Everton blood youngsters in dead rubber defeat

Roberto Martinez debuted two 17-year-olds wtih Toffees already assured of group win

Christian Atsu of Everton is tackled by Andreas Granqvist of Krasnodar   at Goodison Park. Photograph:  Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Christian Atsu of Everton is tackled by Andreas Granqvist of Krasnodar at Goodison Park. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

 

Everton 0 Krasnodar 1

Everton’s young side were unable to maintain the club’s unbeaten European record this season as Krasnodar chalked up a 1-0 victory at Goodison Park.

With the Toffees already guaranteed to top Group H ahead of the final game and their Russian opponents eliminated, manager Roberto Martinez took the opportunity to showcase the latest “diamonds” to come off a production line that launched the careers of Wayne Rooney and Ross Barkley.

He gave debuts to 17-year-olds Ryan Ledson and Kieran Dowell, while Conor McAleny and Tyias Browning both made their first senior starts.

Ledson, a combative midfielder and the England under-18 captain, caught the eye with a confident display while 21-year-old left-back Luke Garbutt was a threat in attack. But the result ultimately was a disappointing one, with Ricardo Laborde scoring the only goal of the game on the half-hour mark.

Martinez’s other priority for the game was giving much-needed match time to a number of first-teamers who have been missing through injury.

Chief among those was striker Arouna Koné, who was making his first appearance since October last year following a knee problem. It was also a chance for some fringe players to impress — but Christian Atsu’s game lasted only 11 minutes.

He was brutally hacked down by Andreas Granqvist in the opening moments and could not recover, meaning Dowell got his chance a lot sooner than he would have expected.

Koné looked fairly bright and tested Andrei Sinitsin with a well-struck shot in the 15th minute, the Russian goalkeeper taking no chances on a sodden evening and pushing the ball behind. Joel Robles did the same a minute later after Wanderson broke through on the right, although the ball slipped through the Everton’s keeper’s gloves and hit his face, necessitating a patch-up from medical staff and a change of shirt.

The goal was a horrible moment for the former Wigan man, who has had very few chances since following Martinez to Goodison. Laborde beat the Everton defence but, having come out to meet him, Robles then stood off the Krasnodar player, who embarrassed the keeper by dinking the ball inside the near post.

The ground was half empty and almost silent — just 14 Krasnodar fans travelled and were rewarded with VIP treatment by Everton.

Robles managed to keep out Mauricio Pereyra’s effort as Krasnodar began the second half the stronger. Another promising flash from Kone followed as his turn and shot was pushed behind by Sinitsin, while a good ball from Steven Pienaar gave Dowell his first glimpse of goal — but Ragnar Sigurdsson got back to block.

Everton’s attempts at catching Krasnodar offside had been exposed throughout the game and the Russians should have doubled their lead in the 73rd minute — but Joaozinho and Vitali Izmailov overcomplicated matters before the latter eventually shot wide.

With 10 minutes left, McAleny was replaced by another debutant, 19-year-old Chris Long. His first action was to win a free-kick on the left, and Garbutt’s delivery was headed just over the bar by Koné.

That proved to be the final real opening for Everton, with Martinez making it four teenage debutants by sending on 19-year-old Gethin Jones in injury time.

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