An Unspectacular Job Done

An instantly forgettable affair but one which leaves Roberto Martinez's side unbeaten and top of Group H

Lyndon Lloyd 23/10/2014 24comments  |  Jump to last

LOSC Lille 0 - 0 Everton

Evertonians who made the trip to Lille this week will likely not forget this leg of the Blues' 2014-15 European Tour in a hurry, and not merely for the unfortunate incidents that marred the build-up to the Blues' third Europa League Group H fixture that saw fans attacked outside a bar last night and police move in with tear gas this afternoon to disperse the large gathering in the town square.

Everton supporters are believed to have flocked to a European game in their greatest numbers since the Cup Winners' Cup Final in 1985 and they certainly made their presence in their massed ranks heard in Stade Pierre-Mauroy, drowning out the tournament anthem before kick-off and the opposition fans for much of the contest.

The match itself, however, was an instantly forgettable affair but one which ended with a satisfactory, "job well done" result that leaves Roberto Martinez's side unbeaten and top of Group H at the halfway stage. It was very similar in many ways to the one in Krasnodar three weeks ago, characterised by poor ball retention by Everton's midfield, particularly in the first half, and a general lack of adventure going forward.

Ross Barkley made his second start of the season and played 90-plus unspectacular but vitally important minutes in terms of his fitness, although a better final ball by Aiden McGeady would have rewarded a wonderful, potentially match-winning pass from the 20 year-old in the 70th minute. Unfortunately, having collected Barkley's ball in space down the right channel, the Irishman failed to pick out either Romelu Lukaku or Samuel Eto'o in the middle and a good opportunity to break the deadlock went begging.

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McGeady himself could have won it for Everton with substitute Lukaku's first involvement a few minutes earlier but Victor Enyeama in the Lille goal managed to get enough of his body on the ball to prevent it from slipping underneath him and into the net. Lukaku had come on for the largely ineffective Steven Pienaar in the 63rd minute and helped swing the attacking pendulum more in the Blues' direction but there would be no goal-bearing late flourish like that which earned a point in Russia.

Instead, the emphasis and the plaudits rested with defence where Everton were disciplined and compact, denying Divock Origi any real opportunity to score a blow for his parent club, Liverpool, by scroring against their arch rivals from across Stanley Park. The Belgian striker was a handful but was largely well contained by the Blues' back line; on the occasions he did manage to throw off the attentions of Tony Hibbert on the Everton right or Leighton Baines down the opposite flank, his delivery was often wasteful.

It was Origi's teammate Idrissa Gueye who went closest to scoring in the entire game when he raked a 20-yard shot off the outside of Tim Howard's left-hand post but the American wasn't unduly troubled over the 90 minutes, a testament to a rock-solid display by Phil Jagielka and Hibbert, in particular. Distin, deployed to avoid Anton Alcaraz playing three games in eight days had a slightly shaky beginning on his return from a month on the sidelines but soon settled down, while Gareth Barry was a tireless presence breaking things up in front of the back four.

Enyeama had even less to do in the first half. A routine save from McGeady's tamely-hit first-time shot was the only stop he had to make, although he was fortunate to see Eto'o's attempted ball across his area deflect off the heel of a defender and elude the two Blue shirts ready to pounce in the centre with a quarter of an hour gone.

The second half was better from Everton's perspective and they started to get a greater grip in terms of possession, although they suffered a brief scare when Simon Kjaer nudged a ball from the right on into the Blues' six-yard box and Barkley had to hook it away from danger in front of his own goal.

Eto'o tested Enyeama for the first time with a direct free-kick that he despatched straight at the Nigerian before Lukaku's introduction led to the chance for McGeady.

The game would noticeably open up as the clock ticked into the final quarter of an hour but chances remained at a premium until Eto'o popped up a in good position with a minute left of the regulation 90 but his curling shot drifted inches wide of the post.

So not much for the estimated 10,000 Blues to cheer except another point that keeps Everton on course to qualify for the next phase of the competition if they continue in the current vein of winning their home matches. As we have already seen this season, the performance probably suffered from a lack of continuity in the team given the five changes Martinez made to the side that started against Aston Villa last Saturday. But the starting XI was in line with the manager's longer-term strategy of handing experience and game time to a number of players who aren't automatic starters when the stakes aren't quite as high as they will be when the real business in this competition starts in the New Year.

