past the last defender, sprinted onto the ball and slipped it past the advancing goalkeeper to make it 3-0.
16-year-old Anthony Gordon came on late for Mirallas with a couple of minutes to go while Alex Denny replaced Charsley in stoppage time.
Kick-off: 6pm, Thursday, 7 December, 2017Everton: Robles, Baningime, Feeney, Besic, Charsley (Denny 90'+1), Klaassen, Schneiderlin, Vlasic, Mirallas (Gordon 88'), Lookman, Hornby (Broadhead 82')
Subs: Hewelt, Collins, Duke-McKenna, Denny, Lavery.
Giving something back
9:30am and off we set, the three of us, Dan, Gaz and me, on route to Manchester Airport for the 12:30pm flight to Paphos. We kind of expected to find a plethora of Evertonians at the airport but as we got a burger down us we couldn’t see any. We needn’t have worried. Come the gate plenty of Evertonians were around, plenty of recognisable faces. Everybody having fun. Everybody Blue.
When we booked our flights we didn’t realise it was a five hour journey to Cyprus. Lesser clubs supporters would question our wisdom but this is Everton. We support something special. On the way home, as I write this, I couldn’t be more proud of our team and how our supporters behaved. Impeccable on both counts.
The plane journey out was boozy, very much so in fact. You can’t do much more than drink the plane dry! The stewardess was dumbfounded by our support for our beloved club. Once grounded in Paphos we got in our pre-arranged taxi direct to Nicosia. Google Maps suggested it would take us 1 ½ hours. Fortunately for us, our driver journeyed as if his life depended on it and we arrived in Nicosia in about an hour. Most, if not all, other blues onboard dispersed to closer destinations of Paphos or Limassol.
When all was said and done, we were glad to get that journey out of the way early. Following advice from the apartment owner we arrived in Ledras Street, settling on D’Avilla, next to a posse of blues who partook in the sing-songs of sing-songs. “Big Sam, Little Sam, Cardboard Box” being my particular favourite. John, who we befriended somewhat on ToffeeWeb before the game also joined us having jetted in direct from his home in Bucharest, and kept us entertained with his tales from the 1980s.”I haven’t seen Everton play away in Europe since Rotterdam” he declared. It’s amazing to meet such a network of Evertonians when you go on these trips. Our support is just incredible. There can’t be much more supporter groups around whom are so loyal, yet so success starved. It really is incredible.
The next day we were out and about in the afternoon and though we tried to head elsewhere, so many Evertonians were congregated in D’Avilla that we returned and enjoyed many an afternoon beer before getting a taxi to the stadium. We left pretty early, pre-empting a bit of a rush, though needn’t have bothered as we arrived in oceans of time and mingled with a few other blues over a few cans. Here we found the team news and we were all agreed that the team was nowhere near as makeshift as we perhaps expected. Harry Charsley debuted at left back, as did Fraser Hornby in attack, while Morgan Feeney made his first professional start for Everton in the heart of defence.
We also afforded useful game time to Joel Robles, Mohammed Besic, Beni Baningime, Morgan Schneiderlin, Davy Klaassen, Ademola Lookman, Nikola Vlasic and Kevin Mirallas. Seemingly at least, the aforementioned professionals gone on with the job in hand and, like the younger players, were a huge credit to our club. They took the game seriously when it would have been easier to wilt. They showed willing, they showed desire, and showed that they do care about our club, that they are proud to represent Everton. Conversely they were applauded for their effort by the supporters. It goes to show, give us something, and we’ll give you something back. It’s reciprocal I’m proud of our club following yesterday. After a tormented Europa League campaign it felt like they were giving something back.
While downstairs buying a coffee – it had been a long day of drinking – I missed an apparent great save from Tasos Kissas from a Davey Klaassen effort. I was back up in time however to see Ademola Lookman score with a measured header from a Nikola Vlasic cross from the byline. It was great to see Ademola double his money also when his fizzing effort from probably 25 yards beat the goalkeeper, who should have saved it, and into the net in front of the 1,300 adoring blues, Well done Ademola. Nice pass from Kein Mirallas also.
