Lukaku Shines As Blues Tame Die Wölfe

Everton prove that they were the team to beat in a strong Group H by completing a deserved double over Wolfsburg.

Lyndon Lloyd 27/11/2014 44comments  |  Jump to last

It was billed as the "group of death" but while Evertonians were blanching a little at being drawn against three teams who wouldn't have looked out of place in the Champions League both Wolfsburg and Lille have qualified for UEFA's elite tournament within the last five years, after all our opponents were quietly ruing the fact they had been lumped in with Everton.

With five of the six Group H matches in the books, the Blues' reputation as the team from pot 3 that no-one wanted to draw has been fully realised Roberto Martinez's team have not only secured qualification to the knockout phase of the Europa League with a game to spare, they have also ensured they will do so as winners of the group thanks to a superb victory in the Volkswagen Arena.

On paper, the trip to Wolfsburg, on a run of eight wins from 10 that has taken them up to second in the Bundesliga since their 4-1 defeat at Goodison Park two months ago, was a daunting one. Though the stakes weren't quite as high as they might have been a few weeks ago both teams came into evening knowing that a draw would effectively have put both Die Wölfe and the Toffees through Martinez was taking nothing for granted and he knew that this was a very difficult assignment. He will, no doubt, be beaming then after seeing his team execute an impressive gameplan and emerge handsome winners against a very effective team.

The chief agitator and the player perhaps basking most in the post-match limelight was Romelu Lukaku, a man courted at length by Wolfsburg over the summer but who eventually signed for Everton in a club-record 28M deal. Living up to that hefty price tag in the face of a disrupted pre-season and an annoying toe injury has been difficult at times for the 21-year-old this season but he stood tall this evening to score the first goal, prompt the save that should have brought the second from Aiden McGeady, and then play Kevin Mirallas in for that killer second with 16 minutes left.

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That outcome looked unlikely in the early going. Wolfsburg, shorn of dynamic left back Ricardo Rodriguez but bolstered by the presence of Ivan Perisic, an absentee from the reverse fixture because of a shoulder injury, started with an intensity that the Blues struggled to match. The Croatian World Cup star had smashed a half-volley across the face of Tim Howard's goal and skied a free header well over by the time Samuel Eto'o had ended Everton's their first meaningful attack by bouncing a cross-cum-shot wide in the 10th minute.

And yet it was Everton who should have taken the lead in the 12th minute after quick thinking by McGeady to rob Robin Knoche with a well-timed slide tackle forced a corner from the right-hand side. Luke Garbutt, getting the nod to deputise for Leighton Baines that many felt he should have got from Martinez against West Ham last Saturday, swung a kick to the back post where Sylvain Distin stole in behind his marker but his downward header bounced onto the crossbar.

At the other end, meanwhile, Tim Howard made the first of a number of saves he would be called on to make by turning Aaron Hunt's fierce shot behind with a one-handed save before Kevin de Bruyne, a constant threat from midfield, saw an effort of his own deflect behind off Phil Jagielka. The resulting corner came back to the Belgian wide on the right and he swept a low cross into the six-yard box that Niclas Bendtner helped on for Perisic to turn in from close range. The referee's assistant flagged for offside though erroneously as it turned out and the goal was chalked off.

Continuing the theme established in Krasnodar and Lille, Everton were inviting plenty of problems by their carelessness in possession in midfield, leaving the back five to work overtime to keep the hosts at bay. That size of that task appeared to grow with half-an-hour gone when James McCarthy was forced to withdraw with a hamstring injury, with Leon Osman coming on in his place. The Blues held firm for the remainder of the half, though, with a terrific block by Jagielka keeping things goalless when De Bruyne looked destined to finish a quick Wolfsburg counter-attack by scoring while Mirallas tested Diego Benaglio with a decent curling shot from 20-odd yards.

Everton broke the deadlock, though, two minutes before half-time. Wolfsburg were caught with all 10 outfield players in the Blues' half as the ball was played out of defence and when Mirallas knocked it on for Lukaku, the striker had a clear run on goal from the centre circle. Poor control initially seemed to have let him down but he recovered well and bore down on goal in typical fashion before planting it past the 'keeper.

