Roberto Martinez switched from 4-3-3- to 4-2-3-1 and made 3 personnel changes from last week’s gloomfest at Stoke. Alcaraz came in for the injured Stones at the back and Barkley and Mirallas replaced Lennon and Gibson in midfield.
Sergi Rebrov deployed Kyiv’s usual 4-3-3 with the midfield anchored by Veloso with Sydorchuk and Buyalsky more advanced behind the attacking triumvirate of Yarmalenko, Mbokani and Gusev.
First 30 minutes
The opening half hour was extremely edgy with the Goodison hot-house threatening to blow its top due to the cagey nature of the home side. The anxiety both on and off the pitch was palpable, and this combined with Kyiv’s gameplan often left us snookered at both ends of the pitch.
When we had the ball at the back Kyiv squeezed us into our own half with Sydorchuk, Buyalksky and the wide forwards shuffling inside to block off passing angles from our defence into midfield, with Kyiv often having 11 men behind the ball. The outcome was that we often moved the ball from one side of the pitch to the other and predominantly this dynamic came to a shuddering halt when the calamitous Alcaraz would lose his cool and attempt to dink daft, inaccurate balls over the Kyiv left back.
Here we badly missed the cat-like adventure of Stones bringing the ball out from the back and committing opposition defenders. The much maligned Paraguayan isn’t perhaps as shite as he is portrayed in some quarters, but here he was stinking Goodison out big style, and Mbokani was getting great joy against him, particularly in the air.
In the first half hour Kyiv won the shot count 4-0, and the away side deservedly scored with their first effort on 14 minutes.
After we had twice failed to deal with crosses into our box – with Alcaraz again chiefly at fault – the resulting corner from Yarmalenko was cutely volleyed home by Gusev – in a similar manner to Giroud’s goal against us last week – with Howard typically beaten at his near post.
Gusev was initially picked up by Barkley at the far post but the toffee youngster’s run to track him was blocked off by Sydorchuk. When the ball is then met by Gusev it occurs in McCarthy’s ‘zone’ a the near post, and the Irishman should really have reacted better.
That said, both the Gusev and Giroud goals would have been easily avoided if we had a man positioned on the posts.
One further horrendous error by Alcaraz – this time a blind back pass – should have been finished by Mbokani, but the forward fluffed his lines and that was pretty much it from Kyiv as an attacking force.
Last 60 minutes
The turning point in the game came just before the half hour mark when Barry pinged a decent first time pass into Kyiv’s right channel between Silva and Vida for Lukaku to steam onto. The Big Belgian’s final ball was a bit crud, but the way he had sprung the Kyiv defence and powered past Kyiv’s grock infested backline was a warning to the Ukrainians , and one which the visitor’s headed by continuing to drop deeper and deeper into their own half.
Kyiv retreating to their 18 yard line meant we were now able to get the ball into the Kyiv box and through the gulleys with much more ease, and this resulted in as close to a long ball bombardment as we have seen under the Martinez stewardship.
After a Jagielka header had been cleared off the line the equaliser finally arrived and again it was Lukaku who was pivotal. The forward beasted 4 Kyiv defenders with ridiculous ease and played in Naismith who cushioned a nice right footed shot past the Kyiv keeper.
After the break Kyiv continued to camp out on their 18 yard line as wave after wave of blue attacks ensued – mostly led by Lukaku, and followed up by decent ‘2nd wave’ pressure from Barkley and Naismith that forced Kyiv’s defence into countless errors.
Danilo Silva was completely befuddled as to how to deal with us and particularly Lukaku, with the blundering galoot making more than double the amount of fouls than anyone on the pitch.
With the away side’s defence creaking and Everton dominating the shot count 16 v 6 in the last hour, the winning goal seemed inevitable and it finally came due to the intelligence of Leon Osman.
We’ve harped on all season on the blog about the imbalance of attacking personnel in terms of power over brains, principally due to the absence of key thinkers Osman and Pienaar’s ingenuity and ability to find space to received and link defence to attack.
Unsurprisingly it would be Osman’s ability to find such a pocket of space in a dangerous area which would get us over the line, as his clever run was picked out by McCarthy and resulted in the by now unravelling Danilo Silva handling for a penalty.
Lukaku, unquestionably the game’s star player, deservedly grabbed then winner from the spot, although it wasn’t the most clinical penalty the Gwladys Street end has ever seen!
Our resilience and ability to put a very capable side under so much concerted pressure and bag the win should rightly be lauded, and this result and performance puts us in a good position for next week’s return leg in Kyiv.