Everton’s chances of reaching the Europa League knockout stage suffered another dent as Bertrand Traore’s clever flick handed Olympique Lyonnais all three points at Goodison Park.
The home crowd had done their best to lift the Blues following Nabil Fekir’s sixth-minute opener and were rewarded when Ashley Williams powered a header past Anthony Lopes following a spell of sustained pressure.
But Traore put his side back in front just six minutes after the Toffees skipper had levelled matters to snatch victory for the visitors.
Four days on from securing a late draw at Brighton, Ronald Koeman opted to freshen his team, with the notable inclusion in the starting line-up of Kevin Mirallas, who made his first start in over two months. There were five changes altogether and, with a high-profile fixture against Arsenal on the horizon on Sunday in the middle of a period consisting of seven games in just over three weeks, Phil Jagielka and Wayne Rooney were not included in the matchday squad.
It was defender Williams who wore the armband as the Toffees took to the field wearing the unusual sight of a complete blue kit at Goodison - a directive from UEFA to avoid a colour clash with the French visitors whose strip consisted of all white.
Everton suffered the early blow of conceding in just the sixth minute. Holgate mistimed his sliding challenge on Brazilian left-back Marcal inside the area and captain Fekir, the in-form French international who had already netted seven times in Ligue 1 this term, converted from the spot, his low shot out of reach from Jordan Pickford’s full-stretched dive.
It took the Toffees a period of time to assert themselves on the contest following Lyon’s opening goal but Koeman’s men began to offer more in attack. Nikola Vlasic sliced high and wide from the edge of the box and this was soon followed by a positive piece of play from Mirallas, who broke forward and hit a low, skidding shot along the wet turf which was only a yard or so wide of the target. Morgan Schneiderlin was another to try his luck from distance but his attempt, under pressure, also lacked precision.
Mirallas, operating off the left touchline, was full of running in the first half and he was unlucky to see Lyon stopper Lopes pull off a neat low save just after the half-hour mark. The glovesman made an equally impressive save five minutes before the break to deny Davy Klaassen who had found himself in a two-on-two position 30 yards out.
For Everton’s efforts to find a route back into the game, there was still the danger of Lyon’s quick counter-attacks. Before Klaassen had been thwarted, Memphis Depay unleashed a free-kick which cannoned back off the angle of post and crossbar, via a deflection from Tom Davies. The Dutchman brought Pickford into the action with another well-hit drive and former Chelsea forward Traore curled narrowly wide with the last chance before the interval.
Koeman injected some extra pace into Everton’s attack at the start of the second half, with Ademola Lookman taking the place of Klaassen. A minute later and the England Under-20 World Cup winner saw a flicked finish at the far post beaten away by the vigilant Lopes.
With the emphasis on Everton to attack, Lyon had opportunities to hit on the break. An unfortunate slip from Davies just in his own half allowed the jet-heeled Myziane Maolida a run on goal, from which Pickford made a necessary intervention. Whilst saving the shot, the Blues goalkeeper also inadvertently made contact with Schneiderlin who, in attempting to make a block himself, suffered an injury which brought his evening to an early conclusion, with Gylfi Sigurdsson his replacement.
Williams was caught in a heated exchange consisting of a number of players in front of the Gwladys Street with a little over 25 minutes left. He was brandished with a yellow card for his involvement - but he then channelled his frustrations into heading the Toffees back level.
Sigurdsson delivered a perfectly-weighted free-kick from the right wing and the Wales captain was there to plant home a header from six yards out.
Sigurdsson’s delivery had been pinpoint and having contributed with an assist, only the woodwork thwarted him from netting a second Everton goal moments later. This time is was an inswinging cross from the opposite touchline which evaded everyone inside the penalty area and rebounded out off the far post
On such fine margins are games won and lost. Two minutes later, Lyon regained the lead. Sub Maxwel Cornet forayed forward down the right, cut the ball back from the touchline and Traore found the net with a clever back-heel.
Both sides traded late chances - Calvert-Lewin was thwarted by Lopes before Maolida was denied a certain third for Lyon by an alert Pickford.
But 2-1 it stayed and while the Blues’ hopes of progressing out to the knockout rounds suffered another blow as we reach the halfway stage of Group E, they do have the chance to seek their revenge in Lyon in two weeks time.
For now though, all thoughts turn to the visit of Arsenal to Goodison on Sunday.