Finally, after five horror shows in Europe, our supporters could now enjoy themselves and the team expressed themselves a bit more, They all did well. Joel Robles kept out what he had to in goal, Morgan Feeney marshalled his defence superbly and Fraser Hornby selflessly lead the line in attack. Nikola Vlasic finished well to add some gloss to the scoreline but it was hardly underserved. It was a wonderful effort from Everton and they certainly did the loyal supporters proud. Credit Joel Robles in particular for waving his colleagues over at full time to applaud the supporters and provide a few souvenirs for deserving Blues.
We got stung in trying to be proactive by pre-booking a taxi back into Nicosia after the game, and ended up probably being the last blues out of there as we waited with a few cans by the burger vans. It mattered not as we enjoyed ourselves, though it didn’t stop the taxi driver trying to rip us off despite being about 45 minutes late. We were having none of it! We ended up back in D’Aviulla before being tipped off that there were plenty of Evertonians in a cracking little pub called Brewfellas. If nothing else Evertonians are resourceful.
Prior to arriving I had no idea but Nicosia actually has a hard border with Turkey and you can get through to the Turkish region easily upon production of your passport. Many Evertonians had, cleverly, headed over the border to enjoy beers for about a Euro a pop, rather than the three to four Euro’s we were paying. Our passports were back in the apartment so we couldn’t head over there, though I did take a little stroll down there this morning and enjoyed an hour or so in “Turkey”. Brewfellas closed and they pointed us in the direction of a Biker bar (which took some finding!) where we enjoyed the rest of the evening amongst fabulous hospitality from our Cypriot hosts. Today we have enjoyed a few beers in, you guessed it, D’Avilla, before embarking on the long, long journey home.
What a tremendous trip. I enjoyed every minute. Great company with Gaz and Dan, and it was superb to meet so many other Blues who had travelled from afar, most notably John and Stretch. ‘Til next time, Gents.
Onward Evertonians. Farewell Europa League. Something tells me we might be back next year once Big Sam has a hold of that FA Cup. Yes, we can take them on in January.
Man of the match: Morgan Feeney
Trip to Cyprus
I've read Paul Traill's excellent report on his trip to Cyprus, but I thought I would give a report on my own experiences.
As expected, there was no club trip to this game, so I hurriedly had to book flights and accommodation. As my mates had already booked their own flights and accommodation well in advance, I was travelling on my own.
Due to the early morning drive to Manchester airport, I decided to leave the car there, also knowing I would be back late on Friday night. The jet2.com flight to Paphos was about three quarters full, mainly of blues. The in-light catering done a roaring trade in Stella, but knowing I faced a two hour bus trip from Paphos to Nicosia, I didn't fancy sitting on the bus, legs crossed, for two hours, so decided against a can or two.
During the flight, I managed to get in with some lads who had a pre-booked taxi waiting for them, as I believe it could have been as much as €40 to the bus station from the airport. All the driver wanted was €7 to drop me at the bus station. I still had an hour to wait for the bus. The bus was only €7 to Nicosia, but, as Paul says, it was like their life depended on getting there in double-quick time. This was a proper bus as well, but it was still like wacky races on the motorway to Nicosia. I arrived in Nicosia at 9pm, met Dave who showed me to the same hotel we had booked into, then out for a few. The Spurs Champions League game was on the telly, so we watched that before I decided to call it a day.
On Thursday afternoon we took our passports with us to cross the border into the Turkish region of Nicosia. It seemed the ale was cheaper here. A litre of Efes was €3. We only had the one before crossing back. As the day wore on, you could feel the temperature dropping quickly, so I went back to the hotel to change into me jeans and get a fleece I took, purely on Dave's advice, who had been in Nicosia since the Monday and he informed me that it was Baltic in the evening. Whilst at the hotel, I enquired about a direct bus to Paphos airport. I was told a company, Travel Express, runs to Paphos for €11. Happy days I thought, but more on that.
