Martinez proud of Everton display

Published: Friday 28th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Everton boss Roberto Martinez felt his side had been “outstanding” at the back and “lethal” going forward as they ensured progress to the Europa League knockout rounds as Group H winners with an impressive 2-0 victory at Wolfsburg.

The Toffees were guaranteed qualification for the next stage of the competition by half-time even if they went on to lose, with the other match in the pool on Thursday having ended in a 1-1 draw between Krasnodar and Lille.

But Everton were already putting in a decent display at that point, going in at the interval 1-0 up after Romelu Lukaku’s 43rd-minute counter-attack strike.

And it was another breakaway effort, notched by Kevin Mirallas in the 75th minute, that subsequently wrapped up a fine night’s work and secured top spot for Martinez’s men with a game to spare.

They might have had more goals, with Sylvain Distin hitting the crossbar, Aiden McGeady missing a chance when it looked easier to score and substitute Ross Barkley having an effort ruled out for offside late on.

But Everton also defended bravely over the 90 minutes against a dangerous-looking German outfit who had won 10 of their previous 13 matches.

And Martinez said afterwards of his team: “We had to defend really well, and when we did we defended in numbers.

“We were patient with that and ready to use the counter-attack to good effect.

“On the transition we were lethal and every time we broke we looked really threatening.

“It allowed us to score two goals and we had another disallowed, plus Aiden McGeady also had a good chance.

“I also thought the two centre-halves (Phil Jagielka and Distin) and (goalkeeper) Tim Howard were outstanding, and I think the shape of the team helped those three to be at their best.”

Martinez also singled out Lukaku for praise. The striker, signed for a club record £28million fee from Chelsea over the summer, scored his sixth goal of the season from winger Mirallas’ pass before setting up the second for his fellow Belgium international.

And the manager said: “Rom has had, in my eyes, a very good start to the season.

“Maybe he has not grabbed the headlines from the outside but we know how important he is for us.

“You look at his game and he becomes a focal point in everything we want to do.

“You don’t get many strikers who are so strong and good at running with the ball with that power, pace and clinical finishing.

“Then his hold-up play is exceptional, and at the age of 21 he is a young man with his future in front of him. We value Rom immensely.

“We have been getting on with our season on the quiet and I think Rom has been exactly the same.

“We are building something special going into the second half of the season. That is our objective.”

The only negative for Everton, who have taken 11 points from their five group games in what is their first continental campaign in five seasons, was an injury to midfielder James McCarthy that forced him off in the first half.

Martinez said of McCarthy: “He has had a long-standing problem with his hamstring.

“He felt it out there and we will assess him over the next 24 hours.

“But it is a worrying sign when it is a problem we’ve had for the last few weeks, and maybe we need to find the real reason behind it.”

Everton had some luck on the night, particularly when Wolfsburg forward Ivan Perisic put the ball in the net while the score was still 0-0 and had the effort disallowed for offside – a decision replays showed to be incorrect.

The hosts’ coach Dieter Hecking thought his side had been unfortunate.

He said: “I think we tried very much in this game, but unfortunately we made a mistake in the 43rd minute and Lukaku did a great job scoring his goal, which broke us in that first half.

“I think we also tried hard in the second half, but maybe the final pass was often missing. We were unfortunate and their goalkeeper was really good.

“Overall, I am disappointed because once again I thought we played really well and we didn’t have the luck we needed.

“This is the fourth time we have been disadvantaged in a match where a goal didn’t count for us.”

Second-placed Wolfsburg have seven points and face third-placed Lille, who have four, away in their final group game in a tussle for the group’s other last-32 berth.

Hecking said: “I think is everything is possible from our final game but I am really convinced of our strength and that we can win there.”

Published: Friday 28th November 2014 by The News Editor

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