Europa League: Everton close in on group stage qualification

Europa League: Everton close in on group stage qualification

Two first half goals have put Everton in a strong frame for the group stage of the UEFA Europa League after their first leg win against Hajduk Split at Goodison Park on Thursday.

The match was put on hold in the 33rd minute after the away fans tried to invade the pitch, throwing objects.

Three minutes earlier, however, Everton were 1-0 ahead following Michael Keane’s first goal for his new team, since arriving from Burnley for £25million.

The defender jumped highest to meet a very good Leighton Baines cross from the left wing to hand the Toffees the lead.

Minutes after the game was restarted, defensive midfielder, Idrissa Gueye, doubled Everton’s lead, after good work by Wayne Rooney and Davy Klassen, two new arrivals.

Despite both sides having chances to add to that score line in the second half, Everton held on to take a very good lead going into the second leg next week in Croatia.

The Toffees are now just a draw away from qualifying for this season Europa League competition.

While he was delighted with his side win, manager, Ronald Koeman bemoaned his side’s failure to add to the goals despite having the opportunities to do so.

“I was really happy with the first half and unhappy about the second. We lost a big opportunity to score more goals,” said Koeman, according to the BBC.

“In my opinion we lost a big opportunity to score more goals in the second half because we dropped the tempo.

“We gave them the belief to dominate the game. Still we were dangerous but not like we were in the first half.

He added;

“We knew we would get a lot of space on the sides and I thought we did well in the first half. We spoke at half-time about wanting to play and go for more goals but instead we dropped the tempo.

“It is always good to have a clean sheet in the first leg at home. Two-nil is a good result but you always like to reach the maximum – today the maximum was more goals.”

Everton also used the occasion to unveil new signing, Gylfi  Sigurdsson, who joined from Swansea for a club record fee of £45million.

Introduced before kickoff, Sigurdsson, who was well received by the Goodison Crowd, was however not part of the Everton side who took on Hajduk thereafter.

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