With the advantage in hand, Everton were markedly improved after the half-time interval but an error by McGeady, who worked tirelessly off the ball but was pretty dreadful with it, let De Bruyne in but Howard saved again to deny him. From the corner, Bendtner headed home Perisic's flick-on but again the assistant's flag was raised, this time correctly.

It should have been "game over" five minutes later when tidy work by Osman released Lukaku down the left channel, his low shot was saved by Benaglio and the rebound sat up perfectly for McGeady. The Irishman somehow side-footed wide of the upright with the goal yawning in front of him, though.

Thankfully, after Howard had pushed behind shots by Perisic and Marcel Schafer, Mirallas was far more clinical when he got the chance to make it 2-0 in the 74th minute. More controlled work on the ball by Lukaku in evading two Wolfsburg players after he collected another ball out from the back allowed him to send a nicely-weighted pass through the home defence which his compatriot collected, turned the last defender, and found the far corner with unerring accuracy.

Staring defeat in the face, the German side continued to press forward in search of a way back into the game and substitute Ivica Olic glanced a header narrowly wide before Howard pushed Arnold's low drive onto the outside of the post, but you could sense Everton had the bit between their teeth now and they looked the more likely to add to the scoreline. A neat interchange involving two of Martinez's own subs, Christian Atsu and Ross Barkley, looked to have provided a third Everton goal but the latter was marginally offside and his goal became the third of the night to be disallowed.

Injuries have threatened to scuttle Everton's season but, despite losing their defensive midfield axis in McCarthy and Gareth Barry and their chief chance-creator in Baines, the Blues are now eight games unbeaten in all competitions.

The likes of Muhamed Besic, an impressive replacement for Barry despite the occasional stray pass in dangerous areas, and Garbutt who displayed immense composure for such an inexperienced player, repaid their manager's faith in them and showed that there is real depth now to Martinez's squad (albeit depth that is now in danger of being exhausted if the current spate of injuries continues).

With Dieter Hecking's team registering a 60% share of possession and racking up an astonishing 38 shots, 3-0 would have been a startling scoreline and, yet, even 2-0 underscored the clinical nature with which the Blues picked them off to complete a deserved double over the Bundesliga outfit.

That just seven of Wolfsburg's shots were on target was telling and, much like in the first meeting between the two sides, when they did find their accuracy, they found Howard in obdurate mood. On both occasions, Everton were content to absorb the pressure, contain the vigour of Wolfsburg's attack and dare them to beat the American from distance before dealing with them efficiently at the other end.

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Reader Comments (44)

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Adam Luszniak
1 Posted 28/11/2014 at 08:41:20
Clinical is the right word. Great win, but overall it really poses the question: "What happens when we get another injury to a centre mid?"
Graham Holliday
2 Posted 28/11/2014 at 09:12:22
Regarding injuries, I make our squad currently at:

GK: Howard, Robles
RB: Coleman (not quite 100%), Hibbert
LB: Garbutt
CB: Jagielka, Distin, Browning
CM: Osman, Besic, Ledson
AM: Barkley, Mirallas (not quite 100%), McGeady, Atsu
CF: Lukaku, Eto’o

Out: Baines, Oviedo, Alcaraz, Stones, Barry, Gibson, McCarthy, Pienaar, Naismith, Kone (to all intents and purposes)

That’s 17 fit players - 1 of whom is a goalkeeper, 2 not quite 100%, 3-4 kids and a couple of old heads who shouldn’t be relied to play 90 minutes for 6 or 7 games in the next month.

Let’s hope the likes of Baines, Gibson, McCarthy, Naismith are back soon. But we can’t look to rush them back either. Tough times!

Iain Love
3 Posted 28/11/2014 at 09:09:50
Great result!

Besic needs to grow up a bit more, a red card waiting to happen... but has the potential to be an Everton great.

I wouldn’t mind us having Perisic and De Bruyne.

Anthony Lewis
4 Posted 28/11/2014 at 09:53:49
A lot will probably be made of the 38(! shots on goal by Die Wolfe.

But, in all honesty, the vast majority of those attempts were speculative shots from distance.

The lads did a fantastic job of containing Wolfsburg and limiting them to those long shots.

Derek Knox
5 Posted 28/11/2014 at 09:57:25
I’m very satisfied with the match over all, and I didn’t expect the result to be a win with a clean sheet.

