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Everton vs Wolfsburg match report: Tim Howard hands Everton clear advantage

At the fourth attempt an English side beat a German one this week, although not quite as emphatically as the scoreline would have you believe. Tim Howard was by far the busier keeper tonight but he did not allow Wolfsburg to take their chances while the Germans were rather more generous.

Felix Magath may have had other things on his mind on the day his contract was terminated by Fulham but, if he had the opportunity to watch the team he took to the Bundesliga title in 2009, he would have shuddered at the defensive errors that Everton rammed home, emphasised by the way Kevin Mirallas, slipped through by Samuel Eto’o calmly clipped home Everton’s fourth.


Wolfsburg, three down with fewer than 50 minutes remaining, kept attacking, skimmed the side of the post, struck the side netting and the palms of Howard’s gloves while wondering how they had lost this game. Ricardo Rodriguez’s wonderfully struck free-kick amid the last embers of the night was no more than they deserved.

For Everton, the return of European football to Goodison Park may not have been as feted as the return of the Champions League to Anfield, but this felt like a big, significant night for the blue half of Merseyside.

The opening fixture of the Europa League this may have been, but Roberto Martinez treated it with the utmost seriousness. The Everton manager selected his strongest possible team, the one that had beaten West Bromwich Albion at the weekend.

Tim Howard of Everton and James McCarthy of Everton collide Tim Howard of Everton and James McCarthy of Everton collide (Getty Images)

As a club who finished fifth in last season’s Bundesliga, Wolfsburg are better than two of the teams Liverpool will encounter in the Champions League and they began confidently with Kevin De Bruyne dominant in midfield.

However, when the tie was summed up, Wolfsburg, still searching for their first win in this season’s Bundesliga, could claim to have had more possession and chances but rather less of the luck, especially with the first and third goals. The second stemmed from a goalkeeping error.

The one that sent Everton ahead was, however, superbly constructed and an example of Martinez’s brand of football at its best.

For a Scottish footballer who has taken a keen interest in the referendum, this will have been a long night for Steven Naismith and he began and almost finished the move that sent Everton ahead.

Ivica Olic of VfL Wolfsburg is closed down by John Stones (left) of Everton and Seamus Coleman (right) Ivica Olic of VfL Wolfsburg is closed down by John Stones (left) of Everton and Seamus Coleman (right) (Getty Images)

The flowing play took in James McCarthy and Leighton Baines, and it was the England left-back who created the opening for Naismith with a fine pull-back. The Scot’s shot was cleared by Ricardo Rodriguez but the ball cannoned off the back of his goalkeeper, Diego Benaglio, and skidded into the net. To add injury to insult, it also knocked out one of Benaglio’s contact lenses.

He would not have enjoyed a replay of Everton’s second. Benaglio should have held Mirallas’s shot which was parried needlessly back into Baines’ path. In one season, Baines assisted more goals than anyone else in the Premier League and he has not lost the knack. Seamus Coleman beat his marker to the cross and Martinez punched the air; his strategy seemingly vindicated before the interval.

Within a couple of minutes of the restart, the game was for all practical purposes done, although Robin Knoche’s foul on Aiden McGeady looked to have been outside the area. Nevertheless, having had a hand in the first two, Baines was not going to spurn an opportunity from the penalty spot to score one himself.

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