Muhamed Besic, in particular, was a consistently tidy and energetic presence in central midfield and though Eto'o will feel as though he could have done better not least when a lovely interchange with Steven Pienaar in the first half got caught under his feet as he bore down on goal the 90 minutes he got will keep him ticking over in terms of match sharpness.

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Reader Comments (24)

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Steve Guy
1 Posted 24/10/2014 at 07:27:01
Win at home draw away and job done. Two home games and one away left. Our group to lose.
Peter Murray
2 Posted 24/10/2014 at 09:12:25
Another clean sheet and top of the group.
Now let’s get the rested players back into the squad and sort out Burnley.
Barry Sherlock
3 Posted 24/10/2014 at 09:27:18
A good assessment of the game Lyndon.

We lacked a bit of intensity in t
he midfield. McCathy and Besic giving Barry the rest may have been better for us? On the right hand side we need Coleman & Mirallas back asap. That will give us a lot of drive down that side. Hibbert was okay but doesn’t offer anything going forward. And McGeady, well let’s just say he flatters to deceive!

Overall the group is now very tight. We should really have pushed a little harder in this game and the Krasnodar game. When we get past the group stage that is what will be required. The European away leg - you must score. That is the key. And if we get in a mindset of "Win at home draw away" then we can get sucker punched by some of the bigger teams that come out of the Champions League groups.

Finally though, two clean sheets on the run!

Karl Parsons
4 Posted 24/10/2014 at 10:19:09
Professional job well done, will take that every time in Europe.
The pitch was awful though and did nothing to help our passing game.

Denis Richardson
5 Posted 24/10/2014 at 11:45:06
Job done, too early in the competition for any fireworks and the group was never going to be decided by this game, so a point away is a good result - regardless of the limp attacking performance.

Added to that, we should have at least 6 out of 10 outfield players 100% fresh for Sunday, so I hope I don’t have to hear any ’mid week euro game tiredness’ excuses. We need to aim for 3 points against Burnley and keep this run going.

Bob Parrington
6 Posted 24/10/2014 at 12:48:27
OK. Move on, next game! Qualify for next round. Boring but effective!
Sean Patton
7 Posted 24/10/2014 at 13:27:36
There has a been a lack of ambition in the two away games in Europe with a bit more intent we could have won one if not both it puts a lot of pressure on winning the remaining home games as Wolfsburg away will be very hard to get anything from.
Phil Walling
8 Posted 24/10/2014 at 13:58:58
One thing we can all agree on is that the travelling support has been magnificent. Everton is meant to be in Europe. This trophy is there for the winning not withstanding the likely introduction of our neighbours and other pretenders at a later stage.


Mark Dunford
9 Posted 24/10/2014 at 14:11:27
Tidy and effective. We were never really under sustained pressure and the Lille fans’ excitement at corners was testimony to this.

There was a wonderful moment when Hibbert’s goalbound shot was blocked and we all thought what might’ve been. Apart from that it was a bit dull.

Lukaku was a big presence when he came on. McGeady was consistently wasteful – a very frustrating talent.

The support seemed to mean a lot to the players and they acknowledged this after the final whistle. As for the policing – I’m assuming that is for another thread!

Tim Greeley
10 Posted 24/10/2014 at 16:05:12
I had been thinking that we got really jobbed with this group (despite the fact that we are currently leading it) so I checked out the "pots" for the Europa draw. It turns out that Lille and WB are the ones that really got worked.

Each pot had 12 clubs in their ranked according to whatever madeup bullshit they used to rank them. Lille was 11th is Pot A, and Wolfsburg was 6th in Pot B. So no great shakes for either of them, but the resulting draw from Pots C and D almost couldn’t have been worse, Everton was the 1st team ranked in Pot C and Krasnodar was the 2nd ranked club in Pot D.
Now how exactly the 5th place club from the Prem was in Pot C to begin with... well fuck all that, I know we’ve been out of Europe for a while but you can’t tell me there are 24 better teams in the competition better than Everton. Clubs from Romania and Denmark and Greenland and Botswana and New Caledonia and shit...

Jack Cross
11 Posted 24/10/2014 at 16:22:33
A good draw, so long as we are more aggressive up front at home. As you say it’s there for us to grasp with both hands. I can’t see us not winning the group or should I say we shouldn’t.

Can anyone tell me why there was no sponsors on the Everton shirts against Lille? Just something that I noticed.

