Of all of Everton's fixtures in what was a tough Group H draw, the long trip to Russia was, arguably, the most daunting. The midweek flight over 2,000+ miles, further than past visits to Belarus and Ukraine, to the unfamiliar surroundings near the Black Sea, coupled with the largely unknown quantity represented by Krasnodar, meant that this was always going to be a testing fixture.
It proved to be exactly that. A point would have been a satisfactory return and that is what the Blues will take back to Merseyside after just about coming through a stern examination at the hands of the Russian League's Bulls, at least for the first two thirds of the match. It required hard work, more than a smattering of fortune, and no small measure of patience but Roberto Martinez's men earned a precious draw thanks to Samuel Eto'o's second goal for the club.
Much will be made of the performance from a team that featured five changes from the side that started at Anfield on Saturday and which struggled for significant periods for the first hour to contain Krasnodar's rapid-fire attacking style. The Russians had scored eight goals without reply at home during the qualifying rounds and, even without the suspended Joaozinho, it was easy to see why.
The movement and quick passing interchanges between the front quartet of Marat Izmailov, the Brazlilan Ari, Mauricio Pereyra, and Ricardo Laborde were a source of regular consternation for Everton's back line, although much of it could have been avoided had Martinez's players been able to take better custody of the ball. A succession of loose passes in midfield had the Blues on the back foot on a number of occasions but a combination of last-ditch tackles and Tim Howard thwarted the home side until they eventually made the breakthrough two minutes before half time.
With James McCarthy remaining behind on Merseyside to rest a tight and fatigued quad, Darron Gibson was handed his second start of the season and charged with forming the defensive midfield pairing with Gareth Barry. The Irishman was guilty of a couple of glaringly poor passes inside the first 10 minutes, though, as Krasnodar implemented a strategy of pressing the defence high up the pitch.
Neither of those two early gifts of possession were punished, nor were subsequent giveaways by Gareth Barry, Leon Osman, Christian Atsu and the otherwise imperious John Stones over the course of the first half but it took an excellent blocking tackle from Phil Jagielka, a couple of good saves from Howard to deny Odil Ahmedov and Izmailov, and Stones recovering brilliantly from his own error to keep the score goalless heading towards the interval.
At the other end, where Atsu was lively but profligate with the ball and Aiden McGeady was proving to be Everton's best player going forward, Barry forced a diving save from Andrey Dikan, Stones looped a free header narrowly wide and McGeady tested the 'keeper with a decent low drive. But, in stark contrast to their effervescent hosts, the Toffees were generally too slow to move the ball forward, with Osman in particular wanting far too much time on the ball, and were repeatedly wasteful with the final pass.
On the balance of the first half, it was only a matter of time before Krasnodar made the breakthrough, which they did by seizing on indecision in Everton's defence. Jagielka was sucked towards a dinked ball forward that eventually dropped behind him, by which time Ari had collected it and, using Pereyra as the decoy, he advanced on Howard before firing past the American to make it 1-0 at half time.
What was known about the Russians beforehand had largely been borne out in the first period: they like to attack and move the ball quickly to the frontmen. Martinez's gameplan of biding his time was probably a sound one but it relied on better retention of the ball from his goalkeeper, defence and midfield to prevent it coming straight back.
The Catalan made what would prove to be his only substitution at the interval when he withdrew Atsu and introduced Romelu Lukaku to provide a physical presence and a greater ability to hold the ball up in the final third. There was, however – for the first 15-20 minutes of the second half, at least – a yawning chasm between the front two and the midfield that meant there was precious little link-up play in the final third for the Blues and the pattern of the match continued to favour Krasnodar.
A succession of corners were dealt with comfortably by the Everton defence but the Russians threatened to double their lead when Jagielka was caught in possession in an unforgiveably dangerous place in front of his own penalty area but the attack was snuffed out before it could trouble Howard; another effort from Ari looped just over, and substitute Wanderson's mazy dribble past four static white shirts ended with his shot coming off the crossbar with the goalkeeper helplessly rooted to the spot.
