Time is almost up for Ronald Koeman after yet another disappointing result which leaves Everton all but out of the Europa League. Goals from Nabil Fekir and Bertrand Traore either side of an Ashley Williams leveller were enough for the visitors to take the points and heap yet more pressure on Koeman ahead of Sunday’s crunch game at Goodison against Arsenal and a trip to the capital next Wednesday to face the Champions of England, Chelsea, in the Carabao Cup.
It was same old same in the first half, Everton started as you’d expect. Tentative, nervous, afraid to take a risk, confidence is at rock bottom and it shows. The game barely had a chance to get going before the talented visitors had their inevitable lead. Mason Holgate made a challenge you might expect someone to make after playing 120 minutes in a cup tie. Labouring and clumsy, he literally volleyed Lyon left back Fernando Marcal and the referee, plus 30,000 or so spectators, were in no doubt it was a penalty. A brainless moment from a young lad who’s been chopped and changed all season and looks very unsure and uncomfortable with his role. Captain Nabil Fekir brilliantly dispatched the spot kick and Lyon were ahead.
The next 20 minutes were as bad as anything we’ve seen this season with players petrified to make a risky pass or ask for the ball, a stark contrast to the visitors who were popping passes off, making brilliant runs and playing with real verve and confidence. Marcal had the chance to increase the deficit and give Lyon a two-goal advantage just 5 minutes after the penalty. The Brazilian wing back was played through by 20 year old wonder kid Lucas Tousart, after he had picked the pocket of the hapless Davy Klaassen, who was having his worst performance so far in the royal blue and was hauled off at the break. Marcal was one on one with Pickford but Everton captain on the night Ashley Williams got across to make a superb goal saving challenge.
The only players who looked willing to have a go at the visitors were Tom Davies and Nikola Vlasic who combined well and worked tirelessly to try and put the Lyon rearguard under some pressure. Kevin Mirallas, Morgan Schneiderlin and Davies all had efforts but they were either blocked or dragged wide and it took until past the half hour mark for the Blues to really test the Portuguese goalkeeper Anthony Lopes.
It was unsurprisingly Vlasic and Davies who were involved as they combined passes with Mirallas before Davies slipped the ball through beautifully for the Belgian. He had little time to think but went to slip it low past Lopes however the keeper got down well and put it behind for a corner.
It would be Lyon who would throw the next punch as former Manchester United winger Memphis Depay drilled a free kick at Pickford’s goal, Davies attempted to block it with his head and instead diverted it onto his own crossbar, a slice of unlikely luck for the Toffees. Everton did improve after the half hour mark but it was still way below par as they traded chances with Lyon. Klaassen’s only bright spark came as he nicked the ball from Marcal a few yards from the visitors box, however his effort on goal was poor and Lopes collected it comfortably. The final chance of the half fell to Les Gones as Myziane Maolida slipped in Depay, who was clear of the Everton defence but couldn’t beat Pickford who came to the Blues aid once again, getting down well to smother the Dutchman’s effort.
Ademola Lookman was introduced in place of Klaassen at the break and he nearly made an immediate impression. From a long throw on the left, DCL flicked it towards Lookman who on the stretch managed to hook an effort at goal, Lopes parried it clear however. It certainly was a thriller for the neutrals as both sides began trading attacks, with Lyon a looking very menacing on the break. Houssam Aouar picked Davies’ pocket and drove at goal, eventually sliding in Maolida who looked certain to score his first Lyon goal, but Schneiderlin got across to make a wonderful block tackle, a tackle that would end his game for the evening. Gylfi Sigurdsson would replace the Frenchman and the Icelandic star would have a real impact on the final 20 minutes or so.
What happened next was a little bit crazy. Williams unnecessarily barged the Lyon keeper as he jumped to collect a simple ball, kick starting a melee at the Gwladys Street end.
Punches seemed to be thrown, including one fan holding what appeared to be his young son in his arms. Amazingly the fracas only resulted in bookings for Williams and Traore, both would have a further say on the game.
The brawl sparked the crowd and the team into life and the following 15 minutes or so were the best of the season as the Everton we love seemed to have returned, if only for a fleeting moment. From a free kick on the right, Sigurdsson delivered perfectly and Williams planted an emphatic header past Lopes, there was real fire in that effort and the Blues looked riled and ready to find a winner. Again Sigurdsson had the chance to deliver from a free kick and he whipped a lovely ball in which only need a glancing touch, but it went all the way through and cannoned off the post, so close and so unlucky for the Blues and it would prove ever so costly.
Just a few minutes later Lyon broke away as speedy substitute Maxwel Cornet left Ashley Williams in his dust and squared for Traore. The former Chelsea man got ahead of Michael Keane and flicked the ball past Pickford at his near post, a real knife to the gut for Everton who were well on top. It knocked the proverbial stuffing out of the players and other than a decent DCL header a few minutes from time, the tempo and aggression that lead to the equaliser had been extinguished and the Everton we have come to know this season had returned.
Another really painful night for Evertonians, despite an encouraging resurgence after the brawl the salient fact of the matter however is that once again it was a pitiful performance and 20 minutes of good play due to a fight firing up the Gwladys Street does not excuse that.
Koeman looked a beaten man at the final whistle. Tired, stressed and ranting at the officials but as stubborn and brainless as he has been this season, it was hard not to feel sorry for him. It is never enjoyable to see a man under that much pressure and on the verge of losing his job but unfortunately when you spend the money that he has and have the quality of players he possesses, the performances and results have to be much, much better. It certainly feels like a matter ‘When’ and not ‘If’ now in regards to his job. He could go before Sunday, he’ll probably go Monday if we lose to Arsenal, but elimination from the Carabao Cup at Chelsea on Wednesday will confirm the inevitable and Ronald Koeman’s tenure will surely be no more.