PARIS – Struggling Everton crashed out of the Europa League group stage on Thursday with two matches still to play after a 3-0 defeat in Lyon, while AC Milan missed a chance to clinch a spot in the last 32.
Languishing in the relegation zone in the Premier League and without a permanent manager since the sacking of Ronald Koeman last week, Everton succumbed to three second-half goals in France.
Bertrand Traore rounded Jordan Pickford to break the deadlock on 68 minutes, with the Burkina Faso striker breaking down in tears just days after the death of former international team-mate Soulama Abdoulaye.
The 37-year-old Abdoulaye died last week after a long illness. He won 42 caps for Burkina Faso and featured in the squad that reached the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations final.
An emotional Traore was replaced moments after scoring, as Memphis Depay then set up 19-year-old Houssem Aouar to steer in a slick second goal for the hosts on 76 minutes.
The former Manchester United winger completed the scoring himself late on after another ex-United player, Morgan Schneiderlin, was sent off for a second booking in the Group E clash.
“We’re really disappointed with the result. For nearly 70 minutes, we were nearly perfect with our game plan and created a couple of opportunities and should have scored,” said Everton caretaker manager David Unsworth, who refused to be drawn on his future.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the football club. Whatever will be, will be. It’s for other people to decide. It’s about recovering from this result and picking the team for Sunday (against Watford) – a cup final, for me.”
Everton also lost defender Cuco Martina to a worrying incident in the first half as the Curacao international was stretchered off in a neck brace following an awkward fall.
“Cuco was concussed and complaining of pains down his neck. He’s gone straight to hospital for X-rays and scans. We wish him all the best,” said Unsworth.
Troubled Milan held
Seven-time European champions AC Milan, in the midst of a poor run of form in Serie A, failed to relieve much pressure on under-fire manager Vincenzo Montella following a 0-0 draw at AEK Athens.
The Italians hit the post on 57 minutes through Riccardo Montolivo, while Turkey midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu had a powerful drive turned away as Milan remained two points clear of their Greek hosts in Group D.
Vitaliy Buyalskiy fired Dynamo Kiev into the knockout phase after the Ukrainian side secured a 1-0 victory over Group B rivals Young Boys in Switzerland.
Villarreal are on course to advance from Group A after a 2-0 victory at Slavia Prague, but Hoffenheim’s qualification hopes in Group C suffered a costly blow as the Germans conceded a stoppage-time equaliser in a 1-1 draw away to Istanbul Basaksehir.
Having made a perfect start to their Europa League campaign, Arsenal can secure a place in the knockout phase with two group games to spare by beating Red Star Belgrade later on Thursday.
The Gunners play host to the 1991 European Cup winners in north London a fortnight after Olivier Giroud’s remarkable late goal secured a 1-0 win in Belgrade.
Surprise Swedish side Ostersund – coached by Englishman Graham Potter – will extend their run in Europe into the New Year with the right combination of results as they visit Athletic Bilbao. — AFP