Pressure mounts on Koeman as Everton taste more defeat
Lyon came out on top in feisty clash which leaves Toffees bottom of Europa League group
Ashley Williams of Everton clashes with Lyon players after a challenge on goalkeeper Anthony Lopes during their Europa League clash at Goodison Park. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Lyon 2 Everton 1
The pressure on Ronald Koeman increased as Everton slipped tamely to another Europa League defeat, more or less ending their interest in this competition and leaving them stuck at the bottom of their group with just a single point from three games.
Koeman has possibly had enough of Thursday night football anyway, or so his team selection suggested. Whether Everton have had enough of him depends on whether his gamble of fielding a weakened side pays dividends at the weekend, when at least three or four regulars are likely to be back.
The Dutchman admitted he picked the starting lineup with one eye on the home match against Arsenal on Sunday, which might explain why Wayne Rooney was not even in the squad 15 years to the day since his famous goal against the Gunners announced his arrival to the world beyond Merseyside. Perhaps his manager hopes that with a full week’s rest he might be able to turn the clock back at the weekend with another late winner.
The beleaguered Everton manager could certainly do with something going his way for a change. This game was only five minutes old when Lyon, also without a win in Group E, took the lead through Nabil Fekir’s penalty. Mason Holgate’s challenge on Marcal was undoubtedly rash and ill-timed, but what had stretched the home defence in the first place was a burst of speed from Memphis Depay, a player Koeman tried to sign for Everton last season.
Everton’s attempts to get back into the game were as laboured as they have been all season. Kevin Mirallas sent a low shot narrowly wide midway through the first half, though significantly it was from outside the penalty area. Everton were finding it difficult to do what Lyon were managing surprisingly easily, getting players into forward positions within sight of goal.
Depay was almost through again when Jordan Pickford came out to clear and the cleverness of Fekir was a constant threat. It took Everton more than half an hour to find a way through the Lyon defence, and when they did Anthony Lopes proved equal to Mirallas’s shot after Tom Davies had threaded a pass to allow a shot from a narrow angle.
That encouraging sign was put into perspective within a couple of minutes when Depay rattled Pickford’s bar with a long-range free-kick, Davies managing to get a possibly important headed deflection as the shot came in.
Everton’s best chance of turning round level came five minutes before the interval when Davy Klaassen found himself bearing down on goal, only to produce an unconvincing shot that lacked the power to beat Lopes.
Depay was guilty of the same thing right at the end of the half, wasting a good position by shooting too close to Pickford, prompting a frustrated Bruno Genesio to turn in his technical area to kick an advertising board in annoyance.
Koeman sent on Ademola Lookman for the second half, at the expense of the ineffective Klaassen, and the substitute immediately set up an attack then got on the end of it to bring a save from Lopes. Everton at least looked a little more direct and threatening with Lookman’s pace on the pitch, though they were once again indebted to Pickford for keeping them in the game when Houssem Aouar dispossessed Davies and the goalkeeper had to come out smartly to deny Myziane Maolida.
The match was held up for a couple of minutes just past the hour when a rugby-type scuffle broke out at the Gwladys Street end after a challenge on Lopes by Ashley Williams that several Lyon players deemed excessive. The goalkeeper had been off the ground making a catch at the time, and ended up being pushed into the advertising hoardings behind his goal. Spectators became involved as a melee developed, though no serious blows were traded and the referee contented himself with yellow cards for Williams and Bertrand Traoré. Gylfi Sigurdsson came close again moments later. That fired up the Goodison crowd in a way that little had previously, and a combination of vocal encouragement and Sigurdsson’s arrival as substitute finally brought about an equaliser.
Sigurdsson’s delivery with a free-kick was perfect, leaving Williams an unmissable chance to turn from villain to hero from six yards. Sigurdsson came close again moments later, but Lyon were quick to extinguish any hopes of an Everton revival. Maxwel Cornet turned back a ball across goal from the right-hand byline and the slightest flick from Traoré in the middle was enough to secure all three points.