Lyndon Lloyd
12 Posted 24/10/2014 at 16:37:54
Jack (11), alcohol sponsorship isn't permitted in French sport, hence our attractively simple blue jerseys!
Kieran Riding
13 Posted 24/10/2014 at 16:44:11
The no alcohol thing made me laugh, especially seeing some of our lads chinning the lager in the ground at €7 a pop, clearly not realising it was alcohol free lager!
Linda Morrison
15 Posted 24/10/2014 at 16:55:15
I thought the team did very well last night. A number of sports writers have commented on the terrible state of the pitch with the ball stopping and getting stuck.Keeping a clean sheet was a big plus and don't forget Coleman and McCarthy are still not 100% match fit after injury.

Distin and Hibbert were back to their best and we have 3 games left to play at this stage now.. Where did they get the old lady's stockings from that they used to cover Barkley's head wound which was caused by an elbow to his face!

Win 1 of them and draw the other and we are through to the next stage.

I learnt from last night that Roberto knows how to park the bus!

I notice that Lauro has only got us down for a draw on Sunday, cheek.

Tony J Williams
16 Posted 24/10/2014 at 16:59:27
Mark #9

If Hibbert would have scored we would have been banned from Europe for decades, what with the rioting that would have went on!!

Jack Cross
17 Posted 24/10/2014 at 18:15:29
Lyndon (12). Thanks. I didn’t know that.
Bill Gall
18 Posted 24/10/2014 at 18:27:11
With a number of players rested after coming back from injury and other players recently returning from injury given more playing time the end result even with a number of players not playing well was very good.

The European competition is what we all wanted and I prefer that the Manager takes a cautious approach to away games than to put out our full first team and go gung ho for a win and end up loosing. The point keeps us in first place and allso gives the team more experience in the European competitions.

Colin Glassar
19 Posted 24/10/2014 at 18:53:35
Can't add anything to that Bill. Excellent post.
Mark Dunford
20 Posted 24/10/2014 at 19:03:03
"Flatters to deceive" is one way of describing McGeady's incredibly frustrating talent. He has clearly got bags of ability and tries hard at times, yet he seems to be out of sync with his teammates at key moments.

Lukaku's reaction to the ball that went behind both him and Eto'o epitomised McGeady. It was a moment when we should have won the game and nothing had happened. Mirallas or even the boy wonder from Barca would have played a better pass.

I hope McGeady comes good and the individual goals like the one for Ireland or the one at Leicester are great. He just just doesn't strike me as a team player.

Phil Walling
21 Posted 24/10/2014 at 19:26:54
I'm sure there would have been a pitch invasion, Tony!
Philip Yensen
22 Posted 24/10/2014 at 20:08:54
Why has McGeady got an Everton shirt on? Practically everything he done last night he cocked up – he didn’t chase back, didn’t take the defender on. He brings nothing to this club whatsoever.

Every move he was involved in broke down. Sorry but he is a Championship player. Pienaar is a spent force now also. We are not going far in this competition if we carry on playing like this.

Harold Matthews
24 Posted 25/10/2014 at 01:21:38
When McGeady broke clear, their two centre backs positioned themselves in such a way that a clear pass to Lukaku, Eto'o and Barkley was virtually impossible. Lukaku was trailing two yards behind at the start of the move and an instant crossfield ball around the CB would have needed a Usain Bolt to chase it down.

Lukaku can scream all he likes. He allowed the left centre-back to control the situation and still has a lot to learn about centre-forward play.

Barkley started the move but followed Eto'o down the left channel instead of coming down the middle and offering McGeady another option. Why, also, did Besic decide to stay on the halfway line instead of getting himself forward at pace?

I've just had another look at this move and concluded that they were all to blame.

Jay Rollinson
25 Posted 25/10/2014 at 04:29:27
Harold, give over. That was on McGeady, no-one else. He never gave anyone in an Everton shirt even a fighting chance of getting near it. He took too long over it and then stroked it lazily into no-man's land.

Lukaku cannot be blamed for the winger playing it way behind him, nor Barkley for not being there after playing the ball that sent McGeady clear through.

Jay Harris
26 Posted 25/10/2014 at 19:31:17
Harold for once I totally disagree with you.

Anyone playing at this level would know to put the ball between the defenders and the GK so that Lukaku could run onto it and the CBs would have their backs to the goal and would take time to turn.

Simple goalscoring opportunity fucked up by McGeady.

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