Everton: Lukaku Imperious But A Season Of Pain And Joy Awaits
As Loic Remy stabs home on 89 minutes to set up a breathless finish in this tie, I utter a phrase not unlike “cheeses buffering duck!”. It, and several more colourful profanities like it have already passed my lips during a win that takes Everton to fourth place and six matches unbeaten – a league start we’ve not matched in six years. At 3-2, it perhaps wasn’t that narrow a win as it seemed in the end, but the score did flatter Newcastle. And given how the Premier League has got off to such a daft start this year, a draw would’ve been cruel but not unexpected.
We pulverised Newcastle from the word go – we were first to every ball and every 50/50 dropped for Everton. The imperious Lukaku puts the ball in the net after 90 seconds, but he’s a yard offside. Barkley’s neat through pass for the non-goal doesn’t go un-noticed – the partnership he’s fostering with the Belgian is a joy to watch.
Again they came, this time Kevin Mirallas. Everton’s underrated talent, who beats men with ease, charges down the right before squaring it for Lukaku who guides it past the Geordies’ keeper Oh So Tim Krul. It’s Lukaku’s first goal at Goodison and he takes it with consummate ease. Legendary target men Joe Royle and Duncan Ferguson watch from the stands delighted, both offer knowing, rasping applause.
Again and again they came, in waves of vibrant football with precision and power. At one point an Everton attack breaks down and a Newcastle player sprints forward with the ball towards the halfway line. Barkley extends a leg and dispossesses his opponent like a leopard clipping a gazelle’s hind legs. It’s like watching a certain Portuguese-speaking Latin American team.
The fledgling partnership pounces on 24 minutes. Lukaku collects the ball a little outside the box, he quickly turns and hooks it perfectly into the path of Barkley who helps it into the net for his first goal in front of a crowd that he was once part of. Goodison roars like it’s privy to a new batch of heroes.
Lukaku’s second and Everton’s third sums up Newcastle’s dreadful first 45. The ball is hoofed long down field, one of the few times in the match, and in between the Magpies’ two hapless centre halves. Lukaku marches into the box, brings the ball down and turns the keeper in one neat movement before drilling it into an empty net. It’s a half dominated by Everton that sees Newcastle do little apart from a tame shot by Ben Arfa, that the dramatically hirsute Howard dives to his right to tip wide. Aside from that they lacked conviction and would do well do play any worse in the second half.
Newcastle come out a different team for that half. I would love to know what Pardew had told his team in the dressing room. It’s like each player has supped magical elixir from a goblet that somehow reminds them they’re highly paid sportsmen privileged to be playing in one of the most exciting, unpredictable leagues in the world. Whatever it is, they come at Everton with renewed vigour, closing down our neat passing game and pressing further and further up the pitch. They are more steely and probing this half, perhaps helped by the introduction of Mike Williamson and Yohan Cabaye.
Inevitably the goal comes from their liveliest player on the night, surprising sub Cabaye. The Frenchman picks out a beauty with a dipping 30-yard shot. He is the only Newcastle player to make a real impact on the game. It’s the first goal Everton have conceded at home in 11 hours and 27 minutes, but you get the feeling there will be a lot more scored against us this season. The half continues with some great football from both sides. Baines and Coleman press brilliantly down their respective sides. The welcome introduction of Deulofeu sees him add to Everton’s purpose. Lukaku has a few more chances he might’ve put away on another day. We still have purpose yes, but the less-experienced players tire as the half wears on. James McCarthy, making his first start, impresses throughout but visibly wanes. Special mention must go to Seamus Coleman, the Irish defender whose gait puts me in mind of a Keystone Cop or a sprinter of the 1930s. He is as effective going forward as he is at diffusing Newcastle’s up-tempo attacks and is a good shout for man of the match.
At the death Loic Remy’s strike unsettles fans and players alike, but it’s to be expected. This is Roberto Martinez’s Everton after all. It’s a team forged in the fires of total football, a squad playing a crisp, flowing game that’s becoming more effective with each fixture. Everton will let in more goals than we did under Moyes, as we get used to playing this way. They’ll probably still let them in when we’ve mastered it. As the new culture beds down at the school of science, I expect I’ll be screaming for pain and joy in equal measure.
Follow Gareth on Twitter @gdorean