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.
After a torrid first half, Jagielka forced the ball in from a corner only for Robles to give up a stupid penalty. But Barkley and then Lukaku made their own emphatic statements to seal Everton's record 8th consecutive Premier League home win.
Ashley Williams displaced Matthew Pennington, returning after his one-match suspension, the only change for Everton this afternoon.
Burnley got the game started and hoofed the ball up for Robles to collect, and aerial balls were the feature of a rather scrappy start, the second Burnley free-kick wrongly winning a corner off Mark Clattenburg, who blew up immediately for pushing...
Holgate laid the ball on a plate for Lukaku who just passed the ball to Heaton when a real shot might have brought more reward. At the other end, Boyd had a free shot but the whistle had gone.
Burnley dominated the early play, however, the home side unable to keep hold of the ball or make any forward impression, Jagielka putting Robles in trouble with a poor backpass. Barkley and Davies were double-marked and dispossessed as soon as they got the ball played to them, and the closing down by Burnley when they did lose the ball was clearly making the Blues players and crowd uncomfortable.
Finally, on 14 mins, the Blues got the ball forward and stated to play a little better, Gueye firing in low after Holgate's dangerous cross was repelled. But it came to nothing and Burnley won another soft free-kick that defected behind off the wall from a corner. King headed goalward and it was Ross Barkley with superb anticipation to clear the ball right off the line after it had beaten Robles.
A fabulous cross in from Lowton somehow evaded three Burnley attackers who could each have scored with ease, and another Burnley free-kick was taken short this time, Holgate this time winning relief with a Blues free-kick.
Davies was chased by Hendrick all the way back to Robles and then tried an ambitious cross-field ball to Baines that curled slightly off-course, underling the frustrating inability the Blues had of stringing any sort of joined-up football together.
Gueye powered in a cleared Everton free-kick but that to a counter and another wrongly awarded corner for Burnley that needed defending, before Lukaku was floored by Joey Barton. Mirallas tried to jink in down the left channel but lost the ball, but Holgate fired in another cross that was defended away, and Schneiderlin was spoken to for a foul, Everton still looking horribly ragged at times.
Gueye was carded for a high foot on Ward as the scrappy play continued but Mirallas did well to win a corner off Barton. It was payed short by Baines to Barkley who was blocked/fouled but no cal and the advantage was gone.
Yet another free-kick to Burnley, this time against Davies but Robles claimed the ball and got it forward but only for a second before Volks put Jagielka under immense pressure off an inventive ball from deep by Barton and won a corner off Robles. Volkes again got free somehow but failed to beat Robles, a real letoff this one, Everton looking well rattled and in desperate need of a goal.
It almost came with Holgate's bright shot but Heaton was down quickly with Davies lurking. The Blues tried to build again down the right but Holgate's cross was overhit; however, Baines picked out Lukaku from the left but it was just too high for the big man, who could only head over.
But an Everton corner and much better pressure led to another corner from the right, this time easy pickings for Tom Heaton. Baines, Barkley then Davies tried to penetrate the left channel, all to no avail. But a much nicer move looked to have set up Gueye only for a dreadful miskick that denied any shot on Heaton.
A Barkley free-kick wide right led to another much more centrally placed that Mirallas fired into the wall; it deflected off Boyd's head toward but just over the angle, with Heaton stranded. Barkley got two bites of the cherry from the corner but could not wrap his foot around it either time.
The half came to a close, one of intense frustration, Everton only getting to grips with a problematic Burnley side in the final stages, but with few clear-cut Blues chances to speak of. Incredibly, Everton edged possession 64% to 36%.
Enner Valencia replaced Idrissa Gueye for the start of the second half. Barton fouled Barkley, right of teh Burnley area, and Williams flicked on a clever kick form Baiens for a corner, played short but defended away from a packed Area. But Valencia conjoured a snapshot, forceing a good save from Heaton then Lukakau looked to dig one out. And from the corner, Jagielka forced it over the line finally... twice!
A brilliant tacctical switch by Koeman pays off immediately... But incredibly, Vokes almost scores before Robles stupidly tackles him and brings him down, leaving Clattenberg no option. Vokes fried in from the spot, a ridiculous sequence. 1-1.
Brady played in a super cross from the left that Vokes could not quite reach but it won a corner for Burnley as they responded better to the different dynamic of the second half.
