AMSTERDAM – Everton netminder Tim Howard celebrated his first taste of Europa League action in over four years by putting on a star show to lead the home side past Wolfsburg 4-1 in Thursday's group stage opener.
The Toffees veteran rang up a Europa League record-tying dozen saves and claimed three crosses to thrill the Goodison Park faithful, only losing his shutout on a last-gasp consolation free kick gem by Ricardo Rodriguez. The Wolves fired 27 shots at the Everton goal, with Howard especially dominant after the break.
12 - Everton's Tim Howard has made 12 saves tonight, a joint high in the history of the Europa League. Record.— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) September 18, 2014
Holding a 2-0 halftime lead, the New Jersey native notched eight saves in the closing period. Five of those stops came in the first 10 minutes of the frame, culminating in Howard cruelly denying a Rodriguez free kick. On 74 minutes, the American added another case of larceny to his record by tipping over a curling Kevin De Bruyne effort.
Though finally beaten near time by the third dead ball try from free kick artist Rodriguez, Howard ended up with his 17th career victory in UEFA tournament competition, putting him three shy of American exports record-holder Brad Friedel. The result also moved Everton directly to the top of Group H.
Elsewhere, Fabian Johnson worked 63 fairly quiet minutes on left wing as Borussia Mönchengladbach settled for a 1-1 Group A draw with visiting Villarreal.
Despite Foals having a possession edge, the US international was limited to 18 non-defensive touches. Johnson left with the hosts up one, but Ikechukwu Uche hit five minutes later to level matters.