Can We Play You Every Week?

Some early unsteadiness aside, a professional and reasonably entertaining performance from Everton that ensures they breeze into the next round.

Lyndon Lloyd 27/02/2015 19comments  |  Jump to last

Everton 3 - 1 BSC Young Boys

(7-2 on agg)

Depending on your interpretation of the characters as they might relate to Everton, either Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde or, perhaps, a little both when you consider the first quarter of the game revealed themselves again at Goodison Park tonight as the Blues cruised through to the last 16 of the Europa League.

The margin of their victory, 7-2 over the two legs, was indicative of both their attacking superiority and a little of that familiar defensive frailty when John Stones isn't in the line-up. (Ironically enough, of course, he was missing from this home leg through suspension after receiving a red card in Bern last week.) Indeed, Young Boys, trailing 4-1 coming into the evening and with nothing more to lose by attacking, had threatened to make a game of it with a strong first 20 minutes during which time Roberto Martinez's back line were not wholly inspiring of confidence.

Given license to counter-attack, however, and slice through opposition defences as they have done so well in European competition this season, Everton had all the invitation they needed to cancel out Sekou Sanogo's 13th-minute opener and pad their aggregate lead with two goals from Romelu Lukaku and one from Kevin Mirallas that capped off the tie before half time.

The former of the two Belgians was, perhaps, a surprise inclusion in the starting XI sitting on a yellow card and having played so much football already this season. But, after his uncharacteristically profligate afternoon against Leicester City on Sunday, Roberto Martinez might have given the striker the chance to rebuild some confidence against familiar opposition.

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Indeed, the Swiss side were probably glad to see him make way for Arouna Koné just a couple of minutes into the second half; Lukaku scored an excellent penalty and then doubled Everton's lead with an even better first-time finish, taking his tally over both legs to five. Mirallas, meanwhile, was handed his first start since the Merseyside derby and scored with another impressively composed finish on the breakaway to make it 3-1 on the night.

With one eye on the handsome first-leg lead and another on Sunday's trip to Arsenal, Martinez made five changes to his starting line-up, with Antolin Alcaraz brought in to replace John Stones and Luke Garbutt handed a chance to impress in place of Leighton Baines and the injured Bryan Oviedo. Gareth Barry returned following suspension to partner James McCarthy while Ross Barkley dropped back to the bench to accommodate Darron Gibson and Mirallas started in the absence of the cup-tied Aaron Lennon.

The Blues started a on the front foot themselves but started to look a little nervy as they attempted to get to grips with Young Boys' robust attempts to reduce their deficit as the contest warmed up. A couple of cutbacks from the byline by Gibson and Mirallas looking for Lukaku and an incorrect offside call on Steven Naismith that robbed him of a clear goalscoring chance signalled Everton's early attacking intentions but it was the visitors who took the lead.

Naismith's header out from a corner fell straight to Raphaël Nuzzolo on the edge of the box and his downward half-volley kicked up towards Milan Vilotic who tried to nod it past Tim Howard. The American made an instinctive blocking save with one hand but couldn't prevent Sanogo from hammering the ball home almost on the line. It was an incident that looked worse for the goalkeeper than it actually was because he did well to make the initial save at point-blank range.

Seven minutes later, Seamus Coleman had to come across to charge down Guillerme Hoarau's shot as the last man to concede another corner from which Scott Sutter planted a thumping header onto the crossbar and that was followed by Yuya Kubo driving narrowly over the bar and the sight of Howard admonishing his back line for allowing a succession of shots aimed at his goal.

Everton were always a threat going forward themselves, however, and Lukaku, displaying more evidence of a vastly improved first touch, held off his marker before backheeling the ball into the path of Steven Naismith. The pass may have been a little heavy but Naismith strained to reach it in typically determined fashion and was taken out by Young Boys goalkeeper, Marco Wölfli.

Lukaku stepped up to take the resulting penalty and stroked it confidently into the bottom left-hand corner and past the 'keeper's gloves to make it 1-1 on the night and 5-2 on aggregate.

