Ademola Lookman struck a brace as a youthful Everton signed off from an underwhelming Europa League campaign with a 3-0 win at Apollon Limassol on Thursday.
Subbed at half-time of his only Premier League start this season, the 20-year-old scored twice inside the opening half hour to end his 20-match scoreless run in all competitions and give the Toffees their first win at the final attempt in Group E.
The visitors clearly had an eye on Sunday's derby against Liverpool in handing starting debuts to young trio Harry Charsley, Fraser Hornby and Morgan Feeney.
Lookman took his opportunity to impress by heading in the opener in the 21st minute, before he unleashed a long-range rocket soon after to effectively sew up third spot ahead of the Cypriot champions.
Kevin Mirallas added late polish to an accomplished three points with a calm one-on-one finish in the 87th minute, ensuring Apollon's first home defeat of the group stage.
In the absence of Sam Allardyce, who handed the reins to assistants Craig Shakespeare and Duncan Ferguson in order to attend a medical appointment, Everton will take all the encouragement they can get from a third straight competitive victory ahead of their visit to Anfield.
20 - Ademola Lookman goal tonight has ended a run of 20 competitive appearances for Everton without scoring, since netting on his debut for the club in January vs Man City. Wait. pic.twitter.com/cOi1nMqmDA— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 7, 2017
The young Blues were prised open inside six minutes as Fotis Papoulis found space on the left, but the winger harmlessly guided his finish over the bar.
Lookman had an even better chance to break the deadlock when he reeled in Davy Klaassen's through pass and stepped inside Joao Pedro, only to dally over his finish and invite the smother from Tasos Kissas.
Charsley's curler next drew an impressive fingertip save from Kissas in a lively start to proceedings.
And the visitors were rewarded for their bright opening as Nikola Vlasic collected a one-two with Kevin Mirallas and dinked a cross to the far post for Lookman to head high into the net.
Lookman only needed a further seven minutes to double his tally in spectacular style, the 20-year-old thumping a sweet strike from distance that burst through Kissas' hands.
26 - Ademola Lookman's second goal for Everton vs Apollon Limassol tonight ended a sequence of 26 passes. Confidence. pic.twitter.com/PVysXjwV8G— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 7, 2017
At the other end, Joel Robles was required to preserve the two-goal cushion with a quickfire trio of saves and the lead remained intact at the break, despite Apollon's appeals for a penalty on the stroke of half-time.
Robles was called on again to parry Allan's firm effort soon after the restart, while Kissas covered his near post to deny Lookman a hat-trick.
Apollon, now winless in 11 group stage matches, shipped a third late on as Mirallas broke clean through and consigned the hosts to their first home defeat in Group E.
Key Opta stats:
- Everton's starting XI in this game (23y 015d) was the youngest by an English club in Europe (excl. qualifiers) since Everton vs BATE Borisov in the Europa League in December 2009 (22y 319d).
- This was the lowest points tally by an English club in a Europa League group stage (four points) – beating the previous worst set by Wigan Athletic in 2013-14 (five points).
- Everton have now won three successive matches in all competitions – the same tally of wins that they recorded in their previous 20 competitive matches combined (W3 D5 L12).
- The Toffees have also kept a clean sheet in each of their last three competitive matches – this after conceding in each of their previous 13 games before this run (32 goals).
|Ashton: I had no point to prove to Eddie Jones|
|England recall Jennings to replace struggling Stoneman|
|Messi: Barcelona is going to be my only place|
|Messi: I´d give up Barca title for World Cup glory|
|LeBron reaching eight straight Finals is ridiculous and unbelievable – Stevens|
|Indians top Astros in 14 innings as Cole-Bauer duel turns into marathon|
|I´m squeezing this orange until there´s no juice left – LeBron|
|LeBron James leads Cavs past Celtics and into NBA Finals|
|Kyle Busch dominates to win Coca-Cola 600|
|Henderson still confident of Liverpool success|
|Sporting Kansas City 0 Columbus Crew 0: 10-man visitors battle to MLS draw|
|Inglis to captain new-look Maroons, Boyd and Scott axed for Origin I|
|Neymar labels Real Madrid links ´nonsense´|
|Koepka ready to turn seconds into wins|
|Rose ´really proud´ of Fort Worth Invitational win|
|Paul a ´game-time decision´ for series decider, says Rockets coach D´Antoni|
|Egypt president wishes Salah speedy recovery|
|Bonucci: Balotelli has matured|
|Ranieri backs Sarri to succeed at Chelsea|
|Konta admits to doubts after another early Roland Garros exit|
|Warriors´ Iguodala, Looney listed as questionable for game seven|
|Zverev batters Berankis, Goffin back from the brink in Paris|
|Rose cruises to victory at Colonial|
|Neymar: I´m not at 100 per cent yet|
|Toulouse confirm Ligue 1 survival with win over Ajaccio|
|I know what I´ve achieved - Bale not worried about plaudits as he looks to the future|
|Ostapenko ´angry´ after Roland Garros exit, Venus Williams falls at first hurdle|
|Barcelona B relegated to Spain´s third tier|
|Rayo Vallecano win promotion to LaLiga|
|Tarkowski leaves England camp for hernia surgery|
|Ramos ´quite clever´ but Salah injury not to blame for final defeat, insists Robertson|
|WATCH: Ricciardo takes wide receiver role on yacht for Tom Brady pass|
|Until next year – Ronaldo drops new future hint as Real Madrid celebrate with fans|
|Froome stunned by Giro triumph|
|The Triple Crown: Froome´s Grand Tour glory in numbers|
|Hannover sign Wimmer on season-long loan|
|Inter powerless to stop Icardi exit, admits Spalletti|
|Ashton makes England statement with Barbarians hat-trick|
|Watson masterclass seals third IPL title for Super Kings|
|Kozlova ends Ostapenko´s Roland Garros reign on day one|
|Imperious Zverev breezes into second round|
|Froome wins Giro d´Italia to complete Triple Crown|
|Stricken Salah confident over World Cup hopes|
|Verstappen highlights change in approach amid Rosberg criticism|
|Strinic claims three-year deal at Milan|
|Napoli captain Hamsik considering China offer|
|Chinese outsider Wang shocks Venus Williams in Paris|
|Redemption two years in the making - Ricciardo revels in Monaco glory|
|Flawless Molinari holds off McIlroy at Wentworth|
|Karius ´infinitely sorry´ but thanks Liverpool fans for support|
|Root and Bayliss dismiss ´outrageous´ fixing allegations|
|Giggs: Bale the best Welsh player I´ve seen|
|Ricciardo ends Monaco hoodoo despite mechanical issue|
|Lyon star Fekir denies being close to Liverpool switch|
|Pogba: I learned a lot from Abou Diaby|
|Where next for Real Madrid stars Ronaldo and Bale?|
|Shingler and Hewitt out of Wales tour|
|Kyrgios pulls out of French Open|
|Khan wants to bow out by winning blockbuster Brook fight|
|Is winter coming? Game of Thrones stars descend on Monaco|
|Root urges England´s batsmen to ´find a way´|
|Lovren, Van Dijk absolve Karius of blame|
|We all know where our nipples are - Hansen welcomes tackle trial|
|Rooney would thrive in MLS, says DC United boss|
|Pakistan complete demolition of sorry England|
|Curry, Durant reveal the secret to Thompson´s success|
|Salah will miss World Cup, claims Saudi sports administrator|
|Deschamps marvels at Zidane´s incredible Champions League success|
|FIA satisfied Ferrari ´inside the rules´|
|NSW Origin hopeful Moylan pulls the strings for rampant Sharks|