Everton produced another hugely disappointing display as they were beaten 3-0 by Atalanta in their Europa League Group E opener in Reggio Emilia.
The Toffees went into the match having suffered a 3-0 home loss to Tottenham five days earlier and with boss Ronald Koeman stressing they would “need to react” in Italy after that poor performance.
But they were abject once again here, with their sloppiness punished by a dynamic Atalanta side who scored three times in the first half through Andrea Masiello, captain Alejandro Gomez and Bryan Cristante.
While failing to mount anything really resembling a fightback after the break, Koeman’s men at least managed to avoid conceding any further goals, although Remo Freuler’s shot did connect with their crossbar.
Everton will have hoped the fact this match was taking place at Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia rather than at Atalanta’s Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia home – which is to be redeveloped to make it fit for European competition – would mean last season’s Serie A surprise package were less potent than they would have otherwise been.
But it was clear from the off that the Bergamo outfit, roared on by their vociferous fans, were going to provide a considerable challenge.
The visitors – with six changes to their starting XI from the Tottenham game – did threaten the Atalanta goal in the 13th minute, with Gylfi Sigurdsson’s strike being parried by Etrit Berisha and Wayne Rooney then trying with a delicate shot from the edge of the box that drifted just off target.
But otherwise they were more or less entirely on the back foot in the opening stages – something they were handling well enough until the 27th minute, when Masiello broke the deadlock.
The defender had a shot turned behind in fine style by Maarten Stekelenburg but from the resulting corner, the ball ricocheted off Phil Jagielka to the back post where the unmarked Masiello tapped in with ease.
While Everton struggled to muster a response, Atalanta continued to go at them.
And after Stekelenburg had been called into action a couple more times, the impressive Gomez made it 2-0 in the 41st minute as, with Everton standing off him, he received the ball from Andrea Petagna just outside the box, cut inside and unleashed an excellent shot that flew into the top corner.
Three minutes later Atalanta made the most of more ponderous Everton play, extending their lead via Cristante’s finish, and Koeman and his men must have been simply relieved to then hear the whistle for half-time.
Rooney had a shot blocked at the start of the second half but it was Atalanta who continued to show the real verve in attack, with Petagna having a low drive batted away by Stekelenburg and Freuler hitting the bar.
Koeman subsequently brought on Davy Klaassen, Sandro Ramirez and Kevin Mirallas but it made little difference to a thoroughly dispiriting night for Everton and their fans.