Everton qualify for Europa knockout stage

AEK Athens 0 Everton 1

Diniyar Bilyaletdinov's early goal was enough to give Everton a vital victory over AEK Athens which sealed a place in the last 32 of the Europa League for David Moyes' team.

Bilyaletdinov raced on to Jo's brilliant through-ball to slot past AEK goalkeeper Sebastian Saja with aplomb after just six minutes, and the Russian midfielder's goal proved the difference on a rain-soaked evening at the Olympic Stadium in Athens.

The result, combined with Group I leaders Benfica's 2-1 win over BATE Borisov, means the Toffees have qualified for the knockout stage as section runners-up with a game to spare.

It remains to be seen at what cost Everton's return to winning ways after just one win in 11 previous games has come at, however, as defenders Dan Gosling and Sylvain Distin, along with Jo, were all forced off due to injuries.

A heavy downpour just before kick-off meant the already fragile pitch deteriorated further, and surface water troubled both teams as the rain continued to fall throughout the first half.

Despite the difficult conditions, the visitors, featuring a makeshift central defensive pairing of Distin and Tony Hibbert - who equalled Everton's European appearance record of 19 matches previously held by Colin Harvey and Brian Labone - opened the scoring with their first shot on target in the sixth minute.

Bilyaletdinov lashed the ball past Saja after collecting Jo's pass following great hold-up play by the Brazilian striker.

Everton were hit with the first injury blow when Gosling departed in the 11th minute to be replaced by Jose Baxter after falling awkwardly.

Next to leave the pitch seven minutes later was Distin, who was a doubt beforehand due to his hamstring strain. The Frenchman was replaced by Shane Duffy and Moyes must have been left wondering who would be next.

AEK desperately tried to regroup but the best they could manage was a Pantelis Kafes header which looped a couple of feet over Tim Howard's crossbar.

Players were dropping like flies with AEK midfielder Grigoris Makos submitting to an ankle injury just before the half-hour mark, former Benfica man Gustavo Manduca replacing him.

It took 32 minutes for the hosts to register a shot on target but Howard was equal to Panagiotis Tachtsidis' long-range effort, parrying the young striker's shot to safety.

Everton seemed content to sit back on their advantage, while looking to catch AEK on the counter-attack by hitting passes into the spaces down the flanks where Jo and Bilyaletdinov were constantly troubling the home side's rearguard.

Nacho Scocco replaced Leonardo at half-time as AEK coach Dusan Bajevic tried to freshen up his attack, but Everton remained comfortably in control.

When AEK did break forward in the 54th minute, Hibbert was on hand to block Tachtsidis' shot on the turn from close range. The visitors almost conceded just before the hour mark, though, when Youssouf Hersi was given time and space to shoot from the edge of the penalty area, the Dutch midfielder's shot shaving Howard's left post.

Jo responded immediately for Everton, Saja doing well to tip the Brazilian's powerful shot around his left post. That was the striker's last contribution, however, as he also limped out of the match with what seemed like a knee injury with Ayegbeni Yakubu replacing him.

It was becoming a backs-to-the-wall affair for Everton as the hosts threw everything at them, and Howard had Baxter to thank after the substitute cleared Manduca's shot off the line with 14 minutes left.

But the visitors held firm under intense pressure in the closing stages to secure the win.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Tangerine Dream Edgar Froese
people
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
News
Friends for life … some professionals think loneliness is more worrying than obesity
scienceSocial contact is good for our sense of wellbeing - but it's a myth that loneliness kills, say researchers
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us