Job done and again, that’s all that really matters. Everton have come through their first European tie since 2015 with two wins and two clean sheets, albeit against far inferior opposition. As was the case with the first leg at Goodison, Everton were far from their best but did enough to keep the battling Ruzomberok from really getting into the game. Many may say that the overall performance from the two legs shows that we’re still a long way short of challenging the top 4 however it’s important to remember that not only is it still practically preseason, we also started last night’s game with 5 new signings. Bringing in so many new faces and getting them playing the way you want takes time and patience.
Our performances over the two legs were undoubtedly sluggish to say the least, but naturally players will struggle to perform to their best when they are playing a team they know they should beat comfortably, especially when it comes only 3 weeks into preseason. Rooney and Sandro really struggled with the latter spending more time falling over than hitting the target. He’s energetic and tries to make things happen but he never really clicked with anyone for the 69 minutes he was on the pitch. Rooney’s performance can only be described as flat and whether he can nail down a regular starting place remains to be seen as he had very little impact despite being played in his favoured number 10 role.
Two big positives we’re the performances of fellow new boys Michael Keane and debutant Jordan Pickford. Keane was arguably our man of the match and never put a foot wrong whilst also looking promising when he did venture forward. Pickford also had little to do but commanded his area well when he had to. He was forced into a smart save early on and looked composed from Ruzomberok’s corners, claiming a couple confidently.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin, for all the uncalled for stick he gets on Twitter, showed again that he can be a valuable asset for us this season. His strength and neat footwork gave us a different outlay and he finished his goal expertly. We still need another striker and I would be worried it we relied on Sandro and Rooney to fill the void left by Lukaku but Calvert-Lewin certainly has promise.
Our focus must now turn to the Premier League and our tough opening fixtures but with a crucial Play Off tie against Hajduk Split in two weeks, the race is on to get everyone back up to speed.