If there is one thing that is starting to stand out about Ross Barkley it’s that he doesn’t lack for spirit and he doesn’t hide when the going gets tough. Both were traits clearly in evidence a year ago when, shell-shocked, he was substituted by Roberto Martinez during the miserable Anfield derby that hastened the Catalan’s dismissal at the end of the season.
The Blues were in the midst of one of the biggest humiliations an Everton team has endured in living memory but all Barkley wanted to do was keep playing to try and redress the balance somewhat for his side of the city on a wretched evening across Stanley Park.
So, too, this season, be it in the wider context of 2016-17 or in microcosm during matches, the 23-year-old appears to simply shrug off adversity or poor form and keep plugging away until things go right again. Rightly criticised by Ronald Koeman for his iffy displays in the first half of the campaign, since the turn of the year and particularly at Goodison Park Barkley has demonstrated his ability to learn, to grow and to develop into an important component in the Dutchman’s side.
For his biggest backers, his contract situation remains a source of concern but he seemed to reaffirm his love of Everton and, perhaps, a desire to stay at the club with a defiant celebration following the second goal against Burnley this afternoon; a strike that proved decisive in the match (even if Ben Mee was officially credited with an own goal) and a personal moment of triumph at the end of an unexpectedly difficult week for the player personally.
Barkley could not have guessed that when he went out in town on Sunday evening to celebrate the 4-2 win over Leicester City that he would end the night being sucker-punched in a bar. Or that a sewer rat masquerading as a journalist would seize upon the incident to launch an astonishingly below-the-belt attack on him and the city from which he hails later in the week.
But he used the arena of Goodison Park to put the drama behind him by putting in a progressively good performance, one that yielded a vital goal to restore Everton’s lead in the game at one end while denying the Clarets two goals at the other with goal line clearances. What better way to respond to a gutter journalist than that?
Beyond Ross, this was a significant day for Everton as a whole. The Blues registered an eighth successive home win in the league for the first time since 1990 and Romelu Lukaku equalled William Dean’s record of scoring in nine games in a row in all competitions at Goodison Park, one that hadn’t been matched for 89 years.
Koeman’s men also moved into fifth place in the Premier League, level on points with Manchester United. and three points ahead of Arsenal, although both clubs have played three fewer matches and the Gunners travel to hapless Middlesbrough on Monday to face a team who have singularly failed to do Everton any favours thus far in terms beating our rivals while managing to hold us goalless on our own visit to the Riverside.
Today’s ultimately comfortable victory looked like it would be anything but in the early going. Burnley were “up for it” in every way and appeared to be carrying out instructions from Sean Dyche to the letter for the first half hour or so. By that stage, the Toffees were under no illusions about their need to battle in this one against a disciplined and energetic Clarets team who pressed tenaciously when they didn’t have the ball and looked to pick up the second balls off Sam Vokes when they went forward themselves.
Lukaku had an early sight of goal when Mason Holgate picked him out with a cross and he shot straight at Tom Heaton and Idrissa Gueye tested the goalkeeper with a strong low effort but until 10 minutes before half time it was Burnley who looked the more likely to score.
Michael Keane thought he had netted when he rose highest at the back post to guide a set-piece delivery back across goal towards the far corner but Barkley had anticipated it brilliantly and headed off his own goal line in the 17th minute. Two minutes later, after Joel Robles, not for the last time, had flapped at a high ball into the box, Matthew Lowton’s inviting cross went begging as it whipped across the Blues’ six-yard box.
Then Vokes had two chances to break the deadlock in the space of two minutes, first when he was sent clear by Joey Barton but was marshalled wide expertly by Phil Jagielka before Robles blocked his eventual shot; then when Jagielka fluffed an attempted back pass but the Burnley striker did little better with the gift, shooting tamely straight at Robles.
At the other end, Holgate forced a good save from Heaton as his low shot camr through a forest of legs and the ‘keeper pushed it away one-handed to keep things goalless heading into the half-time interval.
While Koeman has been been curiously reluctant to change things in more difficult circumstances away from home recently, he had no compunction in switching things up at half time today by withdrawing the unfortunate Gueye — the Senegalese was having one of his better afternoons but was the midfielder sacrificed, probably because he'd already been booked — and introducing Enner Valencia for the second half.
And the Ecuadorian made an almost instant impact when he exchanged passes with Lukaku outside the box and then stung Heaton’s palms with a powerful drive that the ‘keeper parried away. Holgate won a corner after Everton regained the ball and from situation, the Blues scored from a corner for the fourth game in a row, a far cry from the Martinez days when they couldn’t convert from a set-piece to save their lives.
Valencia and then Ashley Williams helped Leighton Baines’s corner on where Jagielka stretched the despatch a header that might have crossed the line before Heaton could paw it out but certainly did when the Everton defender followed up on the rebound, referee Mark Clattenburg signalling confirmation from the goal line decision system.
That should have been the platform on which Koeman’s men could go on and build a healthy advantage but they were pegged back within three minutes following an inexplicable foul by Robles on Vokes. Chasing a ball pinged across the home penalty area, the Burnley man was heading away from goal but instead of ushering him further out, Robles tried to tackle him instead and chopped him down, conceding an obvious spot kick that Vokes himself converted.
Everton are nothing if not patient and determined these days and even though Mirallas was having one of those days where it just didn’t look like it was going to happen for him despite plenty of work-rate and some nice individual moments, you just had the sense that they had enough to go on and win.
Mirallas should have scored in the 58th minute when Barkley picked up Lukaku’s flick-on and played the former Belgian in on the left side of the area for a clear shot at goal but he shot weakly at Heaton. Five minutes later, Mirallas almost did register after he scuffed his initials shot and then prodded the second attempt off the post.
Seconds later, Lukaku was picked out again in the centre by Holgate but he could only steer a header too close to the ‘keeper before both Mirallas and Barkley had shots charged down by a Burnley defence that refused to go quietly.
They were undone by a sloppy pass by Barton and then a double deflection that helped Barkley restore Everton’s lead with 19 minutes to go. Lukaku’s pass for Mirallas was a touch heavy but the latter retrieved it near the byline, slid a pass back to Barkley on the edge of the box and after jinking to the left of Barton, he fired a low shot off Keane, then Mee and into the goal off the post.
The 23-year-old’s celebration was one of release — standing tall on the advertising hoardings, he drank in the jubilation in the Gwladys Street before returning to the field of play to receive the customary booking for daring to celebrate too much with his fans. Still, he repeatedly patted the badge on his chest and pointed to all sides of the ground in what must have a moment of particular personal satisfaction.
Three minutes after that, the game was secure. Baines found Lukaku with a pass from the touchline and the big Belgian took it from there, rolling Keane in trademark fashion before powering an unstoppable left-foot shot inside Heaton’s near post to make it 3-1.
And that, bar a late Barton free kick that came off the wall, another header off his line by Barkley and an uncharacteristic hash of a shot by Lukaku at the death, was that. Yet another home win and more signs of strength and resolve from this Everton side at Goodison Park.
The onus now becomes one of boldness away from home from Koeman as the Blues travel to West Ham and Swansea either side of Chelsea’s visit to the Grand Old Lady at the end of the month. Keep winning and there is every chance that Everton can improve on the seventh-place finish that seemed inevitable up until now.
Reader Comments (27)
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1 Posted 16/04/2017 at 07:06:19
As to the question of finishing better than 7th, that's not in our hands. All the clubs above us have games in hand, so all we can do is collect as many points as we can, and hope the others screw up, and there's every chance that might happen.
Win the games against the clubs below us, and give Chelsea a real go, and who knows, the Arsenal match might actually mean something. And wouldn't that be something.
2 Posted 16/04/2017 at 08:38:19
If Jags keeps on scoring at the present rate, he might make double figures for the season.
The need for a goalkeeper, two central defenders and two like for like replacements for Ross and Rom should they decide to leave still remains.
Europa League football, should it come to pass, will result in extra bodies being needed.
3 Posted 16/04/2017 at 08:38:46
Ross has improved no end as the season has progressed. Koeman has handled the situation perfectly re his development. He left Ross in no doubt earlier on in the season that what he was producing was not good enough. All credit to the lad he has listened and learned and is a better player for it.
The situation as I see it is Koeman saying to him "Go out and earn your contract, show me what you can do." Earlier in the season Ross was not showing the form to justify the big money contract he will be after, there is no denying that. Ross has responded to Koeman's challenge.
Premier league record broken for successive home wins. Fantastic.
Lukaku equalled Dixie record that has stood for 89 years. He has his detractors here on ToffeeWeb. "He can't trap a bag of cement... He only scores scuffed goals " etc etc. As the headline says: Keep on keeping on scuffing the goals, Rom.
4 Posted 16/04/2017 at 11:58:22
Yes. What a scuff that was yesterday. In a fraction of a second, Rom turned that movement into a goal with blistering pace, excellent skill and great strength. Let's not forget it was Keane he skinned no slouch himself.
5 Posted 16/04/2017 at 12:04:50
First of all, just because Ross hasn't signed the new contract yet, he has never publicly commented at all on the issue, so how does that make him a 'contract rebel'?
As for a player exchange deal, I hope we have the sense to turn it down out of hand. Who wants to swap a young Ross Barkley for an ageing Wayne Rooney? Are they serious?
Come on, Ross and Everton, get this contract sorted and signed and put the speculation to bed. We are constantly being told we are no longer a selling club and we have money available, so let's see some of it being put to use in making Ross an offer he can't refuse.
6 Posted 16/04/2017 at 13:38:22
Frankly I am at a loss that Lukaku has so many detractors on this site.Look at his over all performances.He is never benched, never subbed until the last few minutes and that very seldom.His shot accuracy is tremendous.He is top scorer in the Premier despite not playing for a top four club.He does not take our penalty's which makes his goal haul even more impressive.His goals have come from far less chances than Kane, Costa, Ibrahimavich and Aguero.What the lad has said is very open and honest.He is never involved in any gossip off field.Personally I want both Rom and Ross to stay and help Everton fulfill Koeman's ambition.But we need a few very astute signings during the close season to have us become genuine contenders.
7 Posted 16/04/2017 at 17:05:40
Regarding the headline, 'Keep on keepin' on' is a great expression, and a Seasick Steve track.
8 Posted 16/04/2017 at 18:39:49
9 Posted 16/04/2017 at 18:43:19
10 Posted 16/04/2017 at 18:56:07
11 Posted 16/04/2017 at 20:11:16
Didn't you mean Rashford and £20 milllion for Ross? That would be more realistic, especially as they've put down a marker by paying £89 million for Carlton Pogba!
12 Posted 16/04/2017 at 20:34:39
13 Posted 16/04/2017 at 20:48:41
With Arsenal in free fall and maybe focusing on the FA Cup, maybe 6th is a possibility. It would be an exciting last game.
An important win for Man Utd today... and we can't be selling them any players.
14 Posted 16/04/2017 at 21:04:58
15 Posted 16/04/2017 at 23:29:08
I have only seen the 20 minute highlights on the official site but have to say Ross Barkley doesn't look like a player who wants to leave the club. That is good for him and us.
16 Posted 17/04/2017 at 06:43:19
So, if we are going to challenge for the top 6, we've got to do it the hard way; it is imperative that Koeman goes all out to win every game, including the away matches. No time for defensive attitudes when there is still something to play for.
A win at West Ham Utd would keep the pressure on Man Utd and to a greater extent, Arsenal, who are definitely struggling at present. Let's hope we can do it and make the others just that bit nervous and keep them looking over their shoulders.
17 Posted 17/04/2017 at 07:58:57
Perhaps Barkley was rightly criticized to some degree. Encouragement in private by Koeman might've been the better option. I don't think we'll see that from the manager again, to that extent.
18 Posted 17/04/2017 at 08:13:04
Surely every fan would love to see some real full-on attack, even at the expense of several losses... wouldn't they? This is our opportunity. I wonder, is Koeman a manager that would do that.
19 Posted 17/04/2017 at 08:56:39
20 Posted 17/04/2017 at 09:25:17
Let's test their resolve, and try poaching some of their players for a change... after all, we've got the money to do it. Maybe Mata and Rashford for starters?
21 Posted 17/04/2017 at 09:26:58
22 Posted 17/04/2017 at 09:29:53
Such a shame that just as this team is really finding its feet it may be about to lose one or two of its vital components. Fingers crossed Barkley signs a new contract and Lukaku decides he's seen enough progress to give the project one more year.
23 Posted 17/04/2017 at 09:33:15
Maybe Koeman gave Barkley the answers he'd been looking for because the kid works a lot harder on the pitch; now he hasn't got a manager who is comparing him to the greats and has consequently already reached a much better level.
24 Posted 17/04/2017 at 09:51:42
Koeman handled it well and Ross has responded well.
25 Posted 17/04/2017 at 09:54:10
More quality needed this summer, regardless of who gets displaced. If you're good enough, you stay in.
26 Posted 17/04/2017 at 10:24:37
27 Posted 18/04/2017 at 16:54:08
Barkley will sign a new bumper deal shortly, methinks.
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