Lukaku nets 50th goal for Toffees in 100th appearance
Martinez’s men miss chance to go 6th in 1-1 draw – despite enthralling football, 3 points evade the hosts
Is Roberto Martinez utilising his squad properly?
Everton passed up the opportunity to climb to 6th place in the Premier League as Romelu Lukaku’s 50th goal for the club rescued a point against Crystal Palace.
Scott Dann headed the visitors in front against the run of play at Goodison Park, with barely 15 minutes remaining.
But Lukaku’s half century in his 100th appearance for the Blues brought the hosts level five minutes later, turning home from close range from a Gerard Deulofeu cross.
It was no less than the Blues deserved having dominated proceedings and striking the woodwork on three occasions. But coming from behind to clinch a precious point will be scant consolation when the performance warranted so much more.
“Unique” Lukaku enters history books
The Belgian had just saved his team from suffering a bitterly disappointing defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace when his boss was trying to come up with more superlatives to describe his number 10.
Passing on his favoured ‘phenomenal’, Martinez described Lukaku as a ‘unique number 9’ and while the Spaniard is certainly partial to hyperbole, in this instance he seems to be justified in his choice of adjective.
His 50th goal in Everton colours was also his 6th in his last seven games, but in averaging a goal every two games, he’s joined an illustrious list of players such as Dixie Dean, Dave Hickson and Joe Royle to have reached a half century in 100 games.
In 2015, the Belgian has been unstoppable. Bagging 27 goals this calendar year, the 11 Premier League goals scored this season is already one better than his total in the entire of 2014/15.
One of Everton’s greatest goalscorers of recent times? The stats are beginning to say just that. Not since Yakubu have the Toffees had such a prolific, natural goalscorer in their ranks. The Belgian has netted five times with his favoured left foot, four with his right and has dominated the air too, scoring four times with his head.
While some may point to a time when this rich variety of goals was simply expected of every centre forward across the land, a striker with a 6ft 3″ frame, the skill of a silky number 10, the speed of a pacy winger and the all important quality in front of goal, really is “unique”.
Draw represents missed opportunity in Champions League race
Bournemouth’s miraculous comeback in the dying seconds of their home match with Everton will have undoubtedly felt like three points.
And while Evertonians certainly wouldn’t have left Goodison Park with the beaming smiles and pulses of adrenaline that Cherries’ fans will have walked away with two weekends ago, the comeback leaves a slightly more positive taste than it would had Everton surrendered the lead instead.
Victory would have catapulted the Blues five places up the league table to 6th, just five points off 4th placed Manchester United who only managed a goalless draw at home to West Ham.
And in the wake of that sickening second half display at the Vitality Stadium, the failure to pick up maximum points again sees Everton four points worse off. Why?
Against Bournemouth in the second half, Everton simply stopped playing football. Against Palace, the Blues played some of the finest football seen at L4 this season, the second half particularly so. Possession at the back was transposed into midfield almost seamlessly, with John Stones either bringing the ball out himself or more than capable of finding Gareth Barry.
Seamus Coleman had his best game of an injury disrupted season and Tom Cleverley (making only his second appearance since his return from injury) put a spectacular case forward for automatic inclusion, even when James McCarthy is fit. If not for an inspired piece of goalkeeping, we’d have seen a potential goal of the season contender from the ex-Man Utd man.
But Palace’s stubborn defence and strategy of camping deep in their own half meant the Blues were frustrated in the final third. They more than rode their luck -Everton hitting the woodwork on no less than three occasions- but if Martinez’s men are going to capitalise on an unpredictable and wide open Premier League, draws need to turn into wins.
Are Martinez’s substitutions letting the side down?
Seeing Leighton Baines back on the hallowed turf of Goodison Park is enough to get even the most unmoved of Evertonians to their feet. But the decision to introduce the Kirby-born left-back was, under the circumstances, unnecessary if not risky.
Brendan Galloway had more than stood up to the challenge of Yannick Bolasie, a 6 foot powerhouse with the speed (and unpredictability) to give any full-back in the league a torrid time. Yet the 19 year-old dealt with the threat superbly.
Introducing Baines only disrupted a settled back four and in the latter stages of an increasingly stretched game, the counter-attacking Palace exposed the space left by the marauding Baines.
Was this really the substitution Everton needed at this stage of the game? With Palace on the back foot and Everton turning the screw, would a like-for-like attacking substitution have proved more fruitful? It would certainly have injected some much needed energy into a flagging front four.
Kevin Mirallas, Aaron Lennon, Leon Osman and Steven Naismith are undoubtedly desperate to join in with Everton’s free-scoring performances, so why not have them prove themselves with a 20 minute run out at a tiring and battle-weary defence?
Many Blues have pointed their finger in the direction of Martinez during the post-match blame game, and they may well have a point. Which is only as much as Everton are getting at the moment, even if their performances deserve two more.