Match Report: Hajduk Split 1 – 1 Everton (1-3 Agg.)
A stunning goal from Gylfi Sigurdsson and a crucial penalty save from Jordan Pickford saw Everton progress to the group stages of the Europa League having survived the shock of a fine goal from Radosevic just before half time.
Needing a big win against an unbeaten Everton, Split manager Joan Carrillo selected a 4-3-3: Stipica, Memolla, Lopez, Nizic, Juranovic, Barry, Radosevic, Gentsoglou, Erceg, Said and Vlasic.
With the two-nil first leg advantage and the group stages beckoning, Blues boss Ronald Koeman named his starting line-up in a 4-2-3-1 formation of: Pickford, Baines (c), Williams, Keane, Martina, Besic, Schneiderlin, Sigurdsson, Lookman, Calvert-Lewin and Rooney.
The match officials, headed by referee Sergei Karasev, hailed from Russia.
Rooney won Everton an early corner taken by Sigurdsson that saw Stipica punch clear and Besic send a first time volley wide of the target. And the Blues looked eager to add to their advantage with Baines getting forward to swing in a cross that Stipica was pleased to hold. Sigurdsson got away with a slight push in the penalty area as Split got men into the box in search of an early marker to put pressure on the Blues in what was a lively start to the game.
After the early rushes, the game settled with the Blues looking to keep things calm at the back, press high with DCL in particular lively in his movement forcing the home side back. A 20th minute cross from the right by Martina saw Rooney mistime his header in the best chance of the game to that point.
A good move down the left flank involving Baines and DCL led to a snap shot by Sigurdsson that went wide of the target without troubling Stipica. At the other end, a right wing cross from Erceg found Memolla, but his header lacked power and direction sailing high over the bar.
Everton were looking comfortable and knocking the ball around confidently with Martina keen to support Lookman down the right flank with Sigurdsson and Rooney offering the inside outlet. When Split did try to get forward, Everton were back in numbers to clear.
Half-hearted claims for a penalty came when Lopez bundled Rooney over in the box, but the Russian referee was having none of it. Split then worked a chance when Said missed an overhead attempt for the ball to reach Erceg and his side-footed shot was finger tipped to safety by Pickford.
Martina with a superb tackle on Erceg denied Split another shooting opportunity but, the home side recovered possession from an Everton throw-in and worked the ball around, moving Besic and Schneiderlin slightly out of position, for Radosevic to crash home a 43rd minute 35-yard howitzer, with a slight deflection off Baines, that even Pickford couldn’t reach.
It hadn’t been a bad half by the Blues, but the Radosevic strike certainly meant Ronald Koeman had some work to do in the break to maybe calm a few nerves down.
Half Time: 1-0
Aaron Lennon appeared for the second half at the expense of Lookman and literally straight from the kick-off, we saw a simply outstanding goal as Gylfi Sigurdsson fired a 40-yard volley beyond Stipica with barely 13 seconds of the second half played.
Lennon was quickly into the action as he skipped past a defender to cross for Rooney who couldn’t get enough on the ball to trouble the keeper.
Ashley Williams with the type of no-nonsense tackle he was signed for denied Said as Split, now needing to score three more, tried to respond. Another key block by Williams on a shot from Barry fell nicely for Pickford to gather.
A ball over the top from Besic found Sigurdsson beating the offside trap to find oceans of space on the left and his cross aimed for DCL was hurriedly turned away for a corner that came to nothing.
Split were awarded a 64th minute penalty as Gentsoglou span away from Williams who clipped him and Jordan Pickford came up with a save low to his right to deny Said and guarantee progression to the group stages.
Stipica denied DCL latching onto another good ball over the top from Besic, narrowing the angle to deny the Everton forward.
Besic picked up the almost obligatory booking on 71 minutes and Koeman used the stoppage to send Tom Davies on for DCL who had again impressed with his willingness and sheer work ethic.
Said fired wide after a cross from the left evaded both Besic and Martina, before Radosevic was booked for bundling Davies to the ground.
Inside the final ten minutes, Keane floated a ball over the top for Wayne Rooney and he had to check before shooting and that momentary delay allowed Stipica to get his angles right to make the save.
For the final few minutes, Everton played keep-ball running down the clock on a creditable performance and result that Ronald Koeman will have been delighted to achieve.
Full Time: 1-1
In his post-match analysis, Ronald Koeman noted, “It was a big test for our younger players tonight in the atmosphere. They will learn from it. You see the older players, like Rooney, Baines, Williams, Schneiderlin and Sigurdsson, knowing what to do at the right times which makes it easier.”
“The penalty save was key as well because there were still 30 minutes to go at that time. Jordan is showing that we made the right decision to sign him. He is still a young goalkeeper and I have been really impressed by what he’s done from day one here. It’s an important position in the team. There’s a big future for Everton and a big future for him.”
“We dropped a little bit in the first half to be compact but I thought we did well from the start. The goal just before half-time made it difficult, but before that neither side created many chances.”
“I saw Gylfi’s goal, but I don’t think everyone on the bench did! It was incredible. I don’t have any other word for it. You need to be really clever to see that possibility and, after two or three weeks of the season, it could be the goal of the season. It was really important to be level so quickly in the second half.”