It was 2-1 and 6-2 just five minutes later. Gibson picked out Garbutt scampering down the left flank with an excellent pass and the young left back had time to look up and swing a cross towards the penalty spot that was met on the run by Lukaku and finished first time, again into the bottom left. It was a beautiful goal and testament to the abilities of all three players in their respective roles.

Apart from the freedom afforded Sutter down the Young Boys right where Garbutt seemed to be lacking in supporting cover, the momentum was clearly with the home side and Alcaraz missed with a free header from a free kick, Barry drove just over from 25 yards and Mirallas forced a decent one-handed save from Wölfli as the Blues threatened to increase their lead further.

That threat was realised three minutes before the break when Gibson, in commanding and enterprising mood in the centre of the park, stepped deftly away from a challenge, looked up and pinged a perfect through-ball to release Mirallas behind the visitors' defence. The Belgian is usually clinical in those situations and duly slotted under the 'keeper to make it 3-1.

That was it as far as the goals were concerned but Arouna Kone got 40-plus minutes as a substitute in the second half when he replaced Lukaku and Everton went very close on a few occasions to blowing this leg as wide open as the first. Mirallas was denied by Wölfli's toe as he cut in from the right and fired goalwards, the 'keeper sending his shot just over the bar, and Kone had one shot saved and fired another one off the post.

Garbutt, meanwhile, came within inches of registering another assist but his low cross missed Mirallas' toe by inches and the Belgian would be foiled once more by Wölfli when the 'keeper punched his shot into the air and Kone was adjudged offside as tried to bring down the rebound. Barry also shot tamely at the goalkeeper when he might have done better and Leon Osman, a late substitute for Naismith, had a headed goal chalked off for a slight push in a defender's back from Coleman's chipped centre.

So, some early unsteadiness aside, a professional and reasonably entertaining performance from Everton that ensures they breeze into the next round and await Friday's draw. On this form, particularly from an attacking point of view, they will fancy their chances against anybody and the times when Young Boys were at their most intense will have given Martinez and his players a taste of the greater pressure and goal threat they can expect from their next opponents, no matter who they are.

In the meantime, focus shifts back to the Premier League where this kind of offensive freedom and verve would be very welcome and would stand the Blues in good stead at a ground where they haven't seen a win since 1996.

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Reader Comments (19)

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Jeff Hughes
1 Posted 27/02/2015 at 06:37:59
It certainly is a puzzle why the Blues can perform with so much freedom and style in Europe. I watched Gibson playing in the forward midfield role very closely. I watched him move around the whole pitch with authority, marking and tackling when needed.

watched him always take the ball and look to drive Everton forward with some great passes between the lines and a great ball to Mirallas for his goal. I watched a proper midfield player.

Where you watching, Ross? I really hope so... because you are a luxury this team can not afford at the moment.

Eric Myles
2 Posted 27/02/2015 at 07:06:12
Jeff, it's because the teams in Europa don't press us high like in the league.
Ernie Baywood
3 Posted 27/02/2015 at 07:36:12
Yes, I think that particular mystery can be put to bed. Euro teams just don't seem to have done their homework on us or can't adapt to our style.

Back in our domestic league practically everyone has figured it out and we don't seem to have another question to ask.

In isolation you just can't knock that performance though. Young Boys are anothergood side to follow Lille and Wolfsburg. We battered them twice, and the scoreline reflected our dominance.

A real shame that Mirallas didn't score from Garbutt's cross. The play prior to that was just beautiful - was it two one-twos between Besic and Naismith? Brilliant slide rule ball from Besic into Garbutt and close to being inch perfect with the cross. Could have been our goal of the season.

