Match Report; “A game “Split into two” – Hajduk Split (1st Leg)

The team that lined up for the blues

A game ‘Split’ into two halves….(nothing like a cheap pun to suck the reader in, we’re off!). The first half had it all, clever Football, chances, goals, flying seats and angry Croats. The second half didn’t have any of that, the tempo dropped, Hajduk Split created some hairy moments and we are now left wondering whether we could have taken a stronger lead to Croatia next week. The game started well, Ademola Lookman -who looked lively all night- linked well with Rooney to swing a great ball in that might have given Everton the lead if Davvy Klaassen could have grown another half an inch to tap the ball home.

The Blues spent the bulk of the first half dominating possession, pushing and probing Hajduk Split with some half chances until finally just on the half hour mark Everton made the breakthrough. A Mirallas corner was cleared only as far as Baines who seized on the loose ball on the edge of the box and played a tidy one two with Klaassen before looping the ball into the six yard box where Michael Keane rose above the bodies around him and nodded home his first goal for the Blues, topping of a really impressive start to his Everton career.

The so called “Torcida Ultras” of Hajduk Split caused a fuss for Everton stewards and Police

It was at this point Hajduk Split got organised. Goaded by conceding the goal, they seemed fired up. They grouped together and marched forward on the attack. Not the players of course, the so called ‘Torcida Split Ultras’ had seen enough and tried to transport us back to the 80’s with a dance around in the stands. The police and stewards stepped in quick to stop any clashes and done well to keep both sides apart. Both sides therefore had to settle for exchanging chairs and coins at each other. A five-minute delay in play ensued whilst order was restored.

Play resumed and seconds before five minutes of added time was announced, Everton doubled their lead. Davvy Klaassen was involved again!…..I stress again because he has now had a hand in our last three goals. A clever run that took two players out of the game for Rooney’s winner against Stoke as well as an important role in both goals in this game. I can’t help but notice the unfair criticism the of the lad already. Ye dar thinks he’s too lightweight and doesn’t influence the game. Yet he wants to see Mirallas start every game. For me personally, I am not sure why Mirallas was given a new contract last year. Claus Thomsen could have played four decent games a season given the amount of game time Mirallas has had over the years. I think Klaassen is already showing glimpses of what he can do and it would be great if he didn’t become our latest scape goat just yet. Anyway the goal, Klaassen won the ball and quickly moved it onto Rooney who played a clever ball through for Gueye to slide his shot low below the keeper and into the bottom corner. Rooney could have added a third just before the break when he was put through in on goal, but he could only manage to fire his shot straight at the keeper.

Koeman brought on Tom Davies in the second half, in place of the yellow carded Morgan Schneiderlin. Everton created very little in the opening exchanges in the second half before Klaaseen was brought off for Calvert-Lewin. I’m a fan of Calvert-Lewin but it was clear at this point why we are so desperate for another striker. The game fell flat and it gave an opportunity for Hajduk Split to grow a little into the game. They fired a few warning shots Everton’s way, most notably Franck Ohandza unleashed a fierce strike that Jordan Pickford was more than equal too. Can we take a minute to appreciate Pickford’s ridiculous 73rd minute long ball to Calvert-Lewin’s feet? If you missed it, grab the tissues and watch it back. Filthy bastard. Besic come on late in the second half, I imagine he used his twenty-minute cameo as a warm up before his pre-arranged meet with the Ultra’s top boys in Stanley Park shortly after full time. He still managed to pick up a yellow card of course, but the sky is still blue, the pope is still catholic and Liverpool still haven’t won the Premier league.

All in all, it was a decent win and an important clean sheet. However, there’s still work to be done next week. We can expect a hostile atmosphere of over 30,000 waiting to greet us at the Stadion Poljud and with just a two-goal lead to protect, this one is still by no means settled.

– David Hughes (@DAHughes92)

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