ROBERTO MartÃnez felt his side had been â€œoutstandingâ€ at the back and â€œlethalâ€ going forward as they ensured progress to the Europa League knockout rounds as Group H winners with an impressive 2-0 victory at Wolfsburg.
Everton were guaranteed qualification for the next stage of the competition by half-time even if they went on to lose, with the other match in the group having ended in a 1-1 draw between Krasnodar and Lille. But Everton were already putting in a decent display at that point, going in at the interval 1-0 up after Romelu Lukakuâ€™s 43rd-minute goal on the counterattack.
And it was another breakaway effort by Kevin Mirallas in the 75th minute that subsequently wrapped up a fine nightâ€™s work and secured top spot for MartÃnezâ€™s men with a game to spare.
They might have had more goals, with Sylvain Distin hitting the crossbar, Aiden McGeady missing a chance when it looked easier to score and the substitute Ross Barkley having an effort ruled out for offside late on.
But Everton defended bravely over the 90 minutes against a dangerous-looking German side who had won 10 of their previous 13 matches. There was also some luck for the visitors, with a first-half Ivan Perisic effort being ruled out for offside when it should have stood. The score then was still 0-0.
Overall, though, they certainly deserved a result that maintains their unbeaten run in the group, taking them to 11 points from five games.
In the opening stages Wolfsburg roared on by their vociferous support, looked lively, Howard doing well to tip a shot from outside the box by Aaron Hunt wide before Perisic found the net but had the effort disallowed. The assistant refereeâ€™s flag was raised but replays suggested the offside call had been incorrect.
Having enjoyed some apparent luck in that instance, Everton were then dealt a blow as James McCarthy limped off the field, the subsequent enforced substitution seeing Leon Osman come on in his place.
Mirallas fired a warning in the 36th minute with a nice strike that Diego Benaglio tipped over, before captain Phil Jagielka made a great block to thwart Wolfsburgâ€™s ex-Chelsea man Kevin De Bruyne.
Everton showed their ruthlessness on the counter, Mirallas feeding the ball to Lukaku who got the better of Junior Malanda and slotted past Diego Benaglio.
Wolfsburg looked threatening again once more after the break and De Bruyne having a shot saved by the legs of Howard and another former Barclays Premier League player, the former Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner headed in only to see the flag up once more for offside â€“ which looked like the right call this time. And once more Everton struck as Lukaku returned the favour to Mirallas, who produced a composed finish.
Wolfsburg kept pressing but to no avail, while Everton substitute Ross Barkley hit the back of the net with a shot, but became the latest player to be denied by the offside flag.
â€œWe had to defend really well and when we did we defended in numbers,â€ MartÃnez said. â€œWe were patient with that and ready to use the counterattack to good effect. On the transition we were lethal.
I also thought the two centre-halves [Phil Jagielka and Distin] and Tim Howard were outstanding and I think the team shape helped those three to be at their best.â€
â€œWe are building something special going into the second half of the season,â€ he added. â€œThat is our objective.â€ – The Guardian