Everton denied crucial victory at the death in Europa League encounter with 10-man Apollon Limassol

Simon Hughes
Hector Yuste celebrates his late equaliser for the Cypriot minnows: Getty

Narrow, one-paced; experienced players routinely making errors. Frustration inside Goodison Park with Ronald Koeman is simmering.

The mood was reflected mid-way through the first half here when possession eventually found its way to Jonjoe Kenny, the 20-year-old right back from Kirkdale.

For a good minute or so, Everton had kept the ball but made no attacking progress, largely because there were no options in wide areas.

When Kenny suddenly became involved following a pass from Wayne Rooney, the ironic cheer stimulated memories of the football served up by Roberto Martínez’s teams in the dying months of his reign as manager.

Perhaps Neville Southall, Everton’s greatest goalkeeper, summed up the feeling most accurately. "I am waiting for the Forrest Gump moment when they all take their leg braces off and find they can run like the wind," he wrote on Twitter.

Adrian Sardinero handed the visitors an early lead (Getty)

With three wingers on Koeman’s bench, his choice of starting shape was puzzling. Everton’s better players were indeed prohibited by their options whenever they looked forward due to a crowded centre of the pitch. It has been a theme of Everton’s season so far.

Though they operated with greater speed after the introduction of Nicola Vlašić at the break, it had been difficult to establish which tactical responsibilities had been placed on Gylfi Sigurdsson, for example, who had spent the first half awkwardly trying to influence proceedings by drifting in from the left.

Vlašić seemed much better suited in Sigurdsson’s place and with the removal of Idrissa Gana Gueye, Sigurdsson - now in the centre - was able to supply Vlašić’s for his first Everton goal via a delicate assist. Yet still, Everton’s defensive flaws would show and moments after Apollon Limassol were reduced to 10 men late in the game, they would equalise.

Tom Davies in action for Everton (Getty)

Despite Everton’s flattening start to the campaign, victory here would have been their third in a row, albeit context is needed because of the standard of opponent. Apollon won the Cypriot cup last season but finished third in the league, and thus were – like Sunderland and Bournemouth before them – a team Everton would be expected to beat.

To claim Apollon’s most recognisable faces were familiar would be an overstatement. While French centre back Valentin Roberge played 10 games for Sunderland across two and a half years at the Stadium of Light, Brazilian midfielder Allan knows Merseyside having been contracted to Liverpool since 2015, though he has never played a first team game there having spent most of the time since on loan at struggling teams in countries like Finland and Belgium.

An Everton free-kick is saved by Esteves do Vale (Getty)

Apollon had scored a late equaliser to force a point against Lyon in their first Europa League fixture so maybe it should not really be seen as so much of a surprise that they were able to cause Everton some problems. Their lead came early, when Ashley Williams gave possession to Anton Maglica under no pressure. From the subsequent cross, Spaniard Adrián Sardinero needed two shots at goal to score.

It required a terrible mistake at the other end involving Apollon’s Portuguese ‘keeper Bruno Vale and another Spaniard in Héctor Yuste for Everton to regain some composure in their play. Yuste’s backpass was so wayward that it left Rooney with an open goal.

The visiting fans let their presence be known (Getty)

Individually, indeed, Koeman had chosen a strong team. Nine of his players would expect to start against Burnley on Sunday. The selection reflected Everton’s position in Group E after their 3-0 humbling in Italy two weeks ago against Atalanta. Koeman could really not afford to drop points here, especially with two fixtures against Lyon to follow this one. But even with Roberge’s late red card, drop points they did; Yuste redeeming himself by heading past Jordan Pickford.

Everton (4-4-2): Pickford 6; Kenny 6, Holgate 7, Williams 4, Baines 5; Davies 5 (Klaassen 67), Gana 5 (Vlašić h-t), Schneiderlin 6, Sigurdsson 6; Ramírez 5 (Calvert-Lewin 67), Rooney 6. Subs: Stekelenburg, Mirallas, Martina, Lookman.

Apollon Limassol (4-3-3): Vale 7; Pedro 5, Yuste 5, Roberge 6, Vasililou 7 (Zelaya 83); Allan 6, Sachetti 7 (Alex 77), Alef 5; Jakolis 5 (Schembri 61), Maglica 5, Sardinero 6. Subs: Kissas, Martinez, Jander, Stylianou.

Referee: T Bognar (Hungary)

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