A second half hat-trick from Romelu Lukaku helped extend Everton’s unbeaten start to the season at the Stadium of Light.
A quick-fire treble in just 11 second half minutes was enough to give the Toffees all three points in the north-east, as Lukaku netted his first goals of the campaign.
Two headed goals put Everton in control, the first from a Idrissa Gueye cross, the second coming from the opposite left flank courtesy of Everton’s other new boy Yannick Bolasie.
And Lukaku made sure to take the match ball back to Merseyside when he latched onto a through ball, with all the time in the world to slot coolly beyond ‘keeper Jordan Pickford.
Will the real Romelu Lukaku please stand up?
After a run of 12 games without a goal in the royal blue of Everton, fans would be forgiven for wondering whether the club would have been better off selling last year’s top scorer.
But it took only 11 minutes in the second half against Sunderland to prove that the Belgian still has his goalscoring touch, and that with no suitable replacement, the only option for Everton was to keep hold of their prized asset.
Sunderland’s marking -or lack thereof- played a significant part in his treble but when presented with the opportunities, you can ask no more of your star striker. And, but for some more shooting practice at Finch Farm, it could have been so much more. After a summer of discontent, Lukaku is still an Everton player and it’s time for the Belgian to stand up and be counted as such.
Blues win it in on the wings
Key to Everton’s success on Monday night were their wingers. Ronald Koeman’s side won the match in the wide areas, with Sunderland’s hapless Javier Manquillo failing to deal with the pace, power and variety of Everton’s wide men.
Bolasie began brightly on the right flank in the first half and produced numerous crosses throughout. While some were whipped in with pace, others were lacking precision but the message from Koeman was clear: get the ball to Bolasie and deliver from wide.
Introducing Deulofeu and promptly switching Bolasie onto the left side helped turn Everton’s possession into goals. Kevin Mirallas has been rejuvenated so far under Koeman but he often came into central areas to seek out the ball, when he would have been better serving his side stretching play on the flank. When Bolasie went onto the left, he kept his width and he eventually got his delivery right for Lukaku’s second,
Deulofeu too gave Patrick van Aanholt a torrid time. That Koeman can afford to switch his wingers gives him a priceless asset, especially with Lukaku waiting in the box. If only his predecessor had wingers to utilise in his side…
Barry & Gueye blossoming into key pair
Praise for Geuye is becoming a common feature of these articles but his contribution to the Everton side is first class. His has been one of those signings where you wonder how the team ever coped without him, such has been is influence already in just four league games.
His ability to sense danger and to execute tackles to retrieve possession is invaluable, but so too is the man beside him. Gareth Barry belies his 35 years with his tireless performances so far, extending last season’s form.
The duo are fast becoming the most important partnership in the side, offering protection to their back five while building a platform to send their side flooding forward.
Persistence paid off for Bolasie – but consistency is key
Everton had just one shot on target in the first half, Lukaku’s headed effort from a Bolasie cross tipped over the bar by Pickford. And while the efforts on target dried up, it didn’t stop Everton getting the ball into dangerous positions.
Their play was focussed mainly down the right flank in the first half, with Seamus Coleman getting forward to support Bolasie, but not everything came off for the pair.
But what was encouraging was the Congolese man’s persistence. Unorthodox at times, his greatest weapon is often his unpredictability. But what earned him his first assist in a blue shirt was his determination, eventually beating his marker in the second half to put the ball on a plate for Lukaku. Consistency will be the key for a man who notched only three assists last season.
Koeman’s Barkley sub shows he’s thinking of the team, not the diamond
It just wasn’t Ross Barkley’s night was it? Left out of Sam Allardyce’s first England squad, Blues hoped their number 8 would be fresher than anyone on Monday night and eager to prove a point.
However the ‘diamond’s’ display was far from sparkling, and Koeman decided he’d seen enough at half-time with Barkley replaced by Deulofeu. It was a decision that paid dividends for the Dutchman as the Spaniard had a hand in the opening goal and was a constant menace in the second half.
It hurts fans that little bit more when they see one of their own playing poorly, but unlike his predecessor, Koeman is not afraid to let Barkley know when he’s not playing well. It’s part of an approach which will either make or break the 22 year-old, and I don’t make the claim lightly. Barkley is at an age now where he must either mature and fulfil the potential we can all see or slide into mediocrity, able to produce the odd moment of magic.
All Blues are hoping the former will come to light, but at least in such situations it’s encouraging to see Koeman making tough choices for the benefit of the team, not the individual.