Everton's Europa League hopes were dealt a potentially crippling blow as they were beaten again, this time by Lyon who won a testy encounter at Goodison Park.
The Blues fell behind early following a rash moment from Mason Holgate who upended Marcal in the box and Nabil Fekir despatched an unstoppable penalty to make it 1-0 with less than six minutes gone.
Ronald Koeman's side fought back in the second half and levelled when Ashley Williams headed Gylfi Sigurdsson's free kick emphatically past Lopes in the Lyon goal and the Iceland international hit the post with another set-piece.
Bertrand Traore scored what proved to be the winner shortly afterwards, however, and only Jordan Pickford, whose personal display deserved much better than to end up on the losing side, prevented the score line from being worse in the closing stages.
Koeman made a number of changes to his line-up, one which exposed the weakness in the squad and the average age of his defence. Williams came in for Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines, who dropped to the bench, with two nominal right-backs in the line-up in the form of Holgate and Cuco Martina, the latter playing as an awkward and ultimately ineffective left-back.
Meanwhile, Idrissa Gueye made way for Tom Davies, Davy Klaassen came in for Sigurdsson, Kevin Mirallas replaced Wayne Rooney (who, like Jagielka, was presumably rested and didn't make the bench) and Dominic Calvert-Lewin led the line.
Both sides made an energetic start as they sized each other up but the French team's first real foray forward reaped dividends. In attempting to clear the ball, Holgate cleaned out Marcal with a badly-timed hack, handing Fekir the chance to put Lyon ahead from the spot.
It was the worst possible start for Everton and Williams had to come across strongly to prevent Memphis Depay from making it worse three minutes later after Klaassen had been caught in possession in midfield, the visitors looking to press home their pace and superior use of the ball.
With Klaassen struggling in the centre and the team as a whole visibly bereft of confidence, Everton's response was tentative and lacking in cohesion. It wasn't until the 17th minute that Vlasic had the first sight of goal, a volley that sailed high and wide from 20-plus yards.
Mirallas then finished a purposeful move down the left by cutting inside and driving a low shot that skidded a yard wide of Lyon's goal and Schneiderlin bounced a first-time effort wide on the same side a few minutes later.
Lyon continued to be the better side going forward but Everton carved out another half-chance when Mirallas found space but when the loose ball fell to Davies, his shot was deflected behind and the resulting corner came to nothing.
The Blues' best move of the match thus far came in the 32nd minute, however, when Davies picked out an excellent run from Mirallas but Lopes closed the angle and made a terrific save.
Lyon came within inches of making it 2-0 eight minutes before the break. Schneiderlin slid through Fekir 30 yards from goal and Depay lined up the resulting free kick. Davies got a head to his direct effort, diverting it onto the top of the crossbar and behind.
At the other end, Vlasic turned his man smartly but his shot flew across goal and behind for a goal kick before Klaassen seized on an awful pass out of defence but with Calvert-Lewin to his left, he went it alone and Lopes palmed his deflected shot away to safety.
Everton remained vulnerable to the counter-attack, though, and when Holgate's attempted pass inside was intercepted, the ball was worked to Depay who drove into the box but shot fairly tamely at Pickford.
And Traore went close with a curling effort from the right flank that narrowly missed the target.
Everton started the second half on the front foot after Lookman had come on for Klaassen and the young winger had the first chance after the interval. A wicked cross by Holgate was pushed away by Lopes and, from the resulting dead-ball situation, Calvert-Lewin flicked a deep ball on towards the back post.
Lookman tried to knock a high bounce in on the half-volley but then 'keeper was well placed to save.
Another giveaway in midfield almost let Lyon in again, however, and it required a saving challenge from Schneiderlin to prevent the second goal going in.
Unfortunately, the Frenchman was injured in the process and he was forced off to be replaced by Sigurdsson with 57 minutes gone.
An incident of "handbags" flared up into something more sinister after 63 minutes when Williams went in on Lopes and left him in a heap by the advertising hoardings. Traore reacted angrily and a scrum developed in which punches appeared to be thrown but the two players escaped with yellow cards.
Aouar, just on as a substitute, fouled Vlasic, setting up a free-kick chance from the right which Sigurdsson delivered and Williams powered it home to make it 1-1.
Another free-kick from a similar position on the other side was also swung in superbly by Sigurdsson but his whipped delivery bounced back off the post and was headed behind.
Lyon restored their lead, though, when they caught Everton cold following a poor touch on the flank by substitute Sandro. Despite being heavily out-numbered in attack, Traore's move ahead of Keane was picked out in the centre by Cornet and he flicked it inside Pickford and his near post.
