Blackburn Rovers v Everton
Nikica Jelavic marked his first pre-season outing with a clinical brace as Everton recorded a 3-1 win over Blackburn Rovers.
After Kevin Mirallas’ first-half deflected opener, the Croatian emerged from the bench at the break to net two goals and secure a comfortable victory over the Blues' Lancashire opponents.
They were both typically predatory finishes; a guided header from a corner and thumping left-foot shot from close range.
The only blemish on another good summer workout was Scott Dann’s headed goal three minutes before full time.
But Roberto Martinez would have certainly left Ewood Park feeling encouraged with what he saw from his team.
Everton cruised to victory against a side who were in their final preparations for the new Championship season which begins in a week’s time.
Ross Barkley’s performance was particularly eye-catching. The 19-year-old – named in the starting line-up - was relishing his first pre-season action and was at the centre of all things positive for the Blues in the first half.
The England youth international forced goalkeeper Jake Kean into a smart save after just six minutes and later headed narrowly wide from a corner.
It was Barkley’s creativity that led to Everton’s opener, scored on 25 minutes by Mirallas.
After weaving a yard of space on the edge of the box, Barkley unleashed an effort that was blocked inside the six- yard area. Blackburn half-cleared and when the ball came out to Mirallas, his shot from 18 yards ricocheted off the unfortunate Grant Hanley and the into Blackburn net.
The Belgian almost netted his second goal of the afternoon a couple of minutes later. A free-kick from the edge of the area was expertly whipped over the wall, with Blackburn keeper Kean scrambling to his left to make an excellent save.
Just before the opening half was out, Mirallas tried his luck with another long-range set-piece. This time his effort was off-target, flashing just past the upright.
One noticeable feature in Everton’s play during the first half was the marauding runs forward from Bryan Oviedo. With Leighton Baines missing the game through a minor injury, the Costa Rican was making the most of a starting opportunity, playing essentially as a left wing-back.
Arouna Kone was handed his debut by Martinez and the Ivory Coast frontman was relatively quiet during his 45-minute outing. However, he did come to life in the five minutes leading up to half-time when he flashed a shot wide and almost broke the frame of the goal with a thunderous shot that rebounded out to safety.
At the other end of the field, Tim Howard was a virtual spectator in the opening 45 minutes. His only concern was when midfielder Chris Taylor powered a header just past the post from a corner early on and Alan Judge’s wayward volley moments before the interval.
The American was replaced at the break by Joel Robles as Martinez, predictably, rotated his squad with seven substitutions.
Nikica Jelavic was one of those introduced – and he wasted no time making his mark by doubling the Blues lead on 55 minutes.
Steven Naismith had already twice gone close when the Croatian striker stooped inside the area to covert Steven Pienaar’s right-winged corner. It was a simple header, well-taken from eight yards out.
Jelavic was a man on a mission in the second half, hungry for goals after opening his pre-season account.
The former Rangers man stabbed over from close range and was later thwarted by a reflex save from Kean.
His enthusiasm deserved a second goal and it duly arrived 13 minutes before the end when he pounced inside the area to rifle home with his left foot at the second attempt.
Blackburn’s best spell of possession came towards the end of the game but by that time the Toffees were well out of sight. Dann’s far post header from a Morten Gamst Pedersen corner on 87 minutes was no more than a consolation.
Preparations for the new season are really starting to take shape. Next up is the first match of the International Champions Cup against Juventus in San Francisco on Wednesday as the Blues now get ready to jet out for the start of their tour of America.