Krasnodar's high-energy pressing game had taken its toll as the match moved into its last third, though, and Everton began to come more and more into the contest from an attacking perspective. Close control from Lukaku inside the opposition area engineered enough space for a low shot that Dikan parried behind for a corner and that was followed by three more set-piece opportunities, the last of which prompted the equalising goal.
Baines got the ball back following a clearance from his own corner and when he swung the ball in, Eto'o stole into the space between two defenders to guide the ball inside the far post off his out-stretched leg. It could prove to be a priceless equaliser in the wider context of the battle to get out of Group H and it underscored the shift in momentum that had taken place over the previous quarter of an hour. Indeed, Everton would press for a winner in the closing stages but the closest they came was a downward header from Lukaku that Dikan batted away from his near post. It would have been an unjust winner but would have been welcome nonetheless.
Still, an important point keeps the Blues top of the group and on course for the next phase if they can continue to win their home fixtures and draw away from Goodison Park. The quest for a complete performance this season goes on but, under the circumstances and with so many changes, this was never going to be the match to find it. Great heart will be taken from the result, though, and that alone should be used as a platform on which Martinez and his players can build towards finding some consistency on the domestic front in the coming weeks.
Reader Comments (29)
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1 Posted 02/10/2014 at 22:52:22
I said he was dreadful. You said he has a good touch and may get better. Hopefully.
Good point earned and Sam EtoÃ‚o earned every penny of that massive transfer fee! But I fear squad is not strong enough to make a run in two competitions.
2 Posted 02/10/2014 at 23:34:26
His passing definitely needs to improve, though, as it was pretty awful against Krasnodar.
I think EtoÃ‚oÃ‚s was, too, come to that. Not so much that he wasnÃ‚t interested but he wasted a few attacks with poor balls forward that just went straight to the opposition defence. But then he was brought in to score goals and thatÃ‚s what he did!
3 Posted 03/10/2014 at 01:22:34
Instead the ball went directly to a Russian without one of ours even remotely close. I mean itÃ‚s actually like he looked up and picked out one of their players deliberately. There are times when you can sum up a player in a matter of seconds and this was one of them.
4 Posted 03/10/2014 at 01:42:30
Maybe the lad doesnÃ‚t have it but itÃ‚s far too early to say either way. IÃ‚d bet he scores/makes a few goals for us before the season is out.
5 Posted 03/10/2014 at 03:23:58
A win at the weekend would help...and it is my 11 year olds first visit to Goodison for the Villa game so we must win that one!
6 Posted 03/10/2014 at 07:37:56
7 Posted 03/10/2014 at 07:45:06
Sam Hoare #4.
Atsu was an embarrassment. Ten quid says that he never plays for Everton again. If the toffee girls are able to put a pair of boots on I'm betting RM will have them running the wing before Atsu.
8 Posted 03/10/2014 at 08:31:47
9 Posted 03/10/2014 at 08:37:44
I canÃ‚t remember the number of misplaced passes, the panic in a defence every time they were pressed high up the pitch, the total lack of a creative midfield, and of course the total lack of attacking ideas. We were very very lucky to win against Wolfsburg considering their possession and shots on goal. Last night we were very very lucky to get away with a draw.
Although I like Roberto as a man, IÃ‚m beginning to worry about his tactics and our season. IÃ‚m also beginning to wonder about the acquisition of Lukaku - is he going to be the most expensive and biggest mistake Everton have ever made?
I canÃ‚t remember any time in my life (IÃ‚m a lifelong Evertonian for 55 years) when I dread every game, but I continue to watch every week because I love Everton and always will. I hate being a doom merchant but I really fear for Everton this season.
10 Posted 03/10/2014 at 08:47:55
11 Posted 03/10/2014 at 09:33:08
12 Posted 03/10/2014 at 09:41:24
ItÃ‚s going to be a hard slog up until Christmas but then hopefully we will see Barkley and Mirallas up and running and Lukaku will start to flourish with them.
13 Posted 03/10/2014 at 10:19:18
Is he good enough? I donÃ‚t know. but I do think itÃ‚s a bit premature to be writing him off though, especially since nobody at the club is really firing on all cylinders just now.