After a couple of pints, we jumped a bus to the stadium, about 5 miles away. It really was freezing in the stadium, but a decent performance by the team compensated for the cold. Things got better after the game, as another mate of ours, who came with someone in a hired car from Paphos, got us a lift back down to the city centre. We headed to the bar we had been in on Wednesday night, finally calling it a day at about 2am.
Friday morning, me and Dave missed breakfast in the hotel so went out to get something. Wasn't really feeling up to eating but managed to force it down. I was asked to be ready at the hotel for 1:30pm for the journey back to Paphos, Dave was flying from Larnaca, so I bid farewell and headed back.
The minibus pulled up and off we set. After a few further pick-ups, we headed off to Paphos, or so I thought. The driver pulled off the motorway at Limassol and, with a little tour thrown in, he dropped a few off. The traffic in Limassol was horrendous, but I still had about 5 hours before my flight so was not duly concerned. Suddenly a girl sitting by me said that the driver was going to drop me off. The minibus pulled up, and the driver explained to me, with difficulty I might add, that because he still had others to drop off, it could be a while before getting back on the motorway to Paphos, but he assured me it would only be for 10 minutes before another bus would pick me up.
As the minibus had radios I assume this was being arranged, although obviously I didn't have a clue about it. Anyway, foolishly, I got out and was told not to move from where I was dropped. 10 minutes goes by, and nothing. 20 minutes became 30 minutes which became 40 minutes. By now I'm starting to panic, thinking how I'm getting back to Paphos? A taxi could have been God knows how much, and I didn't have a clue where to get a bus?
Then all of a sudden, the bus turned up. The relief poured out of me. I got to the airport at about 4:45pm, thanked the driver and walked away. He called me back saying I needed to pay €12. As I said earlier, I thought it was €11 all the way, but that was only as far as Limassol. I paid the €12 as I didn't really fancy a confrontation with the driver, especially as there were about 15 police with guns nearby.
The flight was due to leave at 21:10 and did so pretty much on time. We arrived back at Manchester at 00:20, got to my car and finally got home at 1:40am.
So five great European aways comes to an end, spoiled only by the performance and results in one or two, well okay in four of them. The support has been absolutely magnificent, who didn't deserve some of the garbage that was served up. Let's hope big Sam can pull off some kind of miracle and get us back into Europe next season.
Everton's disastrous Europa League campaign comes to a close this evening in Cyprus as they take on Apollon Limassol in a genuine dead rubber in Group E.
Both teams have already been eliminated from the competition and with nothing riding on the outcome, new Blues boss Sam Allardyce is expected to take the opportunity to blood some youth players and hand opportunities to impress to the senior side's fringe players.
The manager himself will remain in England because of a pre-arranged medical appointment. Craig Shakespeare and Duncan Ferguson will travel instead with the bulk of the first team with Allardyce, assistant Sammy Lee and the rest of the players using the time to prepare for Sunday's Merseyside derby against Liverpool.
The squad named for the final group game includes eight players from the Under-23s setup: Nathan Broadhead, Harry Charsley, Michael Collins, Alex Denny, Stephen Duke-McKenna, Anthony Gordon, Fraser Hornby, and Shayne Lavery.
The Liverpool Echo have been speculating that along with Morgan Feeney, who came on against Atalanta in the last European fixture, Charsley could be handed his first senior appearance with a place in the starting XI.
Davy Klaassen and Muhamed Besic, meanwhile, are also set to start as they press for greater inclusion under the new regime but Sandro Ramirez suffered an injury in training and won't play. It was hoped that James McCarthy would be fit but he is not match ready but Kevin Mirallas and Morgan Schneiderlin are likely starters.
Kick-off: 6pm, Thursday, 7 December, 2017