Everton make full use of Greek gifts

Everton 4 AEK Athens 0
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The Independent Football

There were four goals and a couple of sendings-off and yet the two extra officials brought in by Uefa to assist the referee were virtually unemployed. Just as they always have been, the big decisions were made by the man with the whistle.

Robert Malek dismissed first Carlos Araujo for aiming a kick at what might politely be described as Sylvain Distin's groin while, in stoppage time, he sent off Louis Saha for raising his hand to the AEK Athens left-back. It was a small, stupid flick of the wrist from Saha but Juanfran's theatrics were of the kind Aristophanes would have thought overdone.

"If this was the result of the experiment of using extra officials, then it is a disappointment," said the Everton manager David Moyes, after seeing his best day of an uncertain season soured.

"Their player aimed a kick at Louis and they saw the small arm but missed the big kick. Maybe they were looking for something to do because not to see the kick was wrong."

Moyes was angered by the theatrics of Juanfran and others who wore the yellow of Athens' third club. "One thing British teams and British supporters are not used to are players being on the ground so often. We have to get rid of diving."

Footballers throwing themselves to the floor is one reason why there were two assistants standing by each goal – the other was to judge whether the ball had crossed the line. Since all four Everton goals struck the net with a satisfying thwack, they were fairly inactive and come Borisov's visit to Goodison in December, you might imagine them getting rather cold.

Two down inside 16 minutes. AEK Athens were caught cold. Their first home was in the grounds of the Temple of Olympian Zeus but this was a decidedly mortal performance and the only surprise was that there were 45 minutes separating Steven Pienaar's spectacular drive from Jo's spin and shot that provided Everton's fourth.

By the time the tie was half over, Dusan Bajevic, who like Howard Kendall at Everton has managed the same club three times, was having to re-organise a side that was three goals down, soon to be reduced to 10 men – and he had already subbed the substitute.

One reason why Moyes had been so reluctant to sell Joleon Lescott to Manchester City – aside from the fact he had signed a four-year contract – was because Lescott was a centre-half who scored goals.

That Everton's opening two goals came from Joseph Yobo and Distin might have eased any anxieties. Yobo had, admittedly, only found the net four times in the last three seasons but he had seldom been as slackly marked at a corner – which was the first impact made by Moyes' new signing from Lokomotiv Moscow, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov. As the Russian's corner came across, three yellow shirts gathered around Jo but none guarded Yobo at the far post.

AEK seemed vulnerable to any kind of set-piece and with just over a quarter of an hour gone, they succumbed to another corner. This one was flicked across the face of the six-yard box by Marouane Fellaini and now Distin stabbed rather than headed the ball home. It was quite a night for defenders. At half-time Lucas Neill, who had rejected Liverpool for more money at West Ham, stepped on the pitch to milk the applause after signing a one-year contract that finally and belatedly brought him to Merseyside.

Everton (4-1-4-1): Howard; Gosling, Yobo, Distin, Baines; Rodwell; Pienaar (Saha, 68), Fellaini, Cahill (Osman, h-t), Bilyaletdinov (Yakubu, 52); Jo. Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Baxter, Wallace, Mustafi.

AEK Athens (4-3-3): Saja; Araujo, Geraldo (Nsaliwa, 13; Manduca, h-t), Arce, Juanfran; Kafes, Makos, Jahic; Scocco, Leonardo (Yahaya, 71), Blanco. Substitutes not used: Arabatzis (gk), Hersi, Nemeth, Georgeas.

Referee: R Malek (Poland).