Everton produced a dreadful performance as they lost their Europa League opener against Atalanta in Italy.
The home side dominated from the outset, taking the lead when Everton failed to deal with a corner, with the ball ricocheting off Phil Jagielka’s hip and falling to Andrea Masiello to poke in.
Alejandro Gomez doubled the lead with a stunning curling strike, before Bryan Cristante drove through the Toffees’ defence and placed the ball into the corner, with Everton 3-0 down at half-time.
It was more of the same from Atalanta in the second half, minus the goals, with Andrea Petagna hitting the woodwork after being set up by former Middlesbrough midfielder Marten de Roon.
French side Lyon were held 1-1 in Cyprus by Apollon Limassol in the other Group E game.
Everton still too nice
Before the match, Ronald Koeman said he was taking the Europa League “very seriously”. He also said Everton were “too nice” as they were beaten 3-0 at home by Tottenham in the Premier League on Saturday.
The Dutchman made six changes from that defeat, but his team failed to show the intent and aggression the manager craved, with their performance arguably worse than that against Spurs.
Atalanta were clinical, controlled possession and utilised the wings. Everton were continuously on the back foot and gave the ball away far too often, with any move for a counter-attack breaking down. Dominic Calvert-Lewin, leading the line, hardly featured in the game.
They were fortunate to only be three down at the break, Masiello could have had a hat-trick had it not been for two fine saves from Maarten Stekelenburg in the Everton goal. Hans Hateboer also came close with a shot across the goal, with Michael Keane getting an important touch to deny him.
Having invested heavily in the squad this summer, Koeman fielded new signings Gylfi Sigurdsson, Michael Keane, Nikola Vlasic and Wayne Rooney in his starting line-up. Vlasic, a deadline-day signing from Hajduk Split, was at fault for Gomez’ goal, allowing the Argentine to cut inside after a lazy-looking challenge.
Atlanta’s return to Europe
The game took place in Serie A side Sassuolo’s Mapei Stadium, with Atalanta’s ground being renovated.
Despite being 120 miles away from their home in Lombardy, the Atalanta fans travelled in their numbers and were in full voice as their side made a spectacular start to their first outing in Europe since reaching the quarter-finals of the Uefa Cup in 1991.
Gomez’ superb strike showed exactly why he was one of the standout stars in Serie A last season. He scored 16 goals in the Italian domestic league as Atalanta beat Lazio to fourth place.
Elsewhere in the Europa League
What next for the Toffees?
After back-to-back 3-0 defeats, Everton face Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday (16:00 BST).
The match will see Rooney return to Old Trafford, while striker Romelu Lukaku will face his old club for the first time since joining Manchester United from Everton in July.
With Everton failing to replace the Belgian in the transfer window, Lukaku could well show Koeman the goalscoring prowess they have been missing this season.
‘I need to criticise myself’ – Koeman
Everton boss Ronald Koeman on BT Sport: “Our ball position was poor but most painful was in the first half – they showed more aggression, they showed more passion. That’s really painful because it starts with that and then you need quality on the ball.
“I asked myself questions on what I was doing wrong against Tottenham, because it’s not how I like to see my team. We can play bad football, we can miss chances, but the commitment and passion Atalanta showed in first half was much bigger than we showed.
“This is not the time or place to criticise players, I need to criticise myself because the team was not prepared for this tonight.”
Everton’s poor showing in Italy – the key stats
- English sides have lost 10 of their last 14 visits to Italy in European competition (W2 D2 L10).
- Everton have now lost all four of their away games in Italy without scoring a single goal.
- This is only the third time that an English club has lost their opening group-stage game of a Europa League campaign. The other two were Birmingham City in 2011-12 and Manchester United in 2016-17 – although Jose Mourinho’s side ended up winning the tournament.
- Everton conceded three goals before half-time in a competitive fixture for the first time since November 2016 (0-5 at Chelsea).
- Atalanta scored three goals in the first half of a European game for the first time.
- Five of Everton’s starting XI on Thursday were not born when Atalanta scored their previous goal in Europe (December 1990).
- Everton have managed four shots on target in their past three matches. Their opponents have had 21 shots on target in those games.
- 5MasielloBooked at 33minsSubstituted forCaldaraat 77′minutes
- 4CristanteSubstituted forKurticat 82′minutes
- 15de Roon
- 29PetagnaSubstituted forCorneliusat 79′minutes
- 2SchneiderlinSubstituted forRamírezat 66′minutes
- 18SigurdssonBooked at 63mins
- 10RooneySubstituted forKlaassenat 66′minutes
- 29Calvert-LewinSubstituted forMirallasat 76′minutes
- Vladislav Bezborodov
- Shots on Target
Match ends, Atalanta 3, Everton 0.
Second Half ends, Atalanta 3, Everton 0.
Attempt missed. Andreas Cornelius (Atalanta) left footed shot from the right side of the box is too high. Assisted by Hans Hateboer.
Attempt missed. Mason Holgate (Everton) left footed shot from the left side of the box is too high. Assisted by Sandro Ramírez.
Attempt missed. Michael Keane (Everton) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Kevin Mirallas.
Attempt blocked. Davy Klaassen (Everton) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Sandro Ramírez.
Attempt saved. Andreas Cornelius (Atalanta) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Alejandro Gomez with a through ball.
Attempt saved. Sandro Ramírez (Everton) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Nikola Vlasic.
Attempt missed. Kevin Mirallas (Everton) header from very close range is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Phil Jagielka following a corner.
Attempt missed. Phil Jagielka (Everton) header from the right side of the six yard box misses to the left. Assisted by Gylfi Sigurdsson with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Everton. Conceded by Timothy Castagne.
Attempt blocked. Jasmin Kurtic (Atalanta) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Marten de Roon.
José Luis Palomino (Atalanta) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Mason Holgate (Everton).
Substitution, Atalanta. Jasmin Kurtic replaces Bryan Cristante.
Attempt missed. Hans Hateboer (Atalanta) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Alejandro Gomez with a cross.
Substitution, Atalanta. Andreas Cornelius replaces Andrea Petagna.
Andrea Petagna (Atalanta) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Muhamed Besic (Everton).
Substitution, Atalanta. Mattia Caldara replaces Andrea Masiello.
Substitution, Everton. Kevin Mirallas replaces Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Attempt missed. Muhamed Besic (Everton) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Leighton Baines.
Corner, Everton. Conceded by José Luis Palomino.
Attempt blocked. Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Sandro Ramírez.
Foul by Hans Hateboer (Atalanta).
Leighton Baines (Everton) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Timothy Castagne (Atalanta) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Mason Holgate (Everton).
Foul by Remo Freuler (Atalanta).
Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Substitution, Everton. Sandro Ramírez replaces Morgan Schneiderlin.
Substitution, Everton. Davy Klaassen replaces Wayne Rooney.
Foul by Andrea Masiello (Atalanta).
Mason Holgate (Everton) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by José Luis Palomino (Atalanta).
Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Bryan Cristante (Atalanta) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton).
Attempt blocked. Hans Hateboer (Atalanta) right footed shot from the right side of the six yard box is blocked. Assisted by Marten de Roon.