Barkley and Mirallas got free but hesitated and Mirallas scuffs his shot horribly with the goal at his mercy. At the other end, Brady put Robles under further pressure as the game was a much more open affair in the bright sunshine.
Valencia moved nicely along the 18-yard line but his shot was blocked (never a penalty despite the yelps) as it hit Brady's hand. Valencia again tried to penetrate from the right but Burnley seemed to have wised up to his movement. But it was Mirallas who got two golden chance and spurned them both (off Mee, then the post) before Holgate played in Lukaku for a trademark header but he had ventured offside.
Everton were moving the ball better and there seemed to be a lot more space but Burnley kept the Blues strikers at distance, Mirallas drilling another attempt wide.The Blues, however, scented blood and drove with determination at the Burnley defence from all angles, still with no further success. Schneiderlin and Barton challenged hard for the same ball, the Frenchman coming off worst.
But Everton finally settled matters in decisive style, first Barkley and then Lukaku firing the Blues into a commanding lead in a matter of minutes.
Ross Barkley with a shot that deflected in off Mee and was judged to have been an own goal, but earning himself a yellow card in the process for "excessive celebration"! Then Romelu Lukaku turned superbly, rolling the defender and thundered a fantastic left-foot shot in at the near post from close range, and Everton were finally in control!
Burnley got a chance to pull one back, Barton fouled on the edge of the Everton area, but Barton could not beat the Everton wall. Barkley again needed to be in the right place to nod away another goalbound Burnley effort off the line as the Blues came under a loot of late pressure.
After a horrible week for Ross Barkley off the field,Ross Barkley made his own statement on it and he was given a great ovation by another sellout Goodison crowd as Ademola Lookman came on for the three minutes of added time.
Scorers: Jagielka (47'), Mee (og:71'), Lukaku (74'); Vokes (pen:51').
Everton: Robles, Holgate, Jagielka, A Williams, Baines, Gana [Y:28'] (46' Valencia), Schneiderlin, Davies, Barkley [Y:72'] (89' Lookman), Lukaku, Mirallas.
Subs not Used: Stekelenburg, Barry, Calvert-Lewin, Pennington, Kenny.
Burnley: Heaton, Lowton, Keane, Mee, Ward, Brady, Barton, Hendrick(86' Westwood), Boyd, Vokes (74' Gray), Barnes (83' Agyei).
Subs not Used: Flanagan, Defour, Tarkowski, Pope.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Everton having a nibble at the top six
Gaz drove for this one, picking up myself and Steve on the way. While we were stuck in roadworks traffic we heard the news on the radio that The Sun journalists had been banned from Goodison Park. Good news on a poignant day for many.
We parked up as usual and had a bit of a stroll around in what was a nice, if blowy, afternoon. We eventually settled down into The Medlock Hotel for a few drinks and watched Tottenham Hotspur crank up the pressure at the top on Chelsea. A few of the other guys joined us in the pub and the team news brought no surprises with Ashley Williams replacing Matthew Pennington the only change to the team which defeated Leicester City last weekend.
We walked on towards Goodison Park, noticing a promotional giveaway for McVities Nibbles just near St Luke's Church and we all grabbed some matchday snacks, Ste even a little mortified he didn't make more of the opportunity as we all just grabbed the one pack. I saw later in the evening that he wasn't the only one who was a little opportunist with the treats: (https://twitter.com/EvertonArentWe/status/853288498027266049).
We heard Z-Cars ring out just as we entered the turnstiles and were in our seats just in time for the Hillsborough tribute. We then lined up to kick off, Everton attacking the Park End in the first half. When it was announced that Mark Clattenburg was departing for Saudi Arabia, I thought we had seen the last of him, though alas he was back at Goodison Park one final time to officiate this one. We're not a very forgiving or forgetful bunch us Evertonians, and I'll never forget his outrageous performance in the Merseyside derby a decade ago; however, I have to say I thought he officiated the game very well yesterday. He tried his best to play advantage throughout and this resulted in a pretty good flow to the game.
Burnley started the game very strongly. They outfought us in the midfield and created some early openings, not least when Ross Barkley anticipated the danger well to get back on his goal line to head clear an effort from Everton target Michael Keane. Burnley had further opportunities to get in front before Everton finally switched on. Sam Vokes had two chances, one when he was played through and Phil Jagielka did well to force him wide before Joel Robles rushed out to save his tame shot; the other a golden opportunity when he seized on Phil Jagielka's underhit backpass but could only tap straight at Joel Robles.
