Wayne Rooney’s Everton homecoming ended in a 1-0 win over Slovak side Ruzomberok with the former Manchester United striker having a quiet return to Goodison Park in the Europa League, third qualifying round, first-leg on Thursday.
The 31-year-old re-signed with his boyhood club earlier this month after enjoying 13 years with Manchester United and was, of course, given a warm welcome from the home supporters.
But, playing in his old centre-forward role, the Liverpool-born Rooney was unable to truly threaten the Ruzomberok goal and only really became influential once he had moved out to the right flank.
Rooney’s positional switch came after Everton manager Ronald Koeman brought on another new signing, Spaniard Sandro Ramirez, in the 61st minute.
Ramirez, “a different kind of number nine to Wayne” according to Koeman, brought the sharpness, urgency and physical presence to the Everton attack that had been missing as Rooney floated in more of a free role.
Within four minutes of the change, Everton took the lead when, from a corner, the ball was cleared to Leighton Baines, whose fierce drive took a deflection and beat Ruzomberok keeper Matus Macik.
Koeman indicated that Ramirez, with another week of training under his belt, could start in Slovakia next Thursday and that could mean Rooney beginning in the wider role.
On the limited evidence of his first outing that may well be the wisest choice given Rooney’s pace is now far from that of the teenager who made his name at Goodison.
Asked for his views on Rooney’s first competitive game under his charge, Koeman said: “Good, positive. He worked very hard. A lot of positives after four weeks of pre-season.”
While the Premier League team might have expected to have created a bigger advantage for next week’s second leg, Koeman said he was content with the result.
“One-nil is not a bad result maybe everybody thought we would get a bigger result at home but everybody needs to realise that we are in just the fourth week of pre-season and not at 100 percent. In European football a 1-0 with a clean sheet is a good result,” he said.
The Dutchman is hoping the Slovak side, who were well organised and played with a deep defence, will come out and attack more in the second leg.
“They need to do more than they did tonight and maybe that makes a totally different game for us,” Koeman said.
Results from the UEFA Europa League Qualifying Round 3 first leg matches on Thursday:
Austria Vienna (Austria) – AEL Limassol (Cyprus) 0-0
Everton (England) – Ruzomberok (Slovakia) 1-0
Freiburg (Germany) – Domzale (Slovenia) 1-0
Aberdeen (Scotland) – Apollon Limassol (Cyprus) 2-1
Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) – Odd Grenland (Norway) 2-1
Olympique Marseille (France) – Oostende (Belgium) 4-2
Gent (Belgium) – SCR Altach (Austria) 1-1
Red Star Belgrade (Serbia) – Sparta Prague (Czech Republic) 2-0
Girondins Bordeaux (France) – Videoton FC (Hungary) 2-1
Panathinaikos (Greece) – FK Qabala (Azerbaijan) 1-0
Arka Gdynia (Poland) – Midtjylland (Denmark) 3-2
Brondby (Denmark) – Hajduk Split (Croatia) 0-0
Universitatea Craiova (Romania) – AC Milan (Italy) 0-1
Bnei Yehuda (Israel) – Zenit St Petersburg (Russia) 0-2
Botev Plovdiv (Bulgaria) – Maritimo (Portugal) 0-0
Dinamo Bucharest (Romania) – Athletic Club (Spain) 1-1
FC Astra (Romania) – FC Oleksandriya (Ukraine) 0-0
AEK Larnaca (Cyprus) – Dinamo Minsk (Belarus) 2-0
AIK Stockholm (Sweden) – Braga (Portugal) 1-1
FC Krasnodar (Russia) – Lyngby (Denmark) 2-1
Utrecht (Netherlands) – Lech Poznan (Poland) 0-0
Ostersunds FK (Sweden) – CS Fola Esch (Luxembourg) 1-0
PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands) – Osijek (Croatia) 0-1
Sturm Graz (Austria) – Fenerbahce (Turkey) 1-2
Suduva Marijampole (Lithuania) – Sion (Switzerland) 3-0
Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel) – Panionios (Greece) 1-0
Olimpik Donetsk (Ukraine) – PAOK Salonika (Greece) 1-1
Trakai (Lithuania) – KF Shkendija (Macedonia) 2-1
Mlada Boleslav (Czech Republic) – Skenderbeu (Albania) 2-1