Everton 0 Stoke City 0
(Everton win 5-4 on penalties)
Hulking at 1.9m tall and 94kg of solid muscle, Everton's record £28 million (S$59 million) signing Romelu Lukaku's performance against Stoke City yesterday encapsulated the opening game of the Barclays Asia Trophy.
Firing blanks in regulation time but deadly in the penalty shoot-out, the Belgian was arguably the most relieved man at the National Stadium as the match ended goal-less, with the Toffees winning 5-4 on spot kicks.
Watched by an estimated crowd of 15,000, there was little of the flowing football and goal-mouth action associated with the English Premier League (EPL) as the biennial pre-season tournament started on a quiet note.
But Everton manager Roberto Martinez remained adamant that it is only a matter of time before his 22-year-old striker hits top form.
"I thought he was very active. For a player of his frame and physicality, he needs to play 90 minutes," said the Spanish tactician.
"He's going to benefit from it and then you can see his sharpness is going to come. He got into some great positions and although his clinical finishing wasn't there, he was a focal point of our attack and is well ahead of his preparations."
Everton also have Tim Howard to thank after the American goalkeeper saved Marco van Ginkel's penalty to ensure the Toffees' progress to Saturday's final, where they will face Arsenal.
Lukaku's bad day in the office culminated in a glaring 89th-minute miss when he side-footed wide with just Stoke goalkeeper Jakob Haugaard to beat.
However, the former Chelsea man was lethal from 12 yards as he calmly dispatched his kick to set Everton on the way to the final.
And with both clubs pushing for European places next season, the clash at Kallang was an opportunity to weigh each other up before the start of the season next month.
Yet for many of the fans who had hoped to witness a high-energy EPL match, were left largely disappointed as both teams struggled for rhythm in the heat and humidity.
The Potters looked disjointed but manager Mark Hughes was satisfied with the display. "I thought it was a very accomplished performance," said the 51-year-old. "Collectively and individually, we looked strong. The time of our runs and the angles to our passes were good."
Added Martinez: "It was a very competitive game and the two sides gave each other good opportunities to push many aspects you want to work on in pre-season."