Europa League: Ronald Koeman’s job is on the line after Everton lose to Lyon
Goodison Park clash marred by shameful brawl between players and fans
Everton manager Ronald Koeman is living on borrowed time after he watched his side lose 2-1 at home to Lyon in the Europa League.
It was another dismal display from the Toffees, a defeat made all the more dispiriting by an ugly skirmish that erupted in the second-half.
The instigator was Ashley Williams, who barged into Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes, sending him to the turf. Players squared up to one another, including Everton keeper Jordan Pickford, who ran the length of the pitch to have his say, and fans also joined the fray.
According to The Times there was even one man “carrying a dummy-sucking toddler”, a scene that defied belief as the supporter waded into the fracas with his child in one arm.
“It is a struggle to understand the mindset of an adult so intent on getting at a visiting player, that he takes a child into the fray with him,” said the Times.
“What does it teach the child? That physical aggression towards opponents is part of match-day protocol?... Maybe the critical headlines will serve as the first lesson. The shame game has begun.”
The same could be said for the two sets of players with a number of players continuing to trade insults at the end of the match, and it would be a surprise if Uefa doesn’t get involve.
They will also be asking questions of Koeman, who remonstrated with the Dutch officials after the final whistle, “three times going back to Bas Nijhuis, the referee, to complain about what he called the French side’s diving”.
Privately Koeman will also have some choice words to say to his squad, who are bottom of Group H and still looking for their first win in the Europa League.
They went behind on six minutes when Nabil Fekir scored a penalty and although Williams equalised for Everton moments after sparking the brawl, Lyon grabbed the winner on 75 minutes thanks to Bertrand Traore’s clever flick.
With Everton languishing 16th in the Premier League, these are troubling times for the Toffees and Koeman knows his job is on the line.
“The final decision is by the board not myself,” Koeman said when asked about his position. “If the board thinks I am not the right man they will tell me.”
Koeman, who received the dreaded vote of confidence from the club’s board this week, could be gone at the weekend if Everton fail to beat Arsenal.
“If the team is not winning and if the team is not performing when maybe they can, then it’s always the manager [at risk],” said Koeman. “The way we fought in the second half is something to keep and to continue. We know for everybody it’s an important game at the weekend.”
Arsenal have also struggled domestically this season, but unlike Everton they have found life easier in the Europa League, and last night brought the Gunners another three points to keep them top of Group H with three wins from three.
A superb overhead kick from Olivier Giroud was enough to see off Crvena Zvezda in Serbia, and Arsenal are now five points clear of nearest rivals BATE Borisov.
“I think what is remarkable is the spirit that we have shown and fighting together,” said Arsene Wenger. “We didn’t give up and wanted absolutely to score.”