And Traore had another chance to deepen the Goodison gloom but his curling effort flashed over the crossbar from 20 yards out.
Everton pressed and Sandro's cross was almost headed home by Calvert-Lewin but Lopes was there again to beat it away. A successive corner was cleared and Lyon countered, Pickford called into superb emergency action to close down Cornet to keep the score at 2-1.
Pickford would deny the same player again in injury time, making himself big and blocking the substitute's shot from the angle.
Combined with Atalanta's win over Apollon Limassol, this was another hugely damaging result in the Europa League for Everton and their record now represents the worst start to a group stage campaign by any English club.
The defeat also extends the Blues' record to just two wins in 12 under Koeman, a sequence that will only intensify the pressure on the manager's shoulders as he prepares for another difficult game in the form of Arsenal's visit to Goodison this Sunday.
Everton: Pickford, Holgate, Keane, Williams [Y:], Martina, Davies, Schneiderlin (57' Sigurdsson), Klaassen (46' Lookman [Y:]), Vlasic, Mirallas (68' Ramirez), Calvert-Lewin.
Subs not used: Stekelenburg, Baines, Besic, Gueye.
Referee: Bas Nijhuis
For how long does this go on?
Since Katja finished her maternity leave and went back to work, getting to weeknight games has become that little more tricky. I used to be able to simply finish work, get changed and drive straight to the game. Now, however, I have to go back to nursery and pick up my boy, take him home and wait for Katja to get back from work, then get changed and then drive to the game…picking up Ste on the way. Resultantly, parking is a bit more difficult but we got a space OK and did find time for a pint in The Medlock before making our way to Goodison Park.
The team news once again left us baffled. We aren’t in a position to chop and change a team so much, that said, it’s difficult to call it “chopping and changing” when you don’t know what your best team is. I was staggered that Wayne Rooney wasn’t even in the squad, and surprised to see Gylfi Sigurdsson not involved in the starting XI. That said, I was pleased to see Kevin Mirallas get an opportunity, and it was nice to see Nikola Vlasic get another game.
The few minutes pre-kick off represented everything I loathe about modern football. Z-Cars rung out and, as per, you would expect the players to run out onto the pitch, but no, the players had to wait until Z-Cars had finished so they could trot out to the official Europa League theme music. They then had to wait for a while for the “Fairplay Handshake” to commence, before first posing for their team photo, and then the mixed team photo. It all takes too long and stunts the atmosphere.
We finally got under way and managed to shoot ourselves in the foot in no time at all when Mason Holgate, stupidly, went flying in rashly on Marcal. Nabil Fekir converted from the penalty spot and in six minutes we were a goal down. From there we really struggled to get going. It was tough to watch, and we almost went 0-2 down when Memphis Depay’s free kick was deflected onto the upright off a relieved Tom Davies.
Backed by our vociferous and angry crowd, we did eventually pressure a little before the break and Davy Klaassen forced Anthony Lopes into a save with a somewhat timid effort which characterised our performance at that point. We were timid, playing with fear and bereft of confidence. Indeed we could have been further behind had Depay shown more composure when through on goal, and also when Bertrand Traore curled an effort just the wrong side of the post.
Ronald Koeman had to change something at the break and it was no surprise that Davy Klaassen was the man to make way, with Ademola Lookman getting 45 minutes to prove himself. We began the half brightly before fading, however the mass brawl between the two sets of players really lit the blue touch paper and the intensity notched up exponentially. “That may be a turning point in our season” said one of the fella’s who sits near us. Given the full time result this may not be the case, but it certainly felt like it for a while, not least when Ashley Williams, the villain of the piece in the proceeding brawl, powerfully headed in his free header to level the scores from a delicious Gylfi Sigurdsson delivery.
We roared the team on and really had Lyon on the back foot with a succession of corner kicks, all of which began when Sigurdsson’s delivery curled onto the post before it was headed away to safety. Frustratingly, and as has been the case this season, it wasn’t to be and we were punished for giving the ball away far too cheaply. Cuco Martina’s pass to Sandro Ramirez wasn’t the kindest, but the Spanish substitute still gave the ball away woefully and substitute Maxwell Comet was in business down our left. Not for the first time this season, actually, it feels more like the 100th time, Ashley Williams failed to arrest the danger and the low cut back was well improvised by Traore to put Lyon back ahead. Having now seen the replay, you can see how fortunate it was, with the ball bumbling in off Michael Keane.
