Everton made a spectacular return to European action with a thumping 4-1 win over German side Wolfsburg at Goodison Park.
Ricardo Rodriquez’s own goal set the Toffees on their way on 15 minutes with Seamus Coleman doubling the lead just before half time.
Leighton Baines’ penalty just after the break seemingly put the game beyond doubt, with Kevin Mirallas and a spectacular free-kick from Rodriquez completing the scoring.
Make no mistake, Wolfsburg are a very good team that only just missed out on Champions League qualification last season, making the comprehensive nature of the result all the more satisfying.
Despite being a much-maligned competition, both sides showed the Europa League the respect it deserves by fielding strong line-ups, Everton unchanged from the 2-0 win at West Brom with Samuel Eto’o returning to the bench.
Everton promptly took the lead with their first real attack; a lovely move involving Baines and Naismith resulting in the Scotsman’s shot cannoning off goalkeeper Diego Benaglio before hitting Rodriquez and bobbling into the net.
Boosted by that early strike Everton piled forward in search of more goals, Aiden McGeady firing in a low shot that was well saved by Benaglio before Lukaku slipped when about shoot inside the area.
Lukaku then saw a free kick well saved while at the other end Wolfsburg struggled to create many opportunities, with the hard working Ivica Olic firing a number of shots off target.
Wolfsburg boss Dieter Hecking, possessing a particularly fine pair of pointy eyebrows, must have been keen to get his players in at half time but saw his task get a whole lot harder in first half injury time.
Mirallas’ shot was only parried by Benaglio allowing Baines to pounce on the rebound and fire over a cross-shot that was headed home by Coleman from close range.
If that was a sucker punch, Everton laid the decisive blow a minute after the restart when McGeady was tripped by Robin Knoche for a penalty.
Replays suggest the tackle began outside the box but Baines didn’t care as he sent the ‘keeper the wrong way to make it 3-0.
Wolfsburg could have resigned themselves to it being just one of those nights, but credit to the Bundesliga side for battling on despite the scoreline.
Indeed, the visitors began to pepper the Everton goal as the half wore on, with Tim Howard having a similar night he had in Salvador against Belgium at the World Cup.
One of the goalscorers last night, Kevin De Bruyne, was thwarted by the pick of Howard’s saves, diving full stretch to his left to push a low shot around the post. The American also did well to palm away a fizzing Rodriquez free kick as Everton began to sink back into their own half.
Roberto Martinez responded by bringing on Eto’o for the tiring Lukaku and the Cameroonian quickly showed his class with a wonderful turn on the halfway line before setting Naismith away on the counter attack.
Eto’o’s arrival helped Everton regain a grip on the game and it was from his wonderful through ball that Mirallas swept home the fourth on 89 minutes.
All that was needed to complete the night was a clean sheet but Howard was denied with the last kick of the game. What strike it was though, Rodriquez bending a free kick around the wall and in off the post for a goal Wolfsburg probably deserved for their efforts in the second half.
Next up in the Europa League on October 2 is the longest away trip of them all, a trek all the way to southwest Russia and a game with FK Krasnodar, who drew 1-1 with Lille in the other Group H opener.
But Everton showed tonight that they belong on the European stage and if they can maintain their level of performance throughout the autumn, then their presence in the competition could well go on for a while yet.