Baines deflected effort gives Everton a first leg edge.
Everton dominated the possession in this opening game of the Europa League, but will need to be a lot sharper in front of goal when they travel to Slovakia for the second leg to be sure of progression.
A sold out Goodison Park warmly welcomed competitive football back to L4 as the Blues opened their Europa League qualifying campaign against Ruzomberok of Slovakia on Thursday evening.
And an even warmer welcome was given to the team that saw home debuts for new signings Cuco Martina, Michael Keane, Davy Klaassen and of course and arguably the biggest so far, Wayne Rooney. Jordan Pickford and Sandro Ramirez were both listed amongst the substitutes.
Ronald Koeman‘s starting line-up read: Stekelenburg, Baines (c), Williams, Keane, Martina, Schneiderlin, Klaassen, Gana Gueye, Mirallas, Calvert-Lewin and Rooney.
For the visitors, head coach Norbert Hrncar selected: Macik, P.Maslo, Kupec, Kruzliak, J.Maslo, Gal-Andrezly, Qose, Kochan, Takac, Daniel, Haskic,
The match officials, wearing green, were all from Bulgaria.
The opening 45 minutes saw massive domination of the possession rest with Everton without overly troubling Macik in the visitors goal. His first meaningful action came when he had to punch a cross from Martina and didn’t look particularly convincing at it.
Wayne Rooney was keen to get into the action and his movement created space to create passing moves with Klaassen and Mirallas. A cross from DCL was miskicked by Kruzliak back over the goalies head, but he was able to scoop the ball to safety.
A couple of right wings moves involving Martina and DCL both ended with the final ball skidding out of reach off the well-watered and lush Goodison grass.
On nineteen minutes a decent move saw Klaassen and Mirallas work the ball out to Baines who cut inside to find Rooney who collected, turned and shot almost in one movement, shame it was off target.
Shortly afterwards, Qose won the ball in midfield and set up Takac for the visitors first effort, but his low shot was wide of the target and no issue for Stekelenburg.
Rooney was unlucky not to get better purchase on the ball after Martina found DCL who neatly beat the fullback and crossed to the England star on the edge of the six-yard box.
The best move of the first half saw some tic-tac-toe passing between Rooney, Klaassen, and DCL giving the return ball to Klaassen but his shot hit the side netting.
More good possession ended with a Baines cross laid off by Klaassen for Gana Gueye to shot from 25-yards, but straight at the keeper.
Stekelenburg had to dive full length, low to his right to turn a Daniel shot away for a corner before a misunderstanding between Gueye and Williams almost presented the visitors with a gift.
The half ended with another decent link between DCL and Klaassen with the shot from Calvert-Lewin again proving no problem for the keeper.
Half Time: 0-0
No changes by either side after the break saw Everton again on top in terms of possession without seriously threatening. A Martina cross found Davy Klaassen but the Dutchman put his header wide of the target.
Kupec was booked for a challenge on DCL and from the free kick, Everton won their first corner of the game from which DCL saw a powerful shot turned deflected for a second corner.
The Blues had a major scare on 56 minutes when a floated free kick found Jan Maslo in acres of space and it needed a fine fingertip save onto the crossbar from Stekelenburg to prevent falling behind.
Sandro Ramirez came on for DCL, who had played well, on the hour mark and there was a noticeable quickening of the tempo as he immediately looked more direct and quickly earned the corner that produced the only goal of the game.
Ruzomberok could only half clear the cross and it fell nicely for Leighton Baines but the shot needed the aid of a deflection to wrong foot Macik.
— Everton (@Everton) July 27, 2017
Having grabbed the lead, Everton relaxed a little and a nice move involving Ramirez and Martina saw Kevin Mirallas junk to his right and fire in a super shot that Macik denied with an acrobatic flying save.
A long ball from Gana Gueye gave Ramirez his first real sight of goal, but again a deflection took the ball out for a corner.
Inside the final ten minutes, Haskic was booked for a foul on Gueye, Ademola Lookman replaced Mirallas and Ruzomberok withdrew Haskic for Lacny whose first touch of the ball should have brought an equaliser as he rather scuffed a clear shooting opportunity.
Even with three extra minutes, Everton couldn’t find a way to turn their overwhelming advantage in terms of possession into a second goal.
Full Time: 1-0
Whilst nothing like a Rolls-Royce showing from the new look Blues, the team worked hard and eventually got the break their possession deserved. And those were the sentiments expressed in the post match press conference.
Post match comments of Ronald Koeman.
“I wasn’t surprised by our opponents. We had a lot of ball possession and worked hard, but we still have to get fully up to speed. One nil and a clean sheet is acceptable, we would have liked to get a second goal, but we will get sharper in front of goal.”
“I thought Wayne worked hard, was very positive and with another week, I think we’ll see a lot more from him. He got the full game and Sandro got a good half hour and another week of training and the second game will see better things from both.”