As has been mentioned, the downside being the potential injury to McCarthy which, with Barry also out, leaves us with a deficiency in Midfield, although I thought Mo did well (although a bit too cavalier at times) and he will have to watch the Yellow Card count.

I was disappointed again with McGeady who, despite some good work, gave the ball away too often and missed what was virtually an open goal.

I think we will have done ourselves a few favours and again provided some entertainment for the neutrals in the process. I watched the Spurs game afterwards, and although it was marred by sporadic pitch invaders, I was thoroughly bored watching it. I hope they play like that on Sunday, when they entertain us in front of the cameras again. A decent win will have us back where we belong.


Trevor Lynes
6 Posted 28/11/2014 at 11:05:24
Yes, Derek, the problem is that Spurs could afford to rest a few players so that they will be fresh for Sunday.

We need to play Jagielka and Distin in every match. We are in the same boat with defensive midfield with just Ozzie and Besic to choose from.

I just hope that Coleman, Naismith and Baines are back in contention along with wishfully Pienaar.

Phil Walling
7 Posted 28/11/2014 at 11:09:01
Graham; wasn’t Distin limping badly towards the end? If he’s out on Sunday, I guess it will between Hibbo and Besic alongside Jags as Bobby will need Besic for centre mid.
Phil Walling
8 Posted 28/11/2014 at 11:14:02
Meant to say Browning as a possible alongside Jags.
Tony Waring
9 Posted 28/11/2014 at 11:53:37
I guess all Blues will have noticed that Garbutt takes a mean corner kick!
Les Fitzpatrick
10 Posted 28/11/2014 at 12:17:07
Yeaaaaaaaa! Got back home at 3 am... just got up, and have been on the net reading about our fab result.

First, hats off to the fab Everton fans, who were a credit to our club, as were the Wolfsburg fans to theirs.

I thought Besic was great tonight, as was Luke, two stalwarts for the future I think.

For me, the game turned in our favour when Ossie came on. His experience and quick feet shone through. Well done to all the team, and remember, every team needs an Ossie type player.

Ajay Gopal
11 Posted 28/11/2014 at 12:39:48
Yes, I noticed the Distin injury, but I think he was fine in the end. My team for Sunday:

Coleman Jagielka Distin Garbutt
Besic Osman
Mirallas Barkley Atsu

Subs: Robles, Hibbert, Browning, Ledson, Kone, Eto’o, McGeady.

Kone may get a run out if we are leading 2-0 with 10 minutes to go.

Peter Cummings
12 Posted 28/11/2014 at 12:19:56
One of the most surprising results of the Blues season so far has been the reaction of posters on TW from all over the UK, and abroad, on the approach and dedication to the game.

Comments have been almost 100% positive and when you consider the real hatred directed at the so called ’big’ clubs by the media, praise for the Blues has come from the most unlikely sources such as Manchester and London, mostly from ordinary fans... even some from across the park who have had their unfair share of abuse of late.

Phil Walling
13 Posted 28/11/2014 at 12:58:57
I begin to suspect that Atsu is no more talented than several of our academy graduates, so why the preference for him in your side, Ajay?
Harold Matthews
14 Posted 28/11/2014 at 12:57:53
Ajay, Besic will be worked to death with all those non-tackling boys around him.
Rick Tarleton
15 Posted 28/11/2014 at 14:05:47
I was hugely impressed by Everton’s display. Wolfsburg are second in the German league with only Bayern Munich ahead. It was the kind of incisive counter-attacking display which I had thought was beyond the current squad. Well done to all, especially Jagielka and the whole defence.
Paul Burns
16 Posted 28/11/2014 at 14:46:06
That match summary is spot on.
Ajay Gopal
17 Posted 28/11/2014 at 17:35:13
Well, we will have very few bodies available for the Spurs game. So, Besic & Osman will have to do a lot of the running. Osman will be goosed around the 60-minute mark, and that is when I hope Martinez will give a run to Ledson or Browning.

Phil, Atsu in my opinion is slowly improving and I think he will peg their left back (Dier?) back with his energy. We need some fresh legs for this match; unless Pienaar makes a recovery, it is Atsu for me.

