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Koeman says Everton are afraid of playing forward

Manager comes down hard on players after limp display again

Everton FC v Apollon Limassol - UEFA Europa League
Ronald Koeman
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Everton came back from behind and then let slip a lead late in the game to draw 2-2 against Cypriot side Apollon Limassol in the Europa League yesterday. The result sees the Blues rooted to the bottom spot of Group E after two games, with Atalanta on top with four points, three points ahead of Everton.

After the game manager Ronald Koeman accused his players of playing afraid and not applying themselves.

“You saw the first 20 minutes. You saw enough. The way we started – every ball was back instead of playing forwards. If you analyse the first goal, it is given away easily and we didn’t defend against the striker.

“How can you get your confidence back in a difficult period when the team is struggling?

“The players are under the level they can bring. They have difficulties on the ball. Then it's 2-1 and you have more chances to win the game and still you draw the game.

“That is not helping confidence. It is another difficult moment.”

He was encouraged by the play of second half substitute Nikola Vlasic who was a real livewire and got the Blues’ go-ahead goal.

"You can take the positives out of individual performances like Nikola Vlasic but he is 19 and that is sometimes difficult to understand. He brought energy, he brought football. It is so difficult if you have so many players struggling.

“They are looking for the safe option. If you start well it gives energy to everybody. But how we started and how we conceded the first goal shows we are struggling.

“I am disappointed because we had three points in our hands. We deserved the three points but it is a difficult situation.”

The manager added that he could understand how the fans felt, and said the players hadn’t given up.

“They are fighting. I cannot say they are not running or fighting but they are afraid of playing.

“That is difficult. In the situation we are in, and yes I can tell it, we are missing seven or eight players. That's too much in the situation we are in. We had two wins and another today would have made a difference. It is in the head of the players.

“As a manager you can help the team and select the team but when the whistle goes you are not the one who plays the ball back.

“It is about giving the players options but we are scared to play forward.

“Sometimes there are not enough options for the forwards but in that case play the ball into the channels instead of the goalkeeper. We know the fans like us to go forward, not back, back, back. Then it is difficult to create chances.”