Everton secured a place in the group stages of the Uefa Cup last night thanks to a battling second-half display against their impressive Ukranian opponents, Metalist Kharkiv, who looked the better team for much of the match.
Indeed, the Blues appeared to be on their way out of the competition at the break, but goals from Joleon Lescott, James McFadden and substitute Victor Anichebe sealed a vital win for David Moyes' team.
McFadden was delighted afterwards. "It was a tough game but we had belief and knew we'd score goals," he said. "It was shaky at times but we got the right result in the end."
Everton's last foray into Europe two years ago ended in double disappointment when they made early exits from the Champions League and the Uefa Cup.
Metalist, who lie fourth in the Ukraine league, were backed by an estimated 30,000 passionate fans and buoyed by the advantage of an away goal. Expectation was understandably high among the home support.
That expectation was heightened when, after a cagey start from both teams, Metalist took the lead on the night and 2-1 on aggregate through Edmar in the 21st minute.
It was a cool finish from the Brazilian, low into the corner, following some nice build-up play involving Marko Devic.
Metalist, however, were not content to sit on their lead and Everton were looking uncomfortable at the back. It was the Blues, though, who squandered a fine chance in the 38th minute when McFadden picked out Steven Pienaar. He delivered a good cross into the area but Leon Osman's header was easily taken by the goalkeeper.
Joleon Lescott, though, made no mistake just after the break. He swept the ball in from almost on the goal-line after Pienaar had delivered the cross.
It was the defender's fifth goal of the season – he is Everton's highest scorer – but their hopes of building on that strike lasted only four minutes.
Tim Howard was furious at his defence as Hicham Mahdoufi restored Metalist's one-goal advantage. He scored from a rebound after Devic's effort beat Howard but came back off the post.
Everton showed their battling qualities to draw level on aggregate in the 72nd minute. Anichebe released McFadden and he swept the ball home after a quick turn and shot.
Anichebe sealed a fine victory by taking advantage of a defensive muddle two minutes from time.Reuse content