Sheffield United: Lys Mousset and Tyler Smith on target as Slavisa Jokanovic celebrates his first match in charge with a win
It began exactly as you would expect, with a predictably routine win over game but limited opposition and a flurry of half-time substitutions.
Sheffield United’s friendly against Europa Point, which marked the start of the Slavisa Jokanovic era, might have tested their powers of concentration rather than footballing prowess.
But, the culmination of a week-long crash course in his tactics and methods, that was precisely what the Serb wanted. This match wasn’t about the result, although that is always important. It was a chance for United’s new manager to judge how the messages he has been relaying are resonating with his squad.
The answer, on the evidence of tonight’s match in the Spanish resort of Estepona, is pretty damn well although forthcoming meetings with Doncaster Rovers and Norwich City will provide more accurate tests.
Dominating in terms of territory, possession and pretty much every other measure statisticians use to chart the course of matches, goals from John Egan, Lys Mousset and Tyler Smith propelled United to a victory which was far more comfortable than the scoreline would suggest.
Europa Point posed enough of a challenge to make the exercise worthwhile, even going close to opening the scoring before Egan broke the deadlock during the dying embers of the opening period.
But it was a rare incursion into the United area for the Gibraltarians, with the English Championship side tightening the grip on the contest as the evening progressed.
Adopting a 3-4-2-1 formation rather than the 3-5-2 which had become their motif under Jokanovic’s predecessor Chris Wilder, the former Yugoslavia and Chelsea midfielder will have been pleased with the fluidity of his side’s performance.
David McGoldrick, partnering Rhian Brewster just behind the lively Mousset, was particularly effective; creating two openings for the Frenchman before he doubled United’s lead. Rhys Norringham Davies, fresh from representing Wales at the European Championships, also posed a threat along the tourists’ left flank.
Egan broke Europa Point’s resistance in the 38th minute, when Egan headed home an Oliver Norwood corner after escaping his marker. With Chris Basham nodding another against the woodwork, it fell to Mousset to stretch United’s advantage after beating the offside trap.
Tyler Smith, among the eleven changes Jokanoivic made at the break, twice went close before finally finding the back of the net. Femi Seriki should have added another, but shot just past the foot of the post following good work by Zak Brunt and Regan Slater.
Daniel Jebbison, who was also introduced during the interval, enjoyed plenty of touches but no clear cut openings until Europa Point began to tire.
Luke Freeman dovetailed well with Slater, as Seriki’s energy provided them with plenty of chances to pick defence splitting passes.
One released Jebbison during the closing stages, but the teenager’s effort was blocked while United saw another attempt scrambled off the line following a melee in the six yard box. Smith was ready to pounce again soon after, but the Europa Point goalkeeper did well to pluck Freeman’s cross out of the air under pressure.