Everton fans were delighted to see Aaron Lennon return to action in the teamâ€™s 1-1 Europa League play-off round second leg draw away at Hajduk Split last night.
The 30-year-old had not played a competitive match for the Toffees since April, missing the end of the 2016/17 season after taking time out to seek medical care for debilitating mental health issues.
The former Tottenham Hotspur winger only played 13 games for the club last season but was introduced at half time last night, replacing youngster Ademola Lookman with the tie in the balance.
The Toffees had secured a healthy two-goal advantage with a 2-0 first leg win at Goodison Park last week but the Croatians had halved that lead by the end of the first 45 minutes; midfielder Josip Radosevic beating Jordan Pickford with a magnificent 35-yard strike two minutes before the break.
Despite the precarious score-line, Everton knew that an away goal could effectively end the tie and that arrived emphatically just 14 seconds into the second half; new Â£50 million signing Gylfi Sigurdsson picking up a loose ball just inside the Hajduk half and brilliantly lobbing the goalkeeper from all of 50 yards.
That meant that the hosts needed three goals to progress and although Pickford saved an Ahmed Said penalty their best efforts were in vain and the visitors remained solid to see out the game and secure their progress to the Europa League group stages.
Boss Ronald Koeman will be impressed at his sideâ€™s resilience and determination in overcoming a potentially tricky second period and he will have been pleased with Lennonâ€™s performance.
The experienced winger showed little sign of rustiness and looked sharp throughout producing several trademark scampering runs and stretching an increasingly disorganised home defence. The player will hope to feature more regularly this season, as he begins the long road to recovery and attempts to regain match fitness.
The Toffees return to Premier League action this weekend as their busy schedule continues travelling to Stamford Bridge on Sunday to take on a rejuvenated Chelsea side.
The best of the Twitter reactions to Lennonâ€™s comeback can be found below:
A Pickford Penalty save.
A screamer from Gylfi.
And last of all a scamper from Lennon!
Bring on the draw!
— Matt (@mbt2108) August 24, 2017
Pickford, Gyfi – wow! Lovely to see Lennon back and Williams/Keane solid. #EFC Oh baby!
— Chris Jones (@nzcymru) August 24, 2017
Everton won but so glad to see Arron Lennon back #EFC
— CHRIS (@BROTHERCC) August 24, 2017
Lennon showed enough there to suggest he's still very useful if he stays well #efc
— Paul Jackson (@Jackoranda) August 24, 2017
Have we got to say it's great to see Aaron Lennon back every game he appears? #EFC
— Craig (@ctayts) August 24, 2017
To sum up that #EFC game: What A Goal – Radosevic, WHAT. A. GOAL – Sigurdsson, What a save – Jordan Pickford, What a return – Aaron Lennon.
— Mike Peters (@djmikepeters) August 24, 2017
Positives. Through to draw.
Sigurdsson wonder goal. Pickford's saves. Aaron Lennon on the pitch #efc
— Debbie (@CarmellaBlue) August 24, 2017
— Tommy Jones (@tommyjonesefc) August 24, 2017
— Luke Archer (@LukeArcher6) August 24, 2017
— John Bennetto (@JohnBennetto) August 24, 2017
So good to see Aaron Lennon back playing competitively. Thrown on in tough conditions, great professional #EFC
— Ben Grounds (@Ben_Islington) August 24, 2017