Tuesday 25 July 2017

Distin red leaves Toffees with sticky second-leg tie

Ken Gaunt

PATIENCE, David Moyes had demanded on the eve of the resumption of Everton's Europa League adventure, must be his side's European watchword.

After Sylvain Distin's late aberration gifted Sporting Lisbon a crucial away goal, the Scot will rue the fact that good things do, indeed, come to those who wait.

That Everton had one foot in the last 16 after goals from Steven Pienaar and Distin will only sharpen Moyes' frustration at his side's uncharacteristic generosity.

"We have given them an opportunity when maybe it did not look like they would have one," said the Scot. "We looked more likely to finish the game 3-0 winners, rather than conceding, and at that point we did not go for it enough. I am disappointed we did not see the job through."

Such is the steep learning curve of European football. One heavy pass from Jack Rodwell, one poor touch from Distin and Liedson had robbed the French defender and raced away.

Distin tumbled into him as he entered the box, referee Darko Ceferin pointed to the spot and brandished a red card. Miguel Veloso's penalty kick changed the entire perspective of next week's return leg.

It was a harsh denouement on the hosts. For an hour, they looked comfortable at the switch in styles Moyes had demanded of them. Everton were measured, restrained.

It was Leon Osman who went closest to opening the scoring in the early stages, pouncing on Rui Patricio's parry of Louis Saha's effort and bringing a fine reaction save from the goalkeeper as he scrambled from the floor.

The hosts' opening goal was one of pure artistry, the sort of strike which, had Tim Cahill and Pienaar been replaced by Guti and Gonzalo Higuain, would have brought even the aesthetes of Real Madrid to their feet.

The Australian latched on to Phil Neville's through ball. Shaping to shoot, he chose instead to back heel the ball into Pienaar's path, who swept home with his left foot.

Everton's second was less pleasing on the eye. Leighton Baines curled in a corner, Cahill jumped with Rui Patricio, the ball fell for Distin and he bundled the ball home. Sporting's protests of a foul fell on deaf ears.

Everton looked home and hosed.

But Everton then invited Sporting to attack, ceding more and more territory, looking ever more likely to succumb to the mounting pressure. Eventually, Distin did. Now, for a week, all Everton can do is wait, and hope. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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