Merseysiders facing a very tough test in Ukraine
Sheer persistence got Everton a lead to take to Ukraine this week but they are unlikely to get an easy ride from Dynamo Kiev in the return leg.
Serhiy Rebrov’s side were much the better in the opening half-hour at Goodison and deservedly led when Oleh Husyev got the better of Tim Howard at his near post.
The Toffees have been good in the Europa League this season but were making little headway against their opponents until Romelu Lukaku decided to take on the Dynamo defence on his own and set up Steven Naismith for an equaliser.
From that point onwards, Roberto Martinez’ men looked the more likely winners with their Belgian striker proving a constant thorn in the side of the Ukrainians.
It was Lukaku who scored the eventual winner from the penalty spot after Danilo Silva’s hand got in the way of a cross from Toffees’ substitute Leon Osman 10 minutes from the end.
But Kiev have their away goal and are a real force to be reckoned with at the NSK Olimpijs’ky. They haven’t lost at home all season but do have a problem beating English teams – they’ve managed just one victory against Premier League sides in 10 attempts.
But they’ve thumped Illichivets 5-0 since that Goodison defeat with top scorer and star man Andriy Yarmelenko scoring two more.
Dynamo are seven points clear of arch rivals Shakhtar Donetsk at the top of the Ukraine Premier League and well on course to win the title for the first time since 2009.
Their fans are among the most fanatical, and notorious, in Europe and Everton’s players will have to accept that they’ll be entering a hostile atmosphere.
However, all is not lost for the Merseysiders. While Dynamo are a free-flowing side they couldn’t handle Lukaku in the first leg once he’d got his act together and Everton have won three and only lost one of their last six games in the Europa League with Lukaku scoring seven times in their last four.
He was also on target in his side’s easy win over Newcastle on Sunday and will be a key man in Kiev, along with experienced goalkeeper Howard and England defender Phil Jagielka.
But there is a feeling that a narrow victory at Goodison wasn’t quite enough and Dynamo are taken to win on home soil at 19/20 and turn the tie on its head. Everton to fail to score in Ukraine is 6/4.
The match kicks off at 6.00pm on Thursday, March 19 at the NSK Olimpijs’ky, Kiev.