With thunder and lightning in the air before kick-off, Kevin Mirallas promptly delivered a thunderbolt of his own to light up this pre-season friendly with FC Twente as Everton stepped up their preparations for the new season in fine style.
Mirallas laid the foundations for this comprehensive victory with a breathtaking strike on the stroke of half-time.
Then, not to be upstaged by the Belgian, Aaron Lennon marked his return to the first team squad by climbing off the bench to score a sublime individual goal for Ronald Koeman’s men.
To cap a productive night’s work for the Blues, there was still time for Kieran Dowell to continue his own personal goal of the season competition, the young midfielder following up his spectacular strike in Tanzania last week with another scintillating finish as Everton brushed aside their Eredivisie opponents.
With the first leg of their Europa League third qualifying tie at Goodison against either Ružomberok of Slovakia or SK Brann of Norway just eight days away, midfielder Davy Klaassen said before kick-off it was crucial Everton’s players built on last week’s 2-1 friendly win over Gor Mahia in Tanzania and showed manager Koeman they are ready for competitive action.
“We need to get stronger and get ready for next week so we can play 90 minutes,” said the 24-year-old. “Pre-season is all about building fitness but we have a competitive match coming up, too, so we need to be ready.”
Keen to give important game-time to as many players in his squad as possible, Koeman made six changes to the team that started against Gor Mahia, with new signing Michael Keane drafted in for his maiden start alongside Ashley Williams at the back, and England Under-20 World Cup winner Dominic Calvert-Lewin replacing Wayne Rooney in attack.
Rooney started on the bench, alongside the Club’s latest recruit Cuco Martina, who featured in Everton’s matchday squad for the first time, but Jordan Pickford, Mason Holgate and Sandro Ramirez, who only returned to training this week following their exploits in the European Under-21 Championships, were not considered ready to be pitched straight into match action.
It took the Blues just seven minutes to work Twente keeper Jorn Brondeel for the first time, Calvert-Lewin showing great awareness to seize on to a stray pass inside the area but his low, angled drive was repelled by Brondeel at his near post, and Gareth Barry’s follow-up effort was bravely charged down by a covering defender.
The Toffees were dictating the early tempo and they soon fashioned another shooting chance, Ademola Lookman showing nifty footwork on the edge of the box to create a yard of space for himself, before unleashing a daisy cutter that crept inches wide of Brondeel’s right-hand post.
Brimming with confidence following his exploits at the Under-20 World Cup, Lookman was proving to be a constant source of danger for the Blues and he tried his luck once again from distance, firing a dipping 20-yard effort which drew another save from Brondeel.
Twente were struggling to make any in-roads as an attacking force and they had another let-off on the half hour mark when Keane, who had ventured up field for a Mirallas corner, hooked a left-foot volley narrowly over the bar from inside the six-yard box.
Then, with half-time approaching, the game suddenly exploded into life.
First, Twente’s Danny Holla thought he had struck a decisive blow when he curled a brilliant free-kick over the Everton wall, only to see his effort strike the top of the crossbar with Maarten Stekelenburg well beaten.
But if that strike was impressive, it was nothing compared to the one that did break the deadlock in the 44th minute.
Mirallas picked up the ball on the left and promptly cut across the edge of the box with real purpose, gliding effortlessly past a defender, before sending an unstoppable right-foot shot arrowing into the top right corner with laser-guided precision. It was a stunning goal, worthy of any stage.
Koeman made two changes as the players emerged for the second half, with Phil Jagielka and Callum Connolly replacing Leighton Baines and Michael Keane at the back, and they soon found themselves in the thick of the action as Twente enjoyed their first spell of pressure.
It needed a fine save from Stekelenburg, who showed lightning reactions to palm away a shot from Marko Kvasina at point-blank range, to preserve Everton’s slender lead.
That was the signal for Koeman to make further changes, with Rooney one of eight new faces to enter the fray from the bench for the final half hour.
But it was another substitute – Aaron Lennon – who ultimately shone brightest, the winger marking his return to the first team fold with a superb solo goal in the 73rd minute.
The winger left a couple of defenders trailing in his wake before cutting in and sliding a low shot beyond the keeper and into the far corner.
There was still time for Dowell to make his mark, too.
The England Under-20 World Cup winner bent an exquisite shot into the bottom left corner from the edge of the box in the 81st minute to cap a great night’s work for Koeman’s Blues.
Next up for Everton is a short trip to Belgium to face KRC Genk on Saturday (22 July), before the Europa League third round qualifier first leg at Goodison Park five days later.