Europa League: Everton qualify for Round of 32 with 2-0 win at Wolfsburg in Group H
Last Updated: 28/11/14 7:59am
Romelu Lukaku's first European goal in four years and Kevin Mirallas' second half strike ensured Everton qualified for the Round of 32 stage of the Europa League by topping Group H.
Everton’s passage to the competition’s knockout stages had already been secured midway into the game at the Volkswagen Arena following Krasnodar's 1-1 draw with Lille.
Boss Roberto Martinez made four changes to Everton’s line-up on Thursday night, but Wolfsburg made the livelier start, with striker Ivan Perisic going close on three occasions in the first 12 minutes of the game.
But Everton were inches away from opening the scoring moments later when Luke Garbutt’s corner was headed down by Sylvain Distin, who saw his effort rebound off the crossbar.
Former Chelsea winger Kevin De Bruyne then forced Tim Howard into an acrobatic one-handed save before Perisic later turned the ball into the net, only to see his goal incorrectly ruled out for offside.
At the other end, Mirallas drifted in from the left flank before shooting from the edge of the area which Wolfsburg goalkeeper Diego Benaglio did well to turn away.
Three minutes before the break, Everton opened the scoring after a swift counter-attack from a Wolfsburg corner. Mirallas flicked the ball into the path of Lukaku, who ran from his own half before shaking off a defender before powerfully slotting home past Benaglio.
Wolfsburg started the second half as they did the first, with De Bruyne denied by a good save from Howard who scrambled the ball clear with his feet.
Moments later, Nicklas Bendtner thought he had equalised after nodding home Perisic’s flick, only to see his effort correctly ruled out for offside.
On the hour mark, Aiden McGeady should have made it two when Lukaku’s shot rebounded into his path but the winger miscued his shot, volleying wide when faced with an empty net.
Perisic, Bendtner, De Bruyne and Marcel Shafer all went close as Wolfsburg chased an equaliser, but they were undone in the 75th minute by another incisive Everton counter-attack.
Lukaku shrugged off two challenges and advanced to halfway before feeding Mirallas with a slide-rule pass. Mirallas strode away from Gustavo before stepping over the ball and shooting across the goalkeeper into the bottom left corner of the net.
Maximilian Arnold almost pulled a goal back when his rifled shot hit the post, while at the other end substitute Ross Barkley saw his effort chalked off for a marginal offside decision.
Perisic and De Bruyne had shots that went wide in the game’s closing stages but Everton stood firm and Martinez maintained his unbeaten record in Europe as Blues manager.