14 Posted 03/10/2014 at 10:53:43
I would not be surprised if didn't ask to come off. He is only young and his time may yet come.
15 Posted 03/10/2014 at 11:40:17
17 Posted 03/10/2014 at 12:14:24
18 Posted 03/10/2014 at 12:14:59
His really good work at International level - that I've seen - has been done whilst playing on the left, and, as McGready seems to play better on the right (and might get in the way of Baines), a solution seems readily at hand.
I'm sure that he will get better as the season goes on, his pace and quick feet will come in very useful, particularly if Mirallas continues to suffer from injuries.
19 Posted 03/10/2014 at 12:55:10
May I recommend that the tenner is donated to the Greg Greenidge Memorial Trust: http://greggreenidge.weebly.com
Apart from being a great guy and a committed Community worker, Greg was a devoted Evertonian
20 Posted 03/10/2014 at 12:40:09
Ossie had a complete rest in the first half but stretched his legs in the last 30 minutes.
Gibbo had a nightmare but got 90 minutes and will hopefully regain his touch.
Barry and Jags had Sunday in mind and were saving plenty.
Hibbo improved from the Swansea game and another 90 minutes will have done him the power of good.
Stones is proving to be a very decent centre back but must be careful when dwelling on the ball. Also, when losing possession upfield, he must learn to hurry back.
Eto'o wasn't brilliant but got 90 minutes and displayed his know-how in the attacking third.
McGeady, Baines and Howard had some good moments but Atsu looked out of his depth at this level and will need to ignore his instructions and just get on with his natural game.
21 Posted 03/10/2014 at 14:28:17
If Roberto can find a way for Rom and Sam working together (4-4-2?) things could happen.
Stones. There must have been many thousands of European viewers who knew little about him who were asking 'is he English?'
A note on Atsu: when he got clear down the right and was heading at speed into the area, I assumed that he was going to do what Deulofeu would have done Ã‚â€“ go for goal. Silly me.
22 Posted 03/10/2014 at 17:18:06
23 Posted 03/10/2014 at 17:55:14
IÃ‚m worried about RMÃ‚s though which from being good solid Everton 4-5-1 last year are becoming bizarre versions of 4-3-3 and 3-2-3-2 with the full backs well forward which got Wigan relegated playing good football.
IÃ‚m very proud of the club though as without a benefactor and corporate finance we still have hope in the form of our academy and our wheeling and dealing in the market. ItÃ‚ll be so sad but inevitable to see Ross Barkley go and maybe Mirallas.
24 Posted 03/10/2014 at 21:57:45
I will match it with a tenner of my own.
Any young Blues studying any aspect of the performing arts at HE level Ã‚â€“ please apply for a bursary from the Trust.
25 Posted 03/10/2014 at 22:20:38
26 Posted 04/10/2014 at 00:32:16
The profits from that will go on Everton winning the Premier League next season and the treble the year after that. I will then buy the club and re-develop Goodison Park. That is the kind of forward thinking that is sorely lacking at the club.
So, Mike, are we on?
27 Posted 04/10/2014 at 01:10:09
28 Posted 04/10/2014 at 07:45:44
Yep the bet's on. So between now and the season end applies, then thank fuck he will go back to Mourinho. It's first team only and sitting on the bench don't count.
I'd love to lay additional bets but the Europa League will probably make it a losing bet for me, but for me, as far as this season's EPL is concerned Atsu won't get a sniff of a game.
Sam, if you're so confident about Atsu, why don't we look at Sunday's game against Man Utd. We have a pile of injuries so you might be thinking that even he may get 10 minutes or so!!! Do you want put another tenner on Sunday's game?
29 Posted 04/10/2014 at 10:14:13
However, as with all things in football, the result is everything and we managed to get a result that I expected us to get so it's not all doom and gloom.
I do wonder how we sit top of the group though because we got dominated in the game against Wolfsburg too. Again, it goes back to the result though!
Much improvement required Ã‚â€“ we can't stay lucky forever.
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