DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, July 14- Everton manager Ronald Koeman was left full of praise of Kenyan Premier League leaders Gor Mahia after they pushed them to the line before winning 2-1 in a pre-season friendly match in Tanzania on Thursday.
Koeman was impressed by what Gor Mahia offered especially in the first half, saying it was a very tough game and one that’s ideal to kick start their pre-season preparation.
“I think it was a good game and also a difficult game. Our opponents today did really a good job to make the match difficult by working hard. They dropped a bit in the second half and we were a better team at that time. Overall I am happy with the performance, this was first friendly,:
“Physically they were stronger because they are in competition while we have just begun pre-season. I was impressed not just by individuals but the whole team because they worked very hard and most of the time we failed to find our free man in midfield,” the former Barcelona midfielder noted.
Everton were forced to work hard by Gor especially in the first half when both sides fielded their strongest 11 with Ernest Wendo completely denying them space in midfield before he pulled his groin.
Koeman said they found it easier in the second half because of a drop in temperature as well as a wet ground which was watered at half time, and he also attributed their improved performance to Gor’s decision not to play high in the field.
The tactician is confident the Gor friendly which was their first this pre-season will spring them into a good season especially as they start their Europa League qualifiers in two weeks’ time as well as campaign to win trophies this season.
Meanwhile, the manager has tipped Wayne Rooney to succeed in his Everton return, having scored in his first match for the club on Thursday. He says Rooney’s title winning mentality and hard work will be vital for the side’s hunt for trophies this season.
“Wayne is still one of the best players in his position. He is a winner and knows how to win titles that’s what we want in the team. It is also a great experience for the young boys to play alongside him,”
“Today he showed that his quality is still there with goal had a great performance. He is a player who will take us to greater heights if he keeps fitness. He is key player for Everton,” Koeman noted.
The team has been busy in the transfer market with Davy Klaasen, defender Michael Keane, goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and striker Sandro Ramirez among those who have already settled in at Merseyside.
Koeman says he is happy with what he has brought in and targets one or two more players before calling it a wrap and focusing on the new season. He is also pleased with the young players in the squad, five of who were in the England team that won the Under-20 World Cup.
The manager says for him it is not about age but the performance and says he will give them a chance in the team if they prove their worth.
At the same time, the future of midfielder Ross Barkley continues to remain bleak with Koeman saying he is prepared for anything with the player entangled in a transfer tussle. Tottenham Hotspur is interested and the English international is keen on moving.
He was not included in the trip to Tanzania, raising further speculation.
“At the moment it is not a clear situation with him. He is not fit that is why he didn’t travel. Everybody knows his situation and we will see what will happen,” the Dutchman further said.
After leaving Tanzania, the team will travel to Netherlands where they will pitch camp for another pre-season friendly with FC Twente.