Les Fitzpatrick
18 Posted 28/11/2014 at 17:41:29
Ajay... with all due respect, you are one of the most negative doom merchants on this site ha ha. Why not wallow in our glorious victory, and worry about the Spurs game on Sunday? Bobby will have something up his sleeve tactics wise.
Mike Allison
19 Posted 28/11/2014 at 18:24:46
Lee, previous post Europa games don’t really fill me with that optimism. He made a right hash of Palace after the last Wolfsburg match, then made it even worse against Swansea two days later.

That Palace result still annoys me. If we’d have won that we’d be 4th right now.

Atsu is extremely talented, as is Besic, we’ve just been denied the opportunity of finding that out up to now.

Phil Walling
20 Posted 28/11/2014 at 19:39:36
Just how do you know that about Atsu, Mike?
Jay Harris
21 Posted 28/11/2014 at 20:21:47
We were absolutely down to the bare bones last night and we have to credit the whole team for a very spirited performance which should engender a lot of confidence for Sunday. Special mentions for Garbutt, Howard, Jags and Besic who I thought were outstanding.

However, Sunday will be a much tougher test following that journey and away to a side where we have lost 3 and drawn 2 of the last 5 games. Let’s hope Barry, Coleman, Baines and Pienaar are all fit and available to bring some strength back into the side.

If Barry is not available I wouldn’t mind looking at Bainesy in midfield with Garbutt at left-back.

Let’s hope the support haven’t lost their voices.


Keith Glazzard
22 Posted 28/11/2014 at 20:52:38
What I like about Roberto’s players – and they are his now – is their belief in basic football skill. And he has jacked up his tactical application a bit to provide us with a text-book away result in Europe.
Paul Andrews
23 Posted 28/11/2014 at 21:58:51

I couldn’t agree more. Textbook indeed. A very astute tactically aware manager. Top of the group with a probable 15 points out of 18 with a goal difference to date of +8 tells you all you need to know.

One or two posters doubt him despite the results. I feel this is down to a stubborn mentality. They didn’t want him as the manager and haven’t got the courage to admit they were wrong.

Wayne Smyth
24 Posted 28/11/2014 at 21:57:56
The positive aspect to our injury list is that they are mostly defensive players... and it seems we have a fair number of academy players who step up, such as Garbutt and Browning. Where we struggle is when our wide players or forwards are out. I just don’t see that same quality from the academy at the moment.

If we needed to play Ledson as a holding midfielder instead of McCarthy, I don’t think it would be the end of the world. I seem to remember him doing quite well a couple of pre-seasons ago. Maybe 30 minutes against Spurs to replace Osman could be on the cards?

Hopefully it won’t be too long before the walking wounded are back anyway, and if a few youngsters can get some minutes under their belt, it may just provide them the opportunity they need to shine and save us some cash in the next few transfer windows to replace the senior players who are moved on.

Steve Carse
25 Posted 28/11/2014 at 22:54:01
Does everyone hold the view expressed in this thread of RM’s tactical astuteness in last night’s game?

What I saw, certainly in the first half, was a set-up that was failing to provide sufficient cover to our defenders both down the flanks and through the middle. Because the side contained too many players for whom defending and ball-winning does not come naturally. I’m thinking Mirallas, Eto’o, and McGeady in particular.

A better side than Wolfsburg, or a luckier one, would have been one or two up at half-time and, whilst losing in a league is recoverable, it is going to become more critical in the knockout stages.

The puzzling feature of the sides Martinez has been picking for the Europa Leage away games is that they look on paper to be attacking line-ups but they then play with little adventure.

Phil Walling
26 Posted 28/11/2014 at 23:38:33
I think that the positive aspect of this horrendous injury ’bug’ is that it may give the chance for two or three of our ’bright young things’ to emerge as Premier League players.

If the likes of Ledson and Browning get and make the most of the chance, as did Garbutt last night, then we shall go into the second half of the season with a squad in which we can have every confidence.

Sign up a decent goalie and all bases will be covered.

Colin Glassar
27 Posted 29/11/2014 at 00:27:09
Love to hear your optimism Phil. Welcome aboard.
Eric Myles
28 Posted 29/11/2014 at 00:26:55
Lukaku shines? I thought his ball control was bad as usual. Fortunately he scored to make up for it.
James Flynn
29 Posted 28/11/2014 at 23:08:45
Steve (24) – The tactical astuteness was from the Wolfsburg manager. The first half looked like a full-court press basketball style. Our boys had a lot of difficulty getting the ball forward since they were under constant pressure.

