LIVERPOOL, United Kingdom, Jul 28 – Wayne Rooney basked in a successful and emotional homecoming with Everton on Thursday but admitted that he is glad the occasion is now behind him.
The former England and Manchester United captain made his second debut for his boyhood club in their laboured 1-0 Europa League qualifying first leg tie against the Slovakian side MFK Ruzomberok.
It was a frustrating and testing night for an Everton side that has spent a lot of money following the near £90 million sale of Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United and it took a deflected goal from defender Leighton Baines to earn his team a lead ahead of next week’s return leg.
And Rooney was pleased that he can now concentrate on football after the hype and pressure of his first game back with Everton in 13 years is behind him.
“I think I’ve said everything the last few weeks but obviously it was great to be out at Goodison in a blue shirt,” said Rooney. “It was a great feeling.
“This was an important game for us and I had to put my emotions to one side and thankfully I’ve done that again.
“Now I can get down more to focusing on the football over the coming weeks.
“It’s still very early in our pre-season, it was a first 90 minutes for a lot of us, but we got the win and the clean sheet.
“We know we can play better than we did but we got the goal and the clean sheet.”
The tie came after just four weeks of pre-season for the Premier League side and their goalscorer confessed that, while the rustiness was obvious in the first leg tie, her expects a better performance in the return game.
“We know that will be a tough game. It was a tough game tonight at home,” said Baines.
“But we’ll go there with a bit more idea of what to expect but we’re in front and if we keep another clean sheet, which we’re fully capable of doing, we will win the tie.
“We’re treating the competition seriously but it’s also part of our pre-season as well because of the way it’s panned out.
“It was a full 90 minutes for everyone and we will be better next week for that.”
Manager Ronald Koeman handed four debuts to starters — Rooney, Davy Klaassen, Michael Keane and Cuco Martina — while a fifth debutant, Sandro Ramirez, made an impressive impact as a second half substitute.
But the main focus of attention remained Rooney, 31, throughout the tie.
“Overall Wayne was good, positive,” said Koeman. “But I think the whole team was.
“I’d like to have created a little bit more, scored more goals, but they worked very hard and got a clean sheet. There were a lot of positives after four weeks of pre-season.
“Next week, after one more week of training, will be a different game. They (Ruzomberok) know they will have to do more than they did and maybe that makes it a different game for us.”
One player not handed a debut by Koeman was £30 million goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, with Maarten Stekelenburg preferred, although Koeman revealed that the former Sunderland man may be handed his first start in the return.
“We know Maarten played half of last season,” said the manager. “Jason was one of three players who have only had eight or nine days training.
“It was too soon to start but maybe he will start next week.”