Everton sealed a place in the last 32 of the UEFA Europa League after Diniyar Bilyaletdinov's early strike earned David Moyes' side all three points against AEK Athens FC at the OACA Spiros Louis Stadium.
Bilyaletdinov raced on to Jô's brilliant through ball to slot past goalkeeper Sebastián Saja after just six minutes, and the Russian midfielder's goal proved the difference on a rain-soaked Athenian evening. The result, combined with Group I leaders SL Benfica's win at FC BATE Borisov, means the Toffees have qualified for the knockout stage; AEK are out.
AEK boss Dušan Bajević, whose team lost 4-0 in the corresponding fixture, sprang a surprise by leaving four regular starters on the bench in Ismael Blanco, Nacho Scocco, Gustavo Manduca and defender Carlos Araujo. His plan backfired when Bilyaletdinov lashed home Everton's first shot on target after great hold-up play by Jô.
Everton duo Dan Gosling and Sylvain Distin were both forced off with injuries in the first half, and Jô would also fail to last the distance. AEK desperately tried to regroup but the best they could manage was Panagiotis Tachtsidis's long-range effort which was comfortably saved by Tim Howard. Scocco replaced Leonardo at half-time as Bajević tried to freshen up his attack, but Everton remained in control.
Everton defender Tony Hibbert, who was equalling Colin Harvey and Brian Labone's club record of 19 European appearances, was on hand to block Tachtsidis's shot on the turn from close range after 54 minutes, and the visitors almost conceded just after the hour when Youssouf Hersi's shot skimmed Howard's right post. AEK searched desperately for an equaliser but were denied with 14 minutes left when Jose Baxter cleared Manduca's shot off the line.