With still 20 minutes remaining (including stoppage time), you felt if we could grab a goal we might just sneak the win, but our reaction to going behind was poor, almost deflating and the players had no ideas. Dominic Calvert-Lewin had a header kept out by Anthony Lopes, and Ashley WIlliams side-footed a volley wide but that was about it from us. Actually, the defeat could really have been worse and would have been if not for Jordan Pickford’s heroics. Defeat leaves our Europa League campaign hanging by a thread.
It would of course, be remiss of me not to mention the pathetic gamesmanship and injury feigning from the Lyon team. They were doing it from as early as the eight minute. It was really as bad as I can ever remember seeing and the referee should have got a grip on it a lot sooner, or at least played the correct amount of time for stoppages. Again, it highlighted a lot of what is wrong with today’s game.
So how long does this go on before Ronald gets the boot? The team’s confidence is shattered and I don’t believe Ronald knows his best team. There is far too much instability on the pitch and we have to find our best one and stick to it, or at least define a nucleus of our best team so players can begin forming partnerships and working with each other.
I don’t think Ronald Koeman should be sacked yet, but it’s becoming harder and harder to defend our performances. In his defence, with trying to bed in so many new playters, the fixture list has been brutal. The Premier League fixtures have been tough, as has the Europa League group and we don’t even have respite in the Carabao Cup.
There has also been fine margins which really could have made things very different this season. What if Mason Holgate didn’t inexplicably head the ball back into his own box away at Manchester City? What if Dominic Calvert-Lewin put that great chance away against Apoel Limassol? What if Gylfi Sigurdsson put away one of them early chances against Burnley? What if Michael Oliver gave us that really clear penalty at 0-0 against Brighton? That’s not to say things have actually been rosy. Far from it in fact. Our insipid defeats against Tottenham Hotspur and Atalanta in particular were horrendous, and in them tighter games of fine margins, we have been anything but convincing, but, had a few of these moments gone our way, the players confidence would be nothing like as frail as is the case.
I’m not one for sacking managers quickly. I like to see managers given the opportunity to build a team. Do you want us to become a Watford, or a Leicester City, with knee-jerk sackings? It hasn’t been our style and I want to believe it can work under Ronald Koeman.
That said, the pressure is on, and failure to beat Arsenal, a Carabao Cup exit at Chelsea, and defeat at Leicester City would pretty much make his position untenable, and the atmosphere would be toxic in the next home game against Watford, particularly with an international break looming.
It really is sink or swim time for Ronald Koeman. Now more so than ever.
Pickford: It probably says a lot about our performance that he was our man of the match. One o the very few positives of the season so far. 8
Martina: I can’t believe we’ve found ourselves in a situation were Cuco Martina is our back up left back. How have we gone from having an abundance of left backs to choose from (Leighton Baines, Luke Garbutt, Brenden Galloway, Bryan Oviedo, Ramiro Funes Mori, Gareth Barry), to just Leighrton Baines. I actually think Martina is a half decent player, but at right back, not on the left side. Every time he had the ball he had to cut back inside and the tempo of the attack would often break down. Needless to say, he struggled. 5
WIlliams: Scored a good headed goal, but was culpable for their winning goal. Should also have been sent off for his involvement in the brawl. 5
Keane: Did pretty well. I’d like he and Jagielka to form a partnership at the back for now. 7
Holgate: Is struggling at right back and should be brought out of the firing line for a while I think. Gave away a stupid penalty and never really looked that comfortable coming forward. 4
Schneiderlin: Goes to ground WAY too much. It’s all well and good when it works but he gets caught out to often. Looks a doubt for the weekend following his injury. 5
Klassen: If I was to rate him after about 30 minutes I’d have probably given him a 2, but he was slowly getting into the game come half time but was then substituted. It was the correct call to take him off though I think. 5
Mirallas: We might as well get him in the team. We need a better attacking option and Kevin Mirallas, whatever you may think of him, is capable of a bit of magic here and there and is at least a positive, attacking player. 6
Vlasic: Speaks volumes that he is already one of our most consistent players this season. A shining light amidst dark days. 7
Davies: 10 out of 10 for effort. Perhaps guilty of overdoing it with his passes but he certainly gave his all. You can’t knock a lad for trying. 6
Calvert-Lewin: Effort was there and his all round game is good, but he really needs to be converting more of these chances. It is a bit unfair to expect so much from him though. We really messed up not signing that striker. 7
Lookman (for Klaassen): Had a few bright moments but without much end product. There’s been a lot of clamour for his involvement, though I’m not sure he will benefit the team massively at this stage. 5
Sigurdsson (for Schneiderlin): I hope he’s now finally found his range from set-pieces. Some of his deliveries were exquisite. Sadly he failed to galvanise his team mates when he was needed as we chased the game. 6
Ramirez (for Mirallas): Made a poor mistake for their winner, and a few neat passes aside, offered little else. 5
Everton play what is, arguably, their most important match of the season so far when French side Lyon come to Goodison Park in the Europa League.