Our advantage was having a veteran backline that didn’t see anything it hadn’t before.

I’m really not sure what to make of Roberto. I’m looking at February 2016. Think we’ll have the measure of him then.

Andy Crooks
30 Posted 29/11/2014 at 01:09:54
Really good analysis, Lyndon. Do you think it was a fortuitous victory? I have the feeling we are unlucky with injuries but are riding our luck in coping with it.

Full strength we are ready to dish out a thumping. However, if we concede an early goal, I fear we could be on the end of one.

Mike Corcoran
31 Posted 29/11/2014 at 02:04:38
Wolfsberg needed to attack – that’s why Roberto set us out with pace and a hard core back four. And it worked. Job done. Any wily blue would have set out the same. So stop moaning.
Jim Knightley
32 Posted 29/11/2014 at 02:10:37
Eric, I don’t know what game you were watching, but he demonstrated some fantastic control, hold up play and one fantastic pass to Mirallas in particular. Do you expect him to control everything everytime? He was fantastic away to the second best team in the Bundesliga at the moment.

If Lukaku didn’t shine, I don’t know what he is supposed to do to please you.

Colin Gee
33 Posted 29/11/2014 at 02:34:42
Fantastic couple of days in Germany. Everton FC and our fans did us proud. We stopped in Hannover, full of Blues everywhere you went, from the pubs to the railway station and walking around town, all you could hear was scouse accents everywhere.

Just one small thing: I was sat/stood right up at the back of the ground in the away end, there were about 50 empty seats dotted around, strange as tickets sold out ages ago. Oh, and it was bloody freezing up there!

Eric Myles
34 Posted 29/11/2014 at 07:16:05
Jim (#32), I’d expect a professional footballer to have better ball control than me to say he shines. It’s not like it hasn’t been a consistent problem this season.
Paul Andrews
35 Posted 29/11/2014 at 07:20:29

If he carries on at his current scoring rate of one in two, and that can only get better, the ball can bounce off him as many times as he likes.

He is a baby for the position. As he realises how strong he is, and throws his weight about by bullying centre halves, along with gaining experience of positional sense, he can only improve.

Eric Myles
36 Posted 29/11/2014 at 07:24:42
Paul, if the ball didn’t bounce off him so much then maybe he, and others, might take advantage of that and be able to score more?

It’s not like he’s just started playing footy a couple of seasons ago, he’s probably been playing to a higher level since he was a baby so ability with the basic skills should be a given.

Saying that, I thought our passing as a whole was poor also.

Paul Andrews
37 Posted 29/11/2014 at 08:03:37
As I said, Eric, that will improve in time.

I was trying to think of another player his age with his great goal scoring percentage; nobody came to mind

Eric Myles
38 Posted 29/11/2014 at 08:49:44
Paul, ball control is either a natural ability, in which case he’s never going to have it, or it’s something that can be learned, in which case he’s the equivalent of dyslexic.

It’s really nothing to do with his goalscoring ability.

Aidy Dews
39 Posted 29/11/2014 at 09:47:42
In reply to the original post, I wouldn’t go too crazy about Rom’s performance. Granted, he got a goal and an assist but, apart from that, he didn’t set the game alight IMO.

At times, his touch was bad again; at times, he was lazy and wouldn’t come to the ball or challenge properly in aerial duels. He’d try and run away with the ball and actually leave the ball behind at times; by time he’d turned and looked where it was, the ball was either taken off him or out of play.

Aye, he even nearly cocked up for his goal with a shocking first or second touch that nearly allowed Malanda to sneak in and pinch the ball off of him!

But credit where credit is due, he used his strength, shrugged him off and went through and showed real calm and coolness to slot the opener.

For the second, he did really well and this is what frustrates me most about Rom cos he’s capable of this kind of thing. He backs in to the CB, gets the ball under control, turns away from his man and spots the run of Mirallas and puts through an inch-perfect pass to set up the winner. What he did for both goals is what I expect more from him and he’s got that in his locker but he’s not producing it on a regular enough basis.

