Everton through to Europa League knockout stage
Everton marched on into the knockout stage of the Europa League as winners of Group H with an impressive 2-0 victory away to Bundesliga high-fliers VfL Wolfsburg in Germany on Thursday.
Paris: Everton marched on into the knockout stage of the Europa League as winners of Group H with an impressive 2-0 victory away to Bundesliga high-fliers VfL Wolfsburg in Germany on Thursday.
The Premier League side knew halfway through their own game that they were through to the last 32 as news filtered in that the other match in Group H between FC Krasnodar and Lille in Russia had ended in a 1-1 draw.
And goals from Belgian duo Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas secured a handsome victory for the Toffees as they extended their unbeaten run to eight matches and guaranteed top spot in the section.
"It was a perfect away performance. Our counter-attacks were lethal and I thought we were outstanding," said Everton manager Roberto Martinez.
"Big credit must also go to the back five because keeping a clean sheet here is a fantastic achievement."
Martinez made four changes to the team that defeated West Ham United at the weekend, with youngster Luke Garbutt, Muhamed Besic, Samuel Eto`o and Aiden McGeady all starting against the Wolves.
The hosts had won eight games in a row prior to a defeat to Schalke at the weekend and they were perhaps a little unlucky to lose the game, even if Sylvain Distin hit the bar early on for Everton.
Ivan Perisic then had the ball in the net at the other end only for a wrong offside call to deny Wolfsburg the goal, before the visitors lost James McCarthy to a hamstring injury after only half an hour.
Martinez`s side then opened the scoring two minutes before the interval with a classic counter-attacking goal following a Wolfsburg corner.
Mirallas touched the ball into the path of his compatriot Lukaku, who proved too strong for Junior Malanda and too quick for Perisic before finishing in emphatic fashion.
Wolfsburg had another goal ruled out in the second half, this time correctly, when Nicklas Bendtner put the ball in the net at a corner.
However, McGeady somehow missed the target with the goal gaping and Everton then increased their advantage 15 minutes from time, Lukaku setting up Mirallas for a brilliantly-taken effort.
Maximilian Arnold hit the post for Wolfsburg late on while Ross Barkley, on from the bench, had another effort ruled out for offside as Everton claimed a fine victory.
The result means Wolfsburg will be out if they lose in Lille in their final group game in two weeks.
Elsewhere, Dinamo Moscow beat PSV Eindhoven to secure qualification for the last 32 as winners of Group E.
Napoli are also through to the knockout stage after a 0-0 draw away to Sparta Prague in Group I. Rafael Benitez`s side are level on points with Sparta and a point above Young Boys but cannot be overtaken by both teams on the final matchday.
Dynamo Kiev`s 2-0 win at home to Rio Ave secured their qualification from Group J, while Trabzonspor joined Legia Warsaw in qualifying from Group L by beating Metalist Kharkiv 3-1 in Turkey.
However, holders Sevilla will still need a point in their last game at home to Rijeka to advance in Group G after going down 2-0 to Feyenoord in Rotterdam.
Tottenham Hotspur and Celtic are among the sides looking to seal their places in the last 32 later on Thursday.