Everton sneak past Stoke in Barclays Asia Trophy opener

The Toffees have commenced this year’s tournament with a 5-4 penalty shootout victory at the Singapore National Stadium.

In a match between two sides intent on climbing the Premier League ladder this coming season, there were few clear-cut chances over the 90 minutes as they ended regulation time at 0-0.

Under the tournament format there is no extra time, with the game going straight to penalties. Tim Howard then gave Everton the early advantage by saving a spot kick from new Potter Marco van Ginkel.

The Toffees, meanwhile, were perfect from the spot, with skipper Phil Jagielka burying their fifth shot for a 5-4 victory.

After the match, Martinez was content with the performance of his new-look side.

“It was an interesting game," he said. “Despite the heat and humidity, it was really competitive between two sides trying to kill each other off in many respects.

“To win a penalty shootout is a great feeling. The difference was Tim Howard, who saved the penalty.

“All in all it was a terrific exercise and we look forward to another runout on Saturday.”

Marko Arnautovic was impressive for Stoke in the 45 minutes he had on the pitch and had seemed likely to open the scoring in the 28th minute. The Austrian used his size and strength to battle his way through on goal, but with only Howard ahead of him, he was denied by an excellent Jagielka cover tackle.

Everton striker Romelu Lukaku proved a handful all night and thought he’d scored when he rounded new Stoke keeper Jakob Haugaard in first-half stoppage time. But his goal was ruled out for offside as the teams entered the break locked at 0-0.

Everton manager Roberto Martinez made five changes at half-time, with fresh signings Tom Cleverley and Gerard Deulofeu among those entering the fray.

The game started to open up, with Peter Odemwingie teeing up Stephen Ireland with a great chance in the box in the 61st minute, only to be denied on the line by Howard.

Just 20 seconds later, Deulofeu had a sight on goal and opened up his body in an attempt to beat Haugaard, but his shot landed straight in the Danish keeper’s arms.

Mark Hughes then started shuffling the decks for Stoke, introducing Peter Crouch among others as both sides chased the victory.

Another substitute Charlie Adam, who scored one of the goals of last season with his 66-yard strike against Chelsea, tried his luck from distance in the 67th minute but it flew harmlessly wide.

In the 90th minute came the biggest moment of the game to that point and it was all about Lukaku. Finding space through effort and hustle, the Belgian sent his shot towards the bottom left of the goal, only for it to agonisingly drift onto the wrong side of the cross bar as the crowd let out a huge sigh.

That meant penalties were needed to determine a winner and it was Everton holding their nerve to progress to the final.

Despite defeat, Stoke manager Hughes was content with the effort of his squad.

“It was a very accomplished performance," he said. "It was a good work out and individually and collectively we looked strong.

“Tactically as well, for this time of the season, the timing of our runs and our angles of passes were pretty good."

Photo credit: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo