Sunday 22 July 2018

Violence casts shadow over Everton victory

Everton 2 Hadjuk Split 0

Michael Keane of Everton celebrates his side’s first goal against Hajduk Split in the Europa League qualifying play-offs last night. Photo: Getty Images
Michael Keane of Everton celebrates his side’s first goal against Hajduk Split in the Europa League qualifying play-offs last night. Photo: Getty Images

Si Hughes

Everton claimed an easy win against Hadjuk Split but it came amidst an uneasy atmosphere at Goodison Park that will raise concerns ahead of the return leg next week.

Hadjuk Split supporters caused a halt in the game after attempting to storm the Park End towards the end of the first half.

Travelling fans shout abuse during the UEFA Europa League Qualifying Play-Offs round first leg match between Everton FC and Hajduk Split at Goodison Park. Photo: Getty Images
Travelling fans shout abuse during the UEFA Europa League Qualifying Play-Offs round first leg match between Everton FC and Hajduk Split at Goodison Park. Photo: Getty Images

Even after the away area of the ground was sealed off by a squadron of police, a second fight broke out in the lower Bullens Road stand - this time amongst themselves.

A reflection of each flashpoint's seriousness was marked by the image of each steward in front of the advertising hoardings not even turning to look at the celebrations when Idrissa Gueye calmly rolled in Everton's second goal after Michael Keane had opened the scoring.

Everton have control of the tie - their domination here absolute. But there must now be concerns about the safety of travelling fans from Merseyside when they visit Croatia for the second leg next Thursday.

In contrast, Everton's performance had been calm. With fixtures against the Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Tottenham to follow in the Premier League, their preparation in terms of results has been encouraging: four games and four wins.

Everton's Senegalese midfielder Idrissa Gueye vies with Hajduk Split's Croatian midfielder Josip Radosevic. Photo: Getty Images
Everton's Senegalese midfielder Idrissa Gueye vies with Hajduk Split's Croatian midfielder Josip Radosevic. Photo: Getty Images

Ronald Koeman clearly feels Everton's new players need minutes on the pitch rather than rest at this stage of the season.

Having completed the record signing of Gylfi Sigurdsson on Wednesday, Everton have made seven signings this summer and five of them were selected last night, though it might have been all had Sigurdsson been eligible and had Sandro Ramirez been not struck down by injury.

Sigurdsson was presented before the crowd ahead of kick-off. It will be interesting to see where he fits into this team with so many available to Koeman that already play in his position.

The Toffees then made a lively start to the contest, with Ademola Lookman having a shot deflected behind, Wayne Rooney heading wide and Davy Klaassen shooting off-target.

Hajduk made their first real push forward in the 11th minute as Nikola Vlasic struck wide, but Everton were soon back on the attack and Klaassen just failed to make the crucial contact when he slid in to try to get on the end of Lookman's low ball across the danger zone.

Following further efforts from Rooney and Leighton Baines, the latter burst into the area on the half-hour mark and stood up a lovely cross that Keane headed home at the back post having got above his marker Hysen Memolla, his first Everton goal.

Melee

Soon after, Slovakian referee Ivan Kruzliak called the players off the pitch as a melee had broken out in the away section.

With some objects - including pieces of seats, it appeared - being hurled, advertising boards being kicked over and some supporters almost getting on the field, stewards and police swiftly moved to the area en masse.

The situation had calmed down sufficiently by a minute or so later for Kruzliak to allow play to continue, and Everton subsequently extended their lead just prior to the break through Gueye, who took a touch after being fed by Rooney before slotting past Dante Stipica.

Rooney sent a header wide from Cuco Martina's cross early in the second half, before Hajduk fired a warning, Franck Ohandza unleashing a strike that Jordan Pickford pushed away.

Lookman then had a shot blocked by the foot of Stipica, although the flag was up for offside, before Pickford made two smart saves in quick succession, denying substitute Ante Erceg and Memolla.

Barcelona will wear black armbands for their opening match of the season this weekend in tribute to the victims of the terror attack in the city.

A minute's silence will also be held ahead of Barcelona's meeting with Real Betis at the Nou Camp on Sunday, as well as at matches across Spain.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport