Everton 4 - 0 Hull CityThere's something special about an English game of football in cold, wet and windy conditions, and walking on to Goodison Park from the pub, you really felt that buzz amongst the pre-game bustle.
Prior we had enjoyed a few beers watching a dismantling job by West Bromwich Albion on Arsenal. It's always good to see a big team get beaten, but I do feel a bit uncomfortable with the criticism that falls on Arsene Wenger's door after over two decades of success nearly all other Premier League clubs can only envy. Anyway, that's their no problem, not ours.
We were in our seats in time for the retained Phil Jagielka to lead the team out. I was pleased he kept his place and it was good to see Leighton Baines also recover to play. Romalu Lukaku received generous applause from the Gwladys Street as he strolled out. Otherwise, Gareth Barry will have felt unlucky not to start the game after an impressive effort against West Bromwich Albion, whilst Kevin Mirallas was given the day off to enjoy the birth of his new daughter. It was good to see the kids gain an opportunity in their place. Tom Davies and, perhaps more surprisingly, Dominic Calvert-Lewin both more than benefiting in abundance, them along with another young academy graduate, Ross Barkley, combining with School of Science craft to unlock Hull City for the opening goal only nine minutes into the game. Somebody stood up in front of me a bit too quickly and I missed Calvert-Lewin putting the ball in the net but it was a dream start to an entertaining game with Everton firmly on top.
Our united belief amongst those around us and I in the Lower Gwladys is that Ashley Williams has been disappointing so far at Everton. This view was supported when his hesitancy resulted in a golden opportunity for Sam Clucas who lofted the ball over Joel Robles but onto the roof of the gaping net. You have to take them chances when you're down the bottom. In fairness to Ashley Williams, shortly afterwards he did anticipate well to make a brave block-tackle inside our penalty area following more Everton dithering. The injury sustained to Morgan Schneiderlin aside, coming in at half time the feeling was more than satisfactory.
The second half, for the most part, was a tense affair. So concerned was I with Hull City's growing confidence in the game that at one point I turned to Ste saying "I don't want to go into the last five minutes at one nil. We need to kill this off". Andrew Robinson came closest for the Tigers with a fairly tame volley into the side-netting, while Romalu Lukaku twice came close to scoring with similar breakaway opportunities, one when he blazed over the crossbar when he had a good chance to play in Dominic Calvert-Lewin; the other came when he was found by an outstanding ball from Leighton Baines. This time his drive was beaten away by Eldin Jakupovic.
Ronald Koeman was also concerned with Hull City's threat and removed Dominic Calvert-Lewin to add another centre back in Ramiro Funes-Mori. This did help us control the game but we got additional help with the red card for Thomas Huddlestone. Having seen it since I think it was probably a bit reckless and probably a red card. I thought it was a bit similar to the one Ross Barkley got away with in the Merseyside derby, except the whole world turned on Ross for that challenge. Everyone seems sympathetic for Thomas.
Ross's form back then was questionable at best, however he now seems to have put that poor form firmly behind him. His play was scintillating yesterday and if we are to topple Liverpool in a fortnight he'll need to find that level again.
With Hull City down to 10 men we seized the opportunity to finish the visitors off. Romalu Lukaku and substitute Enner Valencia combined masterfully to put the game beyond reasonable doubt, Enner's goal coming immediately after he took to the field. I said to Ste that this was an opportunity to really punish Hull CIty and we did just that with Romalu Lukaku in on the act late on with two injury time goals against our weary opposition. His first when he slotted past Eldin Jakupovic with his left foot, his second when he intercepted a tired back pass, rounded the goalkeeper and stroked the ball home with his right foot. League goals number 20 and 21 for Romalu this season. This completed the demolition job and though a deserved three points, the scoreline was more than flattering.
These two consecutive home wins after our slump at Tottenham Hotspur has given us an opportunity to really shake up the top six if we can go and win at Anfield and Old Trafford these next two fixtures. History dictates this would be unlikely, but we need to hope and need to believe.
Do we want to make a statement of our ambition? Well here's our chance to do it, right here.
Player ratings:Robles: Had little to do really. One decisive punch springs to mind but otherwise was rather untested. 6
Baines: Had a very good, solid and energetic game. Just what he needed after a minor injury going into the Merseyside derby. 7
Jagielka: Was pretty solid and comfortable. That should be enough to retain his place for the our trip to Anfield. 7
Williams: Is yet to convince. What strikes me is when he makes mistakes he never really takes responsibility for it, he's always yelling at someone else as if it's their fault. I hope he can improve, and fast. 6
Coleman: Not quite at his best though he did get forward a lot. 6
Gueye: Had a very good game. I was relived he got up from the Thomas Huddlestone foul and hope he comes back from international duty safe and sound. 8
Schneiderlin: It seems almost obligatory for a key player to get injured or suspended before a Merseyside derby, and I really hope he can recover as I believe he could be vital to success at Anfield, especially with James McCarthy seemingly unavailable. As we found last time, the pace might be just a bit too much for Gareth in the derby. I really hope that Morgan is available. 6
Davies: He never stops. He made a great assist for Dominic Calvert-Lewin's opener and was busy throughout. 7
Barkley: He provided awesome control of the game and was instrumental throughout. A quite brilliant display. My man of the match. 8
Calvert-Lewin: Did well. Not the finished article by any means but he looks a good prospect and knows where the goal is. Well done. 7
Lukaku: Worked hard throughout seemingly without reward and then showed what he's the best at with two late goals. I expect he will be leaving us come the summer and I don't necessarily blame him if he does so. I do hope for a few farewell gifts in our next two fixtures however. Also, is 30 league goals out of the question from him this season? It would mean a goal a game in the remaining nine, but on his current form I wouldn't put it past him. 8
Barry (for Schneiderlin): It took him the remainder of the first half to settle into the game but he did pretty well in the second half. 6
Funes Mori (for Calvert-Lewin): He settled into the game pretty quickly. He's certainly more comfortable in a back three. Though I'm not a big fan, it seems apparent that Ronald Koeman sees something in him as these last few games when he's been out of the team he's still found a way to keep him involved off the substitutes bench. 6
Valencia (for Davies): What an impact off the substitutes bench. It's great that Enner Valencia, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Kevin Mirallas have all given Ronald Koeman food for thought in attacking positions going into our next two huge games. 7
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