AEK dominated all statistics and the ball but lost 0-1 at home to Everton in a match the Greek side should have won. Everton sealed a place in the last 32 of the UEFA Europa League after Diniyar Bilyaletdinov’s early strike earned David Moyes’ side all three points against AEK Athens FC at OAKA.

Bilyaletdinov raced on to Jo’s brilliant through ball to slot past goalkeeper Sebastian Saja after just six minutes, and the Russian midfielder’s goal proved the difference on a rain-soaked Athenian evening.

The result, combined with Group I leaders SL Benfica’s win at FC BATE Borisov, means the Toffees have qualified for the knockout stage; AEK are out.

AEK boss Dusan Bajevic, whose team lost 4-0 in the corresponding fixture, sprang a surprise by leaving four regular starters on the bench in Ismael Blanco, Nacho Scocco, Gustavo Manduca and defender Carlos Araujo.

His plan backfired when Bilyaletdinov lashed home Everton’s first shot on target after great hold-up play by Jo.

Everton duo Dan Gosling and Sylvain Distin were both forced off with injuries in the first half, and Jo would also fail to last the distance.

AEK desperately tried to regroup but the best they could manage was Panagiotis Tachtsidis’s long-range effort which was comfortably saved by Tim Howard.

Scocco replaced Leonardo at half-time as Bajevic tried to freshen up his attack, but Everton remained in control.

Everton defender Tony Hibbert, who was equalling Colin Harvey and Brian Labone’s club record of 19 European appearances, was on hand to block Tachtsidis’s shot on the turn from close range after 54 minutes, and the visitors almost conceded just after the hour when Youssouf Hersi’s shot skimmed Howard’s right post.

AEK searched desperately for an equaliser but were denied with 14 minutes left when Jose Baxter cleared Manduca’s shot off the line.

Jo and Tim Cahill paid tribute to the quality of opponents AEK Athens FC after Everton produced a gutsy performance in the Greek capital to seal their place in the last 32 of the UEFA Europa League.

Australian attacking midfielder Cahill put in a typically energetic display operating behind Brazilian striker Jo as David Moyes’ men battled to victory.

“Now we understand how AEK managed to beat Benfica – they are a very strong side,” said Cahill after helping his team qualify from Group I with a game to spare.

“It was a very difficult game. We applied the instructions the manager gave us and, with a little bit of luck, we managed to get the win and secure our place in the next round.

“We did what we had to do out there and are happy with the result.”

Jo, on loan at Goodison Park from Manchester City FC, put in an impressive shift before unfortunately having to be replaced by Ayegbeni Yakubu in the second half with an apparent knee injury.

It was the Brazilian’s hold-up play and clever through ball which sent Bilyaletdinov clean through to drill in the goal.

“We knew we were facing a good team,” said the 22-year-old. “We managed to get in front, then it was all about keeping that scoreline and we achieved exactly that to take the win.”