Everton manager Ronald Koeman feels Gylfi Sigurdsson may have already scored goal of the season after his spectacular long-range lob secured a 1-1 draw at Hajduk Split to put his side into Friday’s Europa League group stage draw.
Sigurdsson completed his £45million move from Swansea last week and came on as as substitute against Manchester City, before being handed a first start at the intimidating Stadion Poljud, where Everton were defending a 2-0 first-leg advantage.
Wayne Rooney was back in action a day after announcing his retirement from international football with England, but it was the home side who started strongly and reduced the deficit just before half-time when Josip Radosevic’s 30-yard effort flew into the top corner.
The home supporters, though, were left in stunned silence less than a minute after the restart when Iceland midfielder Sigurdsson looped the ball in with an angled drive from just inside the Hajduk half.
Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, another big-money summer signing after his £25million switch from Sunderland, then saved a penalty from Ahmed Said as Everton closed out a 3-1 aggregate win and will now await their opponents from Friday’s draw in Monaco.
“It was incredible. I don’t have any other word for it,” Koeman said at a press conference, as reported by the Everton club website.
“You need to be really clever to see that possibility and, after two or three weeks of the season, it could be the goal of the season.”
Perhaps with one eye on Sunday’s Premier League trip to Chelsea, Koeman had made four changes for Thursday’s European trip, also handing starts to the likes of defender Cuco Martina, Muhamed Besic and Ademola Lookman in midfield.
Koeman, though, is confident his Everton squad can make an impact on both domestic and European fronts this season.
“Everybody likes to be part of Europe. Football without European football is not a level we want to play at,” he said.
“(Being in Europe) is good for the experience of the players. It is tough, but I think we can deal with it.”
The Everton boss revealed Senegal midfelder Idrissa Gueye had been rested as a precaution ahead of Sunday’s match at Stamford Bridge, where Morgan Schneiderlin will not be available following his red card in the 1-1 draw against City.
“It was too risky to start Idrissa Gueye,” the Everton boss said. “He had a scan on his hamstring in the morning and everything was fine, but we didn’t want to take the risk with Morgan Schneiderlin out of the game on Sunday (through suspension).”