The Blues have picked up just one point from their first two matches in Group E, having disgraced themselves in the opener at Atalanta and then thrown away two points against Apollon Limassol last time out.
The number of draws in the group games so far means that all four teams are close in the standings but Ronald Koeman is under pressure to start putting wins on the board on all three fronts on which Everton are engaged, particularly following another disappointing display in the Premier League at Brighton last Sunday.
Since beating Hajduk Split 2-0 in the home leg of the Europa League qualifier in mid-August, Koeman has overseen just two wins, the 2-1 triumph over Bournemouth and a 3-0 hammering of Sunderland in the League Cup, and that has intensified the scrutiny of his position at Everton.
The Dutchman was asked in his press conference today if he felt that, true to Craig Shakespeare's prescient recent assessment that Premier League managers are always four games away from a crisis, he felt that he, too, was in the same situation in the wake of the Leicester boss' sacking from the Midlands club.
“Maybe I am [already] in the crisis”, Koeman smiled. “But, okay, everybody knows that the manager's job is a really difficult job because things change really fast.
“We know that most of the time the manager doesn't really get the time to improve the team. But it's football, it's hard to take for the managers but it's part of the job.”
Koeman repeated his lament about not getting enough time between games to properly coach the players on his preferred methods and tactics and to prepare them for the next match but he will know that pressure will be on to get a victory against Lyon.
“It's [a] really important [game]. We know the situation in the group — that we need a win. We expected a win last time but unluckily the team from Cyprus scored in the last minute.
“But, you know, it's only one out of two [matches], you need a win. A win at home — normally you need 3 wins at home and maybe you pick something [up from] the away games, then It's OK.
“The situation is we need to win tomorrow to get the good possibilities to [progress] in the tournament.”
His prospects of doing that have been boosted by the news that Lyon will travel to Merseyside without five injured players. Pape Cheikh Diop, one-time reported Blues target Clement Grenier, and Jeremy Morel were already ruled out and now forward Mariano Diaz and left-back Ferland Mendy have been added to the list.
The French side will make the trip in good confidence, however, on the back of just one league defeat in Ligue 1 so far, that to title favourites Paris St Germain. As expected for a club of their recent achievements on the domestic and European fronts, they will still boast plenty of talent.
France international Nabil Fekir, who has a strike rate of a goal every three games in Ligue 1, will lead the line for l'OL who also boast the likes of Brazilian defender Rafael and ex-Chelsea and Ajax attacking midfielder Bertrand Traoré in their ranks.
Former Manchester United winger Memphis Depay, another player once seriously eyed by Everton, will return to Goodison for the first time since watching on from the sidelines as an unused substitute during a League game two years ago.
Koeman, meanwhile, will have the same squad from which to choose as he did last Sunday, with the exception of Oumar Niasse who is ineligible for the group phase of the Europa League.
James McCarthy is fit again but will be rested after playing 45 minutes for the Under-23s last night but could be in the frame for Sunday's clash with Arsenal. Jonjoe Kenny picked up a knock on Under-21s duty for England and is a doubt.
As ever, much attention will be devoted to how Koeman sets out his team as he struggles to find a winning combination, particularly in forward areas where a glut of attack-minded central midfielders is starving the team of width. He has no shortage of options — Kevin Mirallas made an almost heroic cameo as a late substitute on Sunday while Sandro Ramirez and Davy Klaassen weren't involved at all — but it seems as though the lack of a focal point up front and repetitively narrow and unbalanced line-ups is the greater concern.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin was, unsuccessfully, deployed out wide at Brighton while Wayne Rooney operated as an ineffective striker with Gylfi Sigurdsson behind him.
Nikola Vlasic, who has been a bright spot in an otherwise frustrating season thus far, will be pushing for another start but by his manager's own admission, he, too, is a player who looks at his best when played through the middle.
However Koeman elects to approach the match, there is no question that a win is vital for both morale and the team's prospects of getting out of the group. It wouldn't signal that Everton's problems have been resolved overnight but it would be a start and it would, at least, test the manager's theory that all his outfit needs is a victory to revive the Blues' fortunes. Lose and the pressure on his shoulders will only intensify.
Kick-off: 8.05pm, Thursday 19 October, 2017
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Holgate, Keane, Jagielka, Baines, Gueye, Schneiderlin, Vlasic, Sigurdsson, Rooney, Calvert-Lewin