Ronald Koeman praised Muhamed Besic for grasping his opportunity with both hands on his first Everton start for 16 months.
The Bosnian midfielder, who was last named in the Blues’ starting line-up in the 2-0 win over Bournemouth at Goodison Park in April 2016, missed the entire 2016/17 season after sustaining a cruciate ligament injury.
He returned to anchor the midfield alongside Morgan Schneiderlin on Thursday evening, as the Toffees recorded a 1-1 draw at Hajduk Split’s Stadion Poljud to progress to the group stage of the UEFA Europa League with a 3-1 aggregate victory.
And manager Koeman was impressed with Besic’s efforts, after being forced to wait patiently for his chance to impress in the first team.
“I am really pleased,” said Koeman. “He is working hard after coming back from a big injury. I think he’s now really at that level that we need and what he needs to get a chance in the team. That’s really positive.
“I like the boy, he is working hard and, of course, he was patient to wait for his chance. He took his chance tonight. He played well and was an important player in midfield for us.
"Okay, sometimes he needs to control himself a little bit better with his tackles, but he is still young and I am pleased he is back on the level that he needs and we need as a team.”