It might have been at a lower level but Everton’s return to European football has been altogether smoother than Livepool’s.
As Merseyside continued to debate the wisdom of sending out a weakened team to face Real Madrid, Everton took themselves to the edge of qualification for the knockout phase of the Europa League with a second emphatic victory at home.
In terms of finances and prestige, it is not the Champions League, but Lille and Wolfsburg are serious opponents and both have been well beaten at Goodison.
The Europa League does not hold much glamour in November but Everton, having taken the competition seriously from the beginning, can now look forward to the business phase in the spring.
Here the goals were scored by men who represent the backbone of Roberto Martinez’s side as much for their attitude as their style of play – Leon Osman, Phil Jagielka and Steven Naismith.
Fourteen-year veteran Osman celebrated a new one-year contract with the goal that broke the deadlock last night as he took down Aiden McGeady’s cross on his chest and thundered a shot into the roof of the Lille net.
Everton have mingled some skittish domestic form with a sense of absolute certainty abroad. Wolfsburg had been crushed 4-1 here in the opening round of matches and Everton were dominant last night, saves from Vincent Enyeama twice preventing Romelu Lukaku from adding to his side’s tally.
Steven Naismith, with a free header from about four yards, had spurned one chance when a little dinked ball from Leighton Baines put the Scot clear on goal. Only the ball striking the underside of Enyeama’s elbow prevented a second.
Nigeria’s international keeper did not enjoy his reprieve for long. Three minutes from the interval, Phil Jagielka met McGeady’s corner with a typically muscular header that flew through the gap between Enyeama and Rio Mavuba on the line.
The Everton captain celebrated with the pumped fist of a victorious boxer. Lille had been metaphorically knocked to the canvas with more than half the match remaining.
The knockout blow was delivered by Naismith at the third attempt, although perversely the chance he did take, which came hammering down from the underside of the crossbar, was more difficult than the two he spurned.
Lille had nothing to offer. That included Divock Origi, for whom Liverpool had paid £9.8m in the summer before loaning him back.
Everton (4-2-3-1): Howard; Hibbert, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; McCarthy (Besic, 85), Barry (Gibson, 67); Osman, Naismith, McGeady (Atsu, 67); Lukaku.
Lille (4-3-3): Enyeama; Corchia (Rodelin, 71), Kjaer, Basa, Souare; Gueye, Mavuba, Balmont; Mendes (Beria, 64), Origi, Frey (Roux, 64).
Referee: Bas Nijhuis (Neth).
Celtic progress halted by stylish late strike
Celtic were unable to book their place in the last 32 of the Europa League with two games to spare last night as Astra Giurgiu found a late equaliser in thick fog in the Romanian town.
After a superb save by Craig Gordon denied Seidu Yahaya, Stefan Johansen put Celtic in front after 32 minutes with the help of a deflection.
Astra Giurgiu drew level through William De Amorim’s stylish strike on 79 minutes, after which Vincent Laban was red-carded for a rash challenge on Charlie Mulgrew.Reuse content