EVERTON 6 - 3 BOURNEMOUTH
Gaz kindly drove and we were in the pub nice and early to watch Arsenal, predictably, crumble at Stamford Bridge. It was good fun in the pub. A few Bournemouth supporters were milling around and I couldn't help but hear a few American/Canadian (apologies, I can't tell the difference) within earshot. I've noticed this a few times now this season and it's fantastic to have a rich base of support travelling over the Atlantic for Everton games. Long may it continue.
After the tough game at Stoke City, Ronald Koeman decided to shuffle his pack a little, pulling the young lads Tom Davies and Mason Holgate out, as well as Kevin Mirallas. This equated to a midfield three of Morgan Schneiderlin, James McCarthy and Gareth Barry, with Ross Barkley and Ademola Lookman both operating mainly from the flanks to support Romalu Lukaku. A first start in a blue shirt for Ademola by the way. Ex-blue Dan Gosling and Arsenal loanee Jack Wilshere both featured for the visitors who were well-backed by their supporters.
After two succesive blanks I fancied Romalu Lukaku to get on the scoresheet, though I certainly didn't expect him to do this so quickly...nor did I anticipate he to do so four times! It was the perfect start to the game and great play at such an early stage of the match. Schneiderlin's ball in to Lukaku was nicely touched back to McCarthy who returned the pass to Lukaku, who didn't hesitate in smashing the ball into the corner of the net past Artur Borac. A dream start to the game after only 30 seconds.
We continued to threaten and were well on top. Our creative players Ross Barkley and Ademola Lookman both in their groove and enjoying themselves. It was great play by Romalu however which doubled our lead when he got free down the right hand side of the penalty area and cut the ball back for James McCarthy whose first effort was blocked but he got lucky with the ball ricocheting back and bouncing in of himself for his first goal of the season. Shortly after, 2-0 became 3-0 when Simon Francis played a dreadful pass into his own penalty area, directly to Romalu Lukaku who reacted quickly and finished intelligently, clipping the ball over the advancing Artur Borac. One of the lads got a bit excited thinking it would get to 5-0 before half time. As it transpired, we almost needed a five goal cushion such was the spirited fightback from the Cherries after the break.
The visitors, as you knew they would, began the second half strongly, but we felt the storm had been weathered and that we may be able to see the game out comfortably. Goals change games of course and the impressive Joshua King began the comeback when he got behind our defence and finished coolly past Robles. It certainly wasn't time to panic then, however panic soon set in some 10 minutes later when King again got on the scoersheet, this time stretching to turn in a Ryan Fraser centre. 3-2 and the players were stunned. Us supporters? Very nervous. Very nervous indeed. You actually expected us to "do an Everton" and blow the game. Bournemouth twice came close, both with good efforts from distance. Joel Robles couldn't keep a lid on his frustrations and received a yellow card for booting the ball as hard as he could high into the Upper Gwladys Street. We really were on tenterhooks though you knew that if we could get one more goal we would probably have enough to finish them off. Thankfully, on 83 minutes Romalu Lukaku helped us breathe a big sigh of relief with a very well taken goal. His pass out to Seamus Coleman was perfectly measured, his volleyed finish back across the keeper also perfect as our brilliant Belgian completed his hattrick and, finally, finished Bournemouth off.
Except we weren't quite finished. Neither team were in fact as we still had three goals to come. Romalu Lukaku's fourth goal arrived just a minute later when he chased through an exquisite backheal from Ross Barkley and slotted past the goalkeeper, this time with his right foot, to make it 5-2. Goodison Park erupted as Lukaku wheeled away towards the corner flag at the Park End. Word got around that Hull City were leading Liverpool 2-0 much to everyone's palpable glee. "I've never felt more like singing the blues, when Everton win and Liverpool lose..." echoed around the stadium several times. We were all the more jubilant when we heard that our cast off striker Oumar Niasse had scored Hull City's second goal. Meanwhile on the pitch Harry Arter scrambled in Bournemouth's third goal, much to Joel Robles and Ramiro Funes Mori's dismay as the ball had gone out of play before he put it into the net.
Though Romelu Lukaku rightly gets all the plaudits for his exceptional efforts in front of goal, it was nice to see Ross Barkley have the final say on the game. Ross had an excellent game, this characterising his form since the turn of the year and you have to expect that an England recall must be on the cards if he can keep up this form. Ross picked up the ball and ran at goal. Artur Borac came flying out of goal. Ross rounded him effortlessly, then prematurely celebrating before stroking the ball home to compound a quite exhilarating afternoon of football at Goodison Park. You know you've been spoilt when, at the very end of the game, a little bit of me wanted the referee to award a penalty to Bournemouth rather than the free kick they received. Only to add to the drama!
An extraordinary afternoon at Goodison Park then and our impressive 2017 form continues. With two of the league's biggest strugglers coming up in our next two games we have a real opportunity of having an additional six points in the bank by the time we visit White Hart Lane.
Who knows how close that may bring us to the "big six".
Robles: He got away with a first half dropped catch but otherwise he didn't really put a foot wrong. At 3-2 in fact he appeared to be our only player out there who was keeping his head whilst everyone ahead of him was losing their's. 8
Baines: Did fine. He's playing with consistency. 7
Funes Mori and Ashley WIlliams: They were both led a merry dance as Bournemouth rallied and they need to defend better than that. They both seemed to improve when Mason Holgate joined them to make it a back three. There's certainly room for improvement. 5
Coleman: Not at his best. Good assist for our fourth, and perhaps most important, goal though. 5
Schneiderlin: Looks a fine player. You've got to enjoy watching a player who gets stuck in. Morgan certainly does that. 7
Barry: A bit hit and miss. Did some very good things, but on a good few occassions was a little sloppy with his passing. 6
McCarthy: Got lucky with his goal but was working hard. He seemed to have a role whereas he was asked to press up the pitch and he was full of running before he was substituted on the hour. 6
Barkley: Ross had an excellent game and it was great to see him throwing a few tackles in. He's really gotten his act together lately. I loved his arrogance of celebrating before he scored. Ross had lost a lot of that this last season or two. It's great to see him get it back. 9
Lookman: Had a lively first half but was struggling a bit in the second before he was substituted for Kevin Mirallas. 6
Lukaku: Well you can't ask for more than that. A remarkable performance from Romalu Lukaku. He can be as good as he wants to be. The question, of course, is for how long will be be an Everton player? Are we just to enjoy what we have and build without him, or are we now beginning to match his ambitions and will be able to keep him? Whatever the answer, yesterday's performance was truly exceptional. My man of the match. 10
Davies (for McCarthy): Got involved. 6
Mirallas (for Lookman): Got involved and did pretty well. 6
Holgate (for Barry): Helped settle down a rocky defence. 6
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