Pressure begins to mount on Ronald Koeman as Everton endure another appalling performance in a 3-0 defeat at Atalanta.
The final scoreline could, and perhaps should have been more damning as Atalanta dominated a lethargic, uninterested Everton.
Ronald Koeman opted to make SIX changes to the Everton side following being taught a lesson by Spurs, handing a full debut to Nikola Vlasic, Maarten Stekelenburg was preferred in goal over Jordan Pickford.
Mason Holgate took the place of Cuco Martina at right-back, Phil Jagielka returned to replace Ashley Williams with Mo Besic in for Gana Gueye.
Everton travelled to Reggio Emilia, the home ground of Sassuolo, to take on Atalanta in Europa League action looking to banish the memories of Saturday’s loss at Goodison to Spurs and hoping to gain a first-ever away victory in Italy to open their group campaign.
But instead of recovering some semblance of form or confidence, the Blues completely failed to inspire and went down with barely a whimper in what has to be seen as a dreadful performance by an Everton team.
With just one win from their opening three Serie A games (ironically against Sassuolo), Atalanta manager Gian Piero Gasperini selected his team: Berisha, Toloi, Palomino, Masiello, Hateboer, Cristante, Freuler, de Roon, Castagne, Petagna and Gomez (c).
Looking to get back to winning ways and in front of a not inconsiderable travelling army of 2500 fans, Everton manager Ronald Koeman opted for a 4-2-3-1 line-up of: Stekelenburg, Baines, Jagielka (c), Keane, Holgate, Besic, Schneiderlin, Sigurdsson, Rooney, Vlasic and Calvert-Lewin.
The referee, Vladislav Bezborodov, and other match officials hailed from Russia.
The ‘home’ side got off to a quick, confident start forcing two corners inside the first four minutes as they settled and Everton allowed them too much time on the ball, the high, strong pressing game that Ronald Koeman aspires to nowhere to be seen.
Schneiderlin was lucky not to get booked for a strong 11th minute challenge on Gomez, shortly ahead of Sigurdsson, fed by Vlasic, testing Berisha from the edge of the box and then Rooney chipping just over from the edge of the box as the Blues finally registered a couple of efforts on the Atalanta goal.
Twenty minutes in and the Blues were still not looking as positive in possession as the hosts who looked to have more ideas and pace about them and Everton were needing to defend in numbers with Rooney in particular putting in a decent shift for the cause.
Another good Atalanta attack saw Cristante cut in from the right and a fierce shot was blocked by Jagielka to safety, but the pressure was building inexorably albeit with Stekelenburg hardly troubled.
Stekelenburg was needed on 26 minutes denying Masiello with an instinctive save as he picked up a knock down from Petagna, the save bringing another corner from which Atalanta opened the scoring. Gomez swung the cross in from the right and a flick of de Roon saw Masiello at the back post unmarked, tap home.
Atalanta began to turn up the heat, being sharper to react, quicker in possession and thinking and forcing Everton into errors far, far too often and easily.
Masiello was booked for a challenge on Sigurdsson, but the centre half was proving a real thorn in Everton’s side as he continued to appear more in the Blues penalty areas than his own.
Atalanta doubled their lead five minutes before half time when their captain Gomez, given too much time and space, curled a peach of a right foot shot from just outside the box beyond the despairing dive on Maarten Stekelenburg.
And things got immeasurably worse as the Italian side carved a third as Petagna got free down the right, dragged two defenders towards him to create space in the centre for Cristante to stroll into, collect the pass and easily slot home for three nil… and the worst first half deficit Everton have ever suffered in European football.
Half Time: 3-0
Amazingly, Ronald Koeman chose not to make any changes to the team for the second half and the first chance came the Blues way with Rooney taking a feed from DCL to force Berisha into a save low to his left. The home side responded with Petagna cutting on off the right to force a good save from Stekelenburg low to his left hand side.
Petagna was proving a major issue for the Everton defence and another strong run should have brought a fourth goal, but Gomez skied his shot when it seemed easier to at least trouble Stekelenburg.
Hateboer down the right flank found Petagna, he laid the ball sweetly into the path of Freuler and his curling shot clipped the crossbar as Everton fans breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Sigurdsson saw yellow on for a foul after cheaply losing possession shortly while Roanld Koeman contemplated changes. Davy Klaassen and Sandro Ramirez duly replaced Rooney and Schneiderlin respectively in 66 minutes.
Masiello was replaced by Caldara on 76 minutes, evidence that Everton had barely worried the Atalanta defence despite the best efforts of DCL who hadn’t received a great deal service with which to work, DCL then making way for Kevin Mirallas.
Everton were then glad to see Cornelius replace the impressive Petagna who had given the Blues defence a torrid time right from the first whistle. Kurtic then replaced Cristante as Atlanta used all their available substitutes, but still Everton couldn’t make any serious impression upon proceedings and the final minutes petered out with no further embarrassing additions to the scoreboard.
Full Time: 3-0
Ronald Koeman summed up his feelings, “Our ball possession was poor, but most painful in the first half. They showed more aggression, they showed more passion and that’s really painful because it starts with that and you need quality on the ball”.
“I asked myself questions in what I did wrong against Tottenham, because its not how I like to see my team. We can play bad football and we can miss chances, but the commitment and passion Atalanta showed in the first half was much bigger that we showed”.
“This is not the time nor place to criticise the players, I need to criticise myself because the team was not prepared for this tonight”.