Everton went into Thursday night's Europa League matchup with Lille at the top of Group H with five points. The previous match, October 23rd in France, ended in a goalless draw.
Roberto Martinez's lineup was a bit puzzling. Samuel Eto'o was back on the bench with Romelu Lukaku making the start. Seamus Coleman was suspiciously absent from the team and Ross Barkley was only available as a substitute, making Evertonians wonder if the two were brought back too soon. Sylvain Distin made his way back to the starting lineup with the injury absence of Antolin Alcaraz, while preseason acquisitions Christian Atsu and Muhamed Besic can't seem to make their way into a starting spot.
The First Half
As expected, Everton came out in the first half looking for the early advantage, and Lukaku almost scored before a minute had passed. But it took nearly half an hour of attacking play before the Blues went up 1-0 on the French team. Aiden McGeady's cross sailed over the heads of Steven Naismith and James McCarthy before new-contract man Leon Osman took it down and fired into the back of the net. A little over ten minutes later McGeady had another assist, this time on a corner. Phil Jagielka was able to slip around his defender and easily head the ball past Lille goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama to make it 2-0.
The Second Half
The Toffees started off the second half content to pass the ball around and maintain the 2-0 lead. However, in the 60th minute, Lukaku made a brilliant pass to Leighton Baines, who got the ball in to Naismith right in front of the Lille goal. Naismith's clinical finish made it 3-0, securing the three points for Everton. There were a few more chances for the Blues in the second 45 minutes, including a questionable offside call that called back a Lukaku goal that would have made it 4-0.
What We Learned
Everton set out to take control of Group H, and that's exactly what they did. Martinez's side sits at the top of the group with eight points, Wolfsburg in second with seven, Lille follow in third with three, and Krasnodar remain in last place with two points.
Despite a lineup that looked like it wasn't as strong as expected, the team managed to get the job done and got three points in front of the home crowd. Some of the bright spots were:
- The defense looked great. The Lille attack looked toothless the whole match and Belgian striker Divock Origi had very little impact.
- Aiden McGeady put in another good shift. He assisted the first two goals and is beginning to show his worth to the boss.
- Jags scores again! The defenseman found the net on a corner for that all-important second goal.
- That Naismith goal was a thing of beauty.
Everton are back to Premier League play this Sunday at Sunderland. Tell us your Man of the Match in the comments.