For the seventh successive time Everton left Goodison Park without a win but it was a defeat that lacked a sting. David Moyes remarked that they had earned the right to field a team largely composed of teenagers in the dead final game of their Europa League group. Should the run extend to eight on Sunday against Birmingham, then Moyes will be seized by different emotions.
What would have hurt the Everton manager was the loss of yet another player in a season that has been swamped by injuries. Like seven who finished the match, Jack Rodwell is in his teens but is already a footballer of remarkable promise and some experience. To see him limp off after nine minutes with a hamstring injury was more hurtful than the Bate Borisov goal, driven by Aleksandr Yurevich low from the edge of the area, through the legs of Shane Duffy, who had already made one clearance off the line, and past goalkeeper Carlo Nash.
Moyes had announced he would be fielding a virtual reserve Everton team on the eve of the fixture and said: "We did OK. I don't have any complaints but am a wee bit disappointed with the goal we lost. It was a chance for them to see the level they have to achieve and show some concentration but we gave Borisov the ball too many times, especially in the second half."
When the Europa League resumes in February, the stakes will be far higher in a month in which Everton face Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham in the Premier League. Moyes replied that he had enough to deal with thinking about the upcoming encounter with a rejuvenated Birmingham.
Borisov have their origins in a tractor plant and sometimes this game was like driving a Massey Ferguson down the M6. It was slow, it was frustrating and nobody got very far. Goodison tried its best. There were blue and white illuminations beneath the vast "Nil Satis Nisi Optimum" banner, 18,000 turned up but it still had the feeling of a reserve game in the days when they used to be played at the clubs' main grounds.
Mostly it was a matter of playing out time, something cricket does far better than football. A woman turned up to the Adelaide Oval in 1986 with her ironing as England tamely batted out the day but anyone arriving at Goodison would have needed a far more strenuous activity to keep warm as the first flecks of snow began to fall. However, had this been played away, things would have been rather colder. Temperatures plunged to -14C in Minsk last night.
There was, frankly, better Christmas entertainment on offer on Merseyside but Seamus Coleman's continuing improvement after his dreadful beginnings in the 5-0 defeat to Benfica and Duffy at centre-half gave a glimpse into Everton's players of the future – although with the collapse of the Kirkby project where they actually play is anyone's guess.
Borisov had even less reason than Everton to be enthused. The match was meaningless for the Belarusians, too, but they had to travel the length of Europe to participate in it. In the shape of Sergei Krivets they had the night's outstanding player but mostly Everton managed to keep Borisov at bay without actually creating anything themselves.
Only once in the first hour did Borisov offer a shot for Nash to save. At 36, the keeper was enjoying his first game since a League Cup tie for Wigan against Notts County in August 2008. At least there were 14,000 more spectators to see him and you trusted it was worth the wait.
Everton (4-4-2): Nash; Coleman, Hibbert (Mustfai, 75), Duffy, Bidwell; Osman (Craig, 81), Forshaw, Rodwell (Akpan 9), Baxter; Agard, Yakubu. Substitutes not used: Howard (gk), Garbutt, McAleny, Nsiala.
BATE Borisov (4-2-3-1): Veremko, Yurevich, Bordachov, Sosnovski, Shitov; A Volodko, Likharovich (Pavlov, 56); Nekhaychik (Bulyga, 81), Krivets, Skavysh (Goaryan, 74); Rodionov. Substitutes not used: Gutor (gk), Radkov, M Volodko.
Referee: S Dereli (Turkey).Reuse content