Vitalli Mykolenko overcame early nerves for an encouraging Everton debut thanks to a combination of teammates having his back and the Club’s “incredible” supporters.
Ukrainian left-back Mykolenko started and finished the extra-time FA Cup victory over Hull City on Saturday, only seven days after completing a transfer from Dynamo Kiev.
The 22-year-old endured a rough baptism in English football when Everton fell behind inside 60 seconds.
But, in common with his team, Mykolenko settled into the contest to deliver a sound performance.
The individual highlight was a goalline clearance to preserve Everton’s 2-1 first-half advantage. There was plenty more to admire, however, from a player who completed four interceptions and won four tackles, in addition to creating two chances and blocking one shot.
“I was not too pleased with my performance in the first couple of minutes, as I was quite nervous,” Mykolenko told evertonfc.com.
“But then I felt support of my teammates who really helped me focus on the game. They did their best to help me out.
“They showed great support with everything they could before and during the game and this motivated me to do my best and play even better.
“The fans were incredible. It is the first time in my life I had the chance to experience such support.
“During my first visit to Goodison Park [to watch Everton’s Premier League game against Brighton & Hove Albion, 24 hours after joining] I was impressed.
“But it was unbelievable to receive that kind of support in an away game. I am very grateful to the fans who gave me such a great welcome and supported the team until the final whistle.”
Mykolenko - who has confirmed his first name is spelt Vitalii rather than the often-used Vitaliy - had been 27 days without a competitive game prior to featuring at Hull. He played for Dynamo Kiev against Zorya Luhansk on 12 December, his former club’s final match before a six-week winter break.
He’d barely trained in three weeks, then, ahead of linking up with his new teammates last week. The left sider began the weekend game as a wing-back before switching to a conventional full-back position when manager Rafa Benitez flexed to a four-man defence three minutes after Hull drew level at 2-2.
That change, in tandem with the second-half introduction of Andros Townsend, paid off handsomely.
Townsend arced in the winning extra-time goal to book a round-four meeting with Brentford and provide a timely uplift in advance of Saturday’s Premier League visit to Norwich City.
“It was a very important win, we managed to go through to the next round of the Cup and, for me, it was great to win my first game,” added Mykolenko.
“I am very happy to be here and to play my debut game in the Cup. I am very happy that the team won and want to take this chance to thank all the fans who supported us until the last seconds.
“I have to say it is amazing to be here.
“I had an opportunity to train with the team last week but did not train at all for two weeks before then.
“My last game was about a month ago. It was quite difficult to get back on track, especially with a new team, but I hope I did well.”