Manchester United legend and former player, Wayne Rooney made his second competitive ‘debut’ for his boyhood club Everton yesterday, as ever reliable Leighton Baines scored in a 1-0 Europa League third-round qualifying win over Slovakian side MFK Ruzomberok.
The current England captain had said in the build-up to the match at Goodison Park that it had been a lifelong dream to play for Everton in Europe.
Thirteen years after leaving Merseyside for Old Trafford, Rooney finally fulfilled that ambition although it was a frustrating evening for manager Ronald Koeman and his new-look Everton side.
“It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for the last few weeks,” said 31-year-old Rooney.
“It’s obviously great to be at Goodison wearing the blue shirt, it was a great feeling.
“But it was an important game for us so I had to put my emotions to one side. I’ve done that now and can get down to focusing more on the football.”
The £75-million ($98m) sale of Big Belgian, Romelu Lukaku to United made the cash available for a close-season of big expenditure by the club and Rooney joined England defender Michael Keane, former Ajax captain Davy Klaassen and ex-Southampton full-back Cuco Martina in making debuts.
And while Rooney’s return was greeted with the expected enthusiasm by a sold-out, if reduced-capacity, Goodison Park crowd, last season’s third-placed Slovakian team provided dogged opposition.
It was not until the 65th minute, when a Kevin Mirallas corner was headed out to Baines 25 yards from goal, that Evertonians could finally relax in this first leg tie.
Baines struck a magnificent shot but it still required a kind deflection off Erik Daniel to wrong foot goalkeeper Matus Macik and fly into the visitors’ goal.
Early signs had been promising for Everton when Ruzomberok captain Dominik Kruzliak sliced the ball horribly as Klaassen surged into the area and almost put the ball into his own goal before the keeper cleared.
Then, on 19 minutes, Rooney spied his first sight of goal back in an Everton shirt after another flowing attack, which ended with Klaassen sweeping the ball wide for Baines to pick out the striker who spun and sent a powerful shot wide.
Just before the half-hour, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, hero of England’s under-20 World Cup win this summer, showed great skill to win a tackle on his way into the box and his short cross found Rooney who slipped as he shot goalwards.
Calvert-Lewin was involved once more a minute later, this time setting up former Ajax player, Klaassen with an intelligent pass, but the Dutchman shot into the side-netting when scoring would have been easier.