Everton revived their Champions League hopes in emphatic style with a classy 3-0 win over Newcastle United at St James’ Park.
Ross Barkley opened the scoring in the first half with a stunning 65-yard + solo run and finish. Romelu Lukaku converted Gerard Duelofeu’s cross to make it two before Leon Osman capped a superb performance with an unstoppable finish in the 87th minute.
Below we look at 5 talking points from yesterday’s convincing win which put the Blues just six points behind fourth placed Arsenal with a game in hand:
Barkley should be on the plane to Brazil
If there was any doubt in Roy Hodgson’s mind about whether to spare a seat on England’s Brazil-bound plane for our Ross, it will have been dispelled on Tyneside last night.
Barkley put in a magnificent performance and his ability was summed up by the driving run from inside his own half which led to the opening goal. In a frightening turn of pace, Barkley had Newcastle defenders at his mercy (he even had Farbrizio Coloccini on his arse) before smashing into the roof of the net with his left foot.
The England side are not short of talent, but Barkley is the embodiment of raw potential and his fearlessness is something that would terrify defences in Brazil.
The Beast is back on the goal-trail
Everton’s slump at the start of 2014 coincided with injury to leading scorer Lukaku and it’s no real surprise that goals have been flowing that little bit more since his return from injury.
Rom tucked away his 13th goal of the campaign after a precise cross from the impressive Deulofeu. But it was the type of goal that will please Evertonians most. Lukaku is a brilliant striker of the ball and many of his goals this season have been superbly converted with defenders still lurking between himself and the goal.
But his last two goals have seen the Beast breach the space between defence and goalkeeper, gambling on the chance that the ball would arrive in that space that causes indecision between team mates. Against Swansea on Saturday and again last night, their was no hesitation from Lukaku as his predatory instincts took over to convert first time.
If the Belgian continues to gamble in these areas it will be to the profit of all Evertonians.
Counter serves Blues best on the road
Everton fans have had to suffer the inevitable pass-pass-pass of dominant Goodison victories, grounding teams down into submission in an exhausting 90 minutes.
But yesterday demonstrated the way forward if Everton are to continue to pick up three points away from home. Newcastle had 55% of possession on the night and made more passes than the Toffees (I know, we lost the passing!). Roberto Martinez’s decision to play Duelofeu paid off ten-fold, allowing Everton to soak up Newcastle pressure and find a devastating release in the Spaniard.
He laid the ball off for Barkley before he embarked on his incredible run and the pair were devastating when they collected the ball outside their own penalty area with space before them. Duelofeu played his part in the second goal too and it was pleasing to see the winger look up early and pick out Lukaku.
Stones was our rock at the back
It was not just the performance of John Stones that led to an impressive clean sheet, but the youngster is showing incredible maturity at centre half.
I won’t have been the only Evertonian who might have put Phil Jagielka straight back in to the starting line up after Martinez declared the England man fit (although their was eventually no place for him on the bench). But the Barnsley-born defender has been a more than capable deputy for his countryman.
He may not read the game as well as Jagielka just yet, but his speed and accuracy in the tackle mean he is not looking out of his depth in the Premier League, despite making just his 19th appearance in royal blue on Tuesday. But more importantly for Martinez he is more than capable of playing the Catalan’s patient, passing game out of defence, showing incredible composure for a teenager.
And having sported the Terry Butcher bandage already, Blues know they have a player ready to put his body on the line for the club. Seemingly you can get blood from a Stones.
It’s a squad game
There was the Twitter equivalent of audible gasps when the team news broke around 7pm last night. No Aiden McGeady, who played so well against Swansea on Saturday? What, Leon Osman’s starting?
Looking back to the weekend’s win, it suddenly became clear just how far ahead Martinez is thinking-on. He knew the players he wanted to use to help the side win against Swansea (even if it was by a hair’s-width) and he knew which players sitting on the bench he wanted to save for the St James’ Park clash.
As it happened Osman was an inspiring captain, rounding off a busy performance with an emphatic finish. Ossie has now captained the Blues on 13 occasions, winning 11 and losing just two. He might not be in every fan’s starting XI, but there’s no doubting the midfielder can turn up when called upon.
Steven Naismith also continued to show that he has his uses to the team, despite being marginalised since Lukaku’s return. The Scot is a busy and hard-working team member, perfect to bring on to help see out leads but he showed brilliant composure and invention to flick the ball over an opponent on the half way line. He got Everton moving and Duelofeu slowed things down long enough for reinforcements before Osman killed the game off. The combination of three of Everton’s fringe players will please Martinez as his -and Evertonians’- belief in the squad intensifies.
Have you got a talking point that wasn’t made above? Feel free to leave a comment below…