herald

Saturday 21 October 2017

Experienced Everton striker marks return to Russia with vital strike

Everton striker Samuel Eto'o marked his return to Russia with a late equaliser as his side snatched a 1-1 draw at FK Krasnodar in Europa League Group H.

The 33-year-old former Anzhi Makhachkala player stabbed in Leighton Baines' cross in the 82nd minute to ensure the Toffees took a point from a game in which they had been second best for much of the time.

Krasnodar took a deserved lead in the 43rd minute through Brazilian striker Ari, who capitalised on a mistake by Everton captain Phil Jagielka - their goalscoring hero from Saturday's Merseyside derby draw at Liverpool - to fire in.

The hosts came close to making it 2-0 after the break when substitute Wanderson's shot hit the bar.

But the 400 or so Everton fans who made the 2,000-mile plus journey to the Kuban Stadium will return home happy thanks to Eto'o's late intervention, which leaves the Toffees with four points after two Group H matches.

Roberto Martinez brought Eto'o and winger Aiden McGeady - another player to have plied his trade for a Russian club - into his starting XI as he made five adjustments ahead of Sunday's trip to Manchester United.

Krasnodar, only founded in 2008, had enjoyed an impressive debut European campaign up to this point, scoring 21 goals and conceding only three in seven games, a sequence which featured victory over Real Sociedad and a draw at Lille.

And they looked dangerous from the off against Everton, with winger Ricardo Laborde very much to the fore.

The pressure from Krasnodar it paid off when the deadlock was broken just before the interval, although the goal was a soft one to concede from Everton's point of view. Odil Ahmedov lofted the ball into the box and it was inadvertently flicked by Jagielka into the path of Ari, who made no mistake in rifling past keeper Tim Howard.

Martinez introduced Romelu Lukaku for Christian Atsu at the interval, but with the Toffees showing further sloppiness, it was Krasnodar once again presenting the danger as the second half got under way.

Ahmedov looked to take advantage with a shot that rebounded off Jagielka, and Ari's shot then deflected off Baines onto the roof of the net.

Moments later, Wanderson - just on as a substitute - danced through the Everton defence and saw his shot bounce off the bar.

At the other end, Lukaku managed to get a shot away in a tight spot that Andriy Dykan touched behind.

It was a small sign that Everton might yet be able to get something from the contest, and it was not much longer before they were level as Eto'o provided a close-range touch to convert from Baines' right-side delivery.

The Toffees might even have gone on to win from there, with Lukaku having a header batted away by Dykan in the dying moments, before fellow substitute Pavel Mamaev sent a low shot into the arms of Howard.

Martinez hailed an "incredible result". He said: "I am pleased with the manner in which we stayed in the game.

"We showed incredible character to wait and get ourselves in the game. We finished the second half strong, energy levels were in our favour and it's an incredible result for us."

With Everton back in Europe after a five-year absence, Martinez needs as much experience as he can - something Eto'o provides.

"It's really important and that's why this is such a fantastic learning curve for us," he added. "If you come to a place like today it's where you need the experience of waiting for your moment. Samuel has that."

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