Roberto Martinez insists making Antolin Alcaraz a scapegoat for Everton’s Europa League exit is “unfair”.
The Blues boss has launched a passionate defence of his under-fire centre-half following Thursday night’s 5-2 thrashing at the hands of Dynamo Kiev.
Martinez insists the whole team were to blame for their poor defensive show at the Olympic Stadium, and says 32-year-old Alcaraz was left exposed too often.
The Everton manager kept faith with the Paraguayan alongside captain Phil Jagielka after the pair had played in the first leg win over Kiev, and then helped the Blues to a clean sheet against Newcastle last weekend.
Evertonians were angered that John Stones was not recalled to the starting line-up after recovering from a virus but Martinez says it would have been a “risk” to throw him back in at the deep end.
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“Antolin has the experience of playing in Europe before and John is a young man and sometimes we need to give him the right game to compete for his place,” Martinez said.
“We are now looking back at the game and it is very easy to say ‘this should have been done’ but you need to allow football to make the decisions.
“Antolin and Phil had created a very strong partnership in the previous two games and after keeping a clean sheet against Newcastle there is no need to dislodge that.
“Second, since he had the virus John has not played any football so it would be a major, major risk to throw him into a game of that intensity with the last experience he had away from home in Europe when he got sent off.
“It was important to have continuity in the back four that kept a clean sheet on Sunday and that is the reason.”
Martinez added: “Antolin had to deal with too many actions that we, as a team, didn’t stop well enough on Thursday night.
“I don’t think defensively he had a poor game, I think as a team we put our defence and keeper under immense pressure because our defensive performance as a team wasn’t up to standard.”
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Stones, 21, learnt of his omission from the England senior squad in the build-up to the Europa League game in Kiev.
The £3m signing has, instead, been included in the under-21s party for their games with Czech Republic and Germany later this month.
“I had a chat with John,” Martinez said.
“John is a very mature boy and knows he needs to concentrate on Everton and performing for Everton will give him success for England. I have no concerns over that. It is allowing John to have an introduction to games that allow him to have a more of a control of the situation rather than going into a knockout phase which is something he has never experienced before.
“Antolin has had that in his career. He has played in the World Cup, the Europa League and has played in many situations like that and his experience is valuable.
“It is very unfair to highlight him when it was a very poor defensive performance as a team.”