10th Deceember 2020
Everton vs Fenerbahce S.K
UEFA Europa League, Matchday 6, 1945hrs
Something is off, thought Marcus, listening to the roar of the crowd. Is it the pitch? Is it the tone? Is it the volume?… Marcus couldn’t work it out. But it was there, mocking him. The fans were letting him know they were not happy.
And why should they be? Marcus had, at times, played his second sting in this tournament, due to the demands of the Premier League, et al, and their results had not been…encouraging. Despite a magnificent come-from-behind 4-3 win on Matchday 1 against CSKA Moscow, they faltered in the next match against Fenerbahce S.K, away in Turkey, starting a run of three games, including the league matches, of losing 0-1 to a penalty despite dominating the game. Marcus reflected, they’d had a good 3-0 win at home against Ferencvárosi TC, but had played awfully away in Hungary, only drawing 1-1. Worse was to follow as their travel woes followed them to the snowy pitches of Moscow, where they had lost 1-2 away to CSKA to leave their qualification hopes hanging by a thread. Win and they were through. Anything else, they were out.
Social media, as usual, was out in force against him.
The team was again announced over the tannoy, only this time Marcus could hear almost every word of the tinny sounds coming out of the speaker “In goal, Jordan Pickford. At right back, the captain.. Seamus Coleman.. At centre back, Michael Keane and Mason Holgate.. At left back, Luke Garbutt…Next is Beni Banginime. Also in the middle, Sander Berge and Tom Davies….On the right wing, Richarlison, on the left wing, Dominic Calvert-Lewin….and up front on his own, Erling HAAAAAAALAND!“
Shit or bust, thought Marcus. The whistle was blown and the game was on. Everton dominated the first 30 minutes without really ever threatening and Fenerbache were quite happy to play spoiler as they were sat at the top of the group. On 35 minutes, news filtered through of a CSKA Moscow goal, which put them top. Groans from the Goodison faithful. A minute later, a ball from Berge found Luke Garbutt in acres of space down the left. He brought it under control near the byline and curled a delightful cross into the centre. Erling Haaland rose to meet the ball and flicked a header towards the far corner. It looked for all the world to be a goal, until the Fenerbache keeper stuck out a despairing hand and tipped the ball over the bar.
As half-time approached, no-one had gotten a toehold on the game yet. The Goodison Park crowd were starting to whistle and murmur. It was too early to make a change so far, thought Marcus, as he watched Keane spray the ball out to the right. Coleman picked it up, brought it out of his feet and jogged towards the byline. His cross, however, was headed out to the edge of the box, under pressure from Calvert-Lewin. The loose ball came out to Luke Garbutt on the edge of the area who played a awkwardly-bouncing first time ball to the right to Tom Davies, who swivelled on the half turn and clipped the ball into the bottom right of the goal. 1-0 (44)
That eased some of the pressure. Marcus exhaled and looked around. It seemed a collective weight had been lifted off the fans.Then the half time whistle blew.Worst time to blow, thought Marcus, walking back to the dressing room. It was there he preached a message of calmness and determination. They were only winning 1-0, they needed to score at least once more. The second half kicked off and, just a few moments into the second half, Everton produced the move of the match! Richarlison recieved a ball down the right. He tricked the defender into going the wrong way, then played a wall pass with Tom Davies, which sent him scampering down the right. He got to the byline and crossed in low, for Erling Haaland to pick up. Crowded out by two defenders, he laid it back into the path of the onrushing Sander Berge who’s shot was well saved.
A couple of minutes after, Marcus walked over to talk to the referee’s assistant. When the ball went out of play, the numbers went up, 11 – 7, the ineffectual Dominic Calvert-Lewin was being replaced by Alex Iwobi in a like-for-like swap. Iwobi himself made an almost instant impact, running at the Fenerbache defence, before squaring across to the penalty spot for the arriving Sander Berge to drive low into the corner. 2-0 (54)
Everton were in the ascendency. 20 minutes later, the game still seemed on a knife edge. Marcus decided to play it safe and shouted to the players to change formation to a more defensive one and signalled to the ref and assistant referee. Up went the board for a double substitution . 35 – 25. Off went Richarlison, on came Kieran Dowell. Up went the board again. 3 – 24 . Off went Luke Garbutt , on came Fabian Delph. And again, a sub would prove the difference as Kieran Dowell chested a ball down in the middle of the pitch and had time and space to turn and pick out Haaland running a channel. He got into the box before awkwardly hurling a challenge when inside. The whistle blew and we were awarded a penalty! Erling Haaland, himself, stepped and stroked the ball low into the corner to make it 3-0 (79)
It was a party atmosphere inside the ground as qualification was all but sealed. There was still time, just five minutes later, for Fabian Delph to swing a corner across, only for the Fenerbache striker back to make a hash of his header and it fell to an unmarked Erling Haaland to hook the ball home to put the seal on the rout at 4-0 (83)
The final whistle sounded just 10 minutes after, sealing all three points for Marcus’ men and qualification for the knockout stages of the UEFA Europa League
Everton 4 – 0 Fenerbache