As for other performances, Garbutt did really well. Yes, there were a couple of moments where he didn’t get close enough to shut the cross out and things but, all-in-all, he showed up really well. And he’s got a mean left peg on him – that corner from which Distin should of scored from was just brilliant!

And speaking of Distin, he was my MotM. He defended brilliantly all night and the amount of blocks he put in was amazing. A lot were writing him off earlier on in the season but there’s plenty still left in the big man’s tank.

Besic gave a good account of himself. He had a few lackadaisical moments on the ball and put himself about but he played well. And I also thought Ossie did a good job when coming on.

And Mirallas just makes a hell of a difference for me, gives us that pace, quality and an outlet in the final third that we so lack at times. So glad to have him back.

It’s a shame McGeady doesn’t compliment him on the other flank! Again, I thought he was shocking. Yes, he worked hard but when in possession he was terrible. Giving the ball away, every trick he tried didn’t come off and at one point when on a run he even bamboozled himself when doing step-overs and left the ball behind... and the less said about his miss, the better!

Maybe Atsu can kick on and show his worth at some stage this season but for me we lack a quality wide player to compliment the rest of the team. IMO we do miss Deulofeu. His pace and ability to beat men and, okay, his end product wasn’t always great but, when it was, it was deadly. But just like Mirallas, he was on outlet out wide, handy to have on the break cos of his pace and trickery and for me McGeady is failing to bring any of that to the table right now.

When everyone is fit, I think we are one quality winger away from being a really good side that’s seriously capable of consistently challenging for top four and making it!

To get Deulofeu back would’ve been great, or if we’d’ve had the cash to sign Tadic, that would’ve been amazing... but hopefully come the summer, we have the readies to go out and get a top notch wide man of the likes of Perisic, Depay, Yarmolenko, or even try and sign the likes of Ayew or Konoplyanka on pre-contract agreements in January ahead of free transfer moves in the summer?!

Paul Andrews
40 Posted 29/11/2014 at 11:04:00

As I said, it is something that will improve with more games and experience.

As it stands he is doing well to be a one-in-two goalscorer

Jim Knightley
41 Posted 29/11/2014 at 14:43:31
Eric... again, were you watching the game? He demonstrated some outstanding touches, and good hold-up play. It is a problem with his game in general, but to state that it was on Thursday ignores his performance.

Do you expect him to hold the ball up everytime? Do you watch other professional footballers? They are not perfect, and I wouldn’t expect Lukaku to be at 21. He scored a fantastic goal, and a sublime assist in an extremely tough away match in Europe, but according to you he didn’t shine? Seriously, what do you expect?!

This near idiotic pessimism on here is so frustrating. Why can’t we support our players, and praise them, especially when they are still developing at 21? You must be a really fun guy.

Raymond Fox
44 Posted 29/11/2014 at 15:56:13
To Lukaku critics, apart from Aguero (he’s priceless), who in the Prem would you swap him for? Not many I’ll wager!

He keeps scoring his goals – what more do you want.

Oscar Huglin
47 Posted 29/11/2014 at 16:55:20
Graham #2: "Regarding injuries, I make our squad currently at:
GK: Howard, Robles
RB: Coleman (not quite 100%), Hibbert [+ Browning?!]
LB: Garbutt
CB: Jagielka, Distin, Browning
CM: Osman, Besic, Ledson
AM: Barkley, Mirallas (not quite 100%), McGeady, Atsu
CF: Lukaku, Eto’o

Out: Baines, Oviedo, Alcaraz, Stones, Barry, Gibson, McCarthy, Pienaar, Naismith, Kone (to all intents and purposes)"

Startling to see in writing how many players we’re missing at the moment, despite our improvement in form. You could make a decent first 11 out of that + Browning and Robles! (4-2-3-1):

GK: Robles
DEF: Baines, Alcaraz, Stones, Browning
MID: Oviedo, Gibson, McCarthy, Pienaar, Naismith
STR: Kone (Or Naismith and Kone in a 4-4-2)

Not exactly a team that would challenge for the top 4, but a hell of a back-up 11.

Let’s hope we get some of those players back sooner rather than later, as being able to rotate will be essential over the convoluted Christmas and new year period.


Brent Stephens
51 Posted 29/11/2014 at 21:07:28
Eric #38 I think you mean dyspraxia not dyslexia?

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