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Everton FC goalkeeper Tim Howard hailed the contribution of South African playmaker Steven Pienaar after he helped the Merseyside club achieve the biggest win on the opening night of the UEFA Europa League group stage.
David Moyes's team dismissed Group I rivals AEK Athens FC 4-0 at Goodison Park, with Pienaar scoring the pick of the goals with a powerful drive from 25 metres. "Steven is brilliant, he's been a real revelation for our club," Howard told uefa.com. "When Mikel Arteta got injured last year everything went through Steven. Every time we give him the ball it looks like something magic will happen."
Prior to this season, Pienaar – Everton's scorer in the 1-1 draw at SK Sigma Olomouc in their previous outing – had not found the net in Europe since former club AFC Ajax's UEFA Champions League quarter-final against AC Milan in 2002/03. He now has two in two games and said of his 37th-minute strike: "It is the best goal I've scored since I came to England. I've been practising a lot with my shooting – the gaffer tells me I like to pass but I have to start shooting."
Everton captain Joseph Yobo opened the floodgates with a tenth-minute header before his new central defensive partner Sylvain Distin added a second seven minutes later with a close-range finish from another corner. Yobo said the early goals were important for an Everton side seeking to put their disappointing early-season domestic form behind them. "We didn't start very well in the Premier League so today we just wanted to get a good start and take it from there. I'm delighted that Sylvain and I got our first clean sheet together and I was delighted for him to get on the scoresheet as well and we can keep building on that."
'Important to us'
Brazilian striker Jô completed Everton's second successive 4-0 European home win eight minutes from time and United States keeper Howard is now hoping for another long run in the competition. "Two years ago we went through the group stages and did really well [reaching the last 16] and that was great for our season. We didn't have long weeks on the training pitch, and if a result didn't go our way we knew there was a game coming up and a chance to build confidence. Europe has been important to us."
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