Colin Glassar
4 Posted 27/02/2015 at 07:44:45
Apart from 10-20 mins in the first half I thought we were superb. Who are these players? Why can't we see them in the prem every week? I think someone has to bring in the men in white coats to see just what is going on.
Adam Luszniak
5 Posted 27/02/2015 at 08:03:02
Really interesting to see what happens next for us in the EL. Many have perhaps rightly said that Young Boys were an easy tie. Perhaps they were, but we still demolished them home and away. If indeed it was simply their lack of quality making us look good, will we be totally and utterly found it if we come up against better opposition? I'm not too sure, as we were good enough to beat Wolfsburg twice, and they're not to be dismissed as easily as Young Boys.

Chad Schofield
6 Posted 27/02/2015 at 08:05:43
I agree Ernie #3, it would have been a brilliant goal.

Although in hindsight the opening 20 minutes meant very little in the end, at the time we looked all over the place and the penalty was certainly fortuitous in its timing if not in it being given in the first place. The biggest surprise was Mirallas allowing Big Rom to take it!

Besic did his thing of showing good energy, ability to both close and create space, a range of passing and sloppily over do it before going back to basics.

Kone was unlucky not to get on the score sheet.

Garbutt looked a potential contender for a half time substitution at 1-0 down, but post-20 minute wobbles, got stronger and a great cross for Lukaku's second.

All in all, a good night and great to see Gibson back.

Jeff Hughes
7 Posted 27/02/2015 at 08:21:07
Young Boys beat Basel 4-2 last weekend and we all know that Basel are no pushovers. Wolfsburg beat Bayern 4-1 at the end of January, yet we seemed to breeze past them. The high press argument of the Premier League has some merit but it is more about physicality than positioning. In the words of the Wealdstone Raider: "Do you want some?"

We need to go toe to toe with teams and believe in our ability to win challenges and then pass the ball around and through opponents despite the weekly physical challenges.

One thing is for sure: we cannot rely on Ross strolling about in the midfield and players worried about making mistakes. Remember when we went toe to toe with Arsenal at the Emirates last year in the league. In that first half we showed our potential to mix with the very best. That requires physical intensity and belief. Let's believe!

Tony Abrahams
8 Posted 27/02/2015 at 08:55:01
Eric, I would disagree with that comment, and say it’s because the games are usually more open, with teams leaving space in behind.
Callum McNab
9 Posted 27/02/2015 at 09:48:22
Well said, Jeff. I was going to say virtually the same. Use the Arsenal DVD and see what they were doing then to compared to now. We're not chasing teams down like they do to us (whether that's down to poor fitness due to a poor ore season) were not moving the ball quick enough an abusing teams to close us down.

I honestly think a lot of our players want the change or Plan B as some say, but Martinez stubbornness to change has effected them. You can see after 10 mins if his tactics don't work there is a can't be arsed attitude from them. That and no one wants the ball.

Look at Ross for Example, I've never seen a player with so much skill, energy and drive deteriorate so badly in less than a season. Compare that to Rooney who was used to his strengths at Manchester United and became one of the best players in the world.

Mike Gwyer
10 Posted 27/02/2015 at 09:57:52

Jeff Hughes #7.

"One thing is for sure we cannot rely on Ross strolling about in the midfield and players worried about making mistakes. Remember when we went toe to toe with Arsenal at the Emirates last year in the league".

Jeff, we went toe to toe with Arsenal because of Ross. Barkley did things during that game that had most Arsenal players watching in disbelief and once that enigma returns Barkley will once again become the player that most Evertonians believe he is.

Chris Gould
11 Posted 27/02/2015 at 09:37:24
Eric 2, this is very true, but Gibson showed against Leicester that he can also do it in the Premier League against a team set up to frustrate. He is at his most effective when he comes deep to collect the ball. Barkley may flourish with Gibson behind him. It would take some of the creative responsibility away from Ross and allow him to take up dangerous positions further up the pitch.
Chris Gould
12 Posted 27/02/2015 at 11:02:09
At the moment Barkley collects the ball 40 yards from goal because neither McCarthy or Barry have the ability to give him the ball in dangerous positions.

He is then left with the responsibility to (a) run through the opposition and make something happen. Or (b) ping a perfect pass through to Lukaku

His confidence is shot. It's too much to expect. So he passes it sideways or backwards. With Gibson putting balls to him in and around the last third, that is where we will see the best of Barkley. Ball at his feet, running into the box. He'll petrify defenders there.

Alan McGuffog
13 Posted 27/02/2015 at 11:26:06
Has the club said anything about the injury Gibson picked up? I would hate him to miss the trip to Arsenal.
Ernie Baywood
14 Posted 27/02/2015 at 12:26:56
To be honest I don't see a slow tempo suiting Ross. He's creative but he's not David Silva creative. He's not the guy you expect to unlock a tight defence. He exploits teams that lose their shape.

We need the pace back in our game.

That needs two things:
1. Players with pace
2. Players who control the tempo.

Arteta used to do the layer for us. Barry to a degree last year. Maybe it's Gibson? Or even Barry again with the right players around him. And Lennon/Atsu?

Tim Greeley
15 Posted 27/02/2015 at 14:40:05
The best match Ross has played for us was against the Arse. My brain is made of mashed potatoes so I cant remember exactly which one, but I know it to be fact. And he’s played very well against them one or two other times as well. That being said, that was last year and this year he looks like he wants his mommy. But as others have more astutely pointed out, at this stage Ross has his strengths and his weaknesses, which wehn exposed are glaring.

Strange to say but I think the 3 center mids is the way to go. It is our strongest position. And really, unless he is actually hurt, Mirallas needs to play. Hot and cold as he is, he just offers something that no one else in Blue does.

Great game to watch, even though most of us mised the first 30 minutes. But it was worth it!! Deja Vu Lovren!

Brian Williams
16 Posted 27/02/2015 at 15:16:02
If last night made even one thing clear, it's the fact that we cannot allow Garbutt's contract to run down and lose this lad.

If it was a toss-up between him and Baines to go, I'd actually take the money on Baines and reinvest elsewhere and keep the lad; he's the future.

Ernie Baywood
17 Posted 27/02/2015 at 22:25:36
Tim, Ross was great at the Emirates under Moyes when the ginger one finally thought "Fuck it, I’m leaving anyway, so I might as well have a go."

But even better last year, schooling supposed wonder boy Wilshere and prompting this brilliant match report.

"With Ross Barkley humming ’Copacabana’ every time he glided past fat-tongued fucktard Jack Wilshere, Everton’s passing was completely bewitching."

Joe Foster
18 Posted 28/02/2015 at 09:24:20
Another good win in Europe not to be mocked just because it's young boys. It's the bread and butter premier league we are crap in and really that's what matters.
Jeff Hughes
19 Posted 28/02/2015 at 09:08:06
Mike Gwyer #10.
Granted Ross played very well last year at Arsenal but I would not say it was down to him. The defence pushed up and attacked the ball very well. Ross was probably being played in his best position behind Lukaku. I say this because he can play here without responsibility but if we play him here then we have to bite the bullet and leave Naismith out.

Ross is not a midfield player (at present) because he cannot take on the very important role of tracking opposition players and winning ball. Physically, there is no reason why not but mentally I fear he does not see what is required or does not want to get involved in the physical challenges required in the Premier League. I wish he could because he has all the technical ability in the world and that is why I find him so frustrating.

The bottom line for me at present is that he is a luxury playing in midfield and we cannot sustain that in the position we are currently in. For me, it should be Barkley or Naismith behind Lukaku with Gibson and two holding midfielders. Another possibility in order to get better balance, is to try playing Oviedo wide left when fit to give Baines or Garbutt balance on the left. We could then perhaps manage with only one holding midfielder.

Finally, Roberto has to drive a high intensity approach to our play in both winning ball and in driving at our opposition. We have some very talented players but they will win Jack Shit strolling around believing that all they have to do is not lose possession. That negative approach encourages players to absolve themselves from the responsibility of making things happen.

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