This seemed to be the wake up call that Everton needed, as with 10 minutes remaining in the first half Everton applied a fair bit of pressure and created openings of our own. Romalu Lukaku missed a reasonable chance with a haeder, Mason Holgate forced Tom Heaton into a useful save and I think Lukaku blazed over.
We finished the first half better than we started it, but were quickly out of the traps for the second half and really began with purpose. Ronald Koeman didn't hesitate in making us line up with a stronger attacking threat, adding Enner Valencia to our right flank and removing the cautioned Idrissa Gueye. The difference was immediate, Everton really getting into Burnley quickly and scored just four minutes into the half when Kevin Mirallas corner was flicked on by Ashley Williams and headed home by Phil Jagielka. Tom Heaton repelled both of Jagielka's efforts though both had crossed the line it seemed from the replay and the goal was awarded, Phil Jagielka cartwheeling away in celebration. That's four goals in four games from corner kicks, three of which scored by captain Phil Jagielka.
The lead was short lived of course when a rush of blood to the head from Joel Robles resulted in the Spaniard charging out towards the dead ball line and clattering into the back of Sam Vokes. It was an easy award for Mark Clattenburg to make, and Sam Vokes converted the penalty pretty easily, sending Joel Robles the wrong way. Burnley level inside three minutes.
When the penalty was awarded, it struck me how furious Ross Barkley was with his goalkeeper. It showed me how up for the game Ross Barkley was and, though it took Everton probably another 10 minutes to re-exert their authority, when we did Ross Barkley was very instrumental. As we applied the pressure we were playing ever so well and were becoming too much for Burnley to cope with. Tom Davies and Ross Barkley were exceptional during this period of sustained pressure. Kevin Mirallas, who had a bit of an off day, missed chances before we re-took the lead, two of which were in quick succession when he first scuffed Leighton Baines' pass at goal, and then smashed it against the post from the rebound.
The goal wasn't much longer in coming and it was Ross who collected Kevin Mirallas's pass and ran it into the penalty area and drove at goal, the ball deflecting off Michael Keane and then Ben Mee and looping into the net out of reach of the despairing dive from Tom Heaton. The celebration from Ross was a joy to behold as he jumped onto the wall of the Gwladys Street just near us so he was within touching distance of the adoring supporters. He got booked for his troubles but seemed to care little as he lapped up the applause. It was great to hear the Gwladys Street singing his name after a troubling week for our local star. It was just a shame this one has been accredited as an own goal for Ben Mee rather than for Ross Barkley.
Just three minutes later the game was secure when Romelu Lukaku received Leighton Baines's pass, span Keane and finished spectacularly to drive Everton into a 3-1 lead. Like Ross, Romelu similarly lapped up the adulation. The goal brought with it a couple of landmarks. Firstly it ensured that Leighton Baines is the only defender in Premier League history to assist 50 goals – no mean feat. More spectacularly however is the stat that Romelu Lukaku is the first player to score in nine consecutive home games since Dixie Dean in 1934. What price he can make that 10 against Chelsea in a fortnight?
Though they tried, Burnley failed to really create anything in response and if not for a poor pass from Enner Valencia late in the game, we could have added extra gloss to the scoreline though anything more may have been harsh on Burnley who competed well in a feisty game which was played in good spirit. I was certainly entertained.
The win puts us up to fifth position albeit with Arsenal and Manchester United with three games each in hand. Finishing higher than 7th remains a tough task but if we take each game as it comes and keep on collecting the points then who knows. Either way, European football is looking more and more of a certainty.
Robles: Didn't do badly really other than his big mistake for Burnley's penalty. As one of the fella's nearby at the match said - he's really blown his big chance of his career at Everton this last month or so. Surely Ronald Koeman also believes we need a new goalkeeper for next season? 5
Baines: Always galloping forward and got an assist. A good effort as always from Leighton. 7
Williams: Did well, particularly in the first half when we were under more pressure. 7
Jagielka: The one underhit backpass aside, he didn't really put a foot wrong. Great to see him get on the scoresheet again also. 7
Holgate: One of his most impressive performances this season. Very strong at right back and a little unlucky not to score in the first half. 7
Gueye: Was doing OK until substituted at half time. 6
Schneiderlin: Controls the midfield very well and is a very feisty player. Could be a great player for us for many a year. 7
Davies: He was excellent, especially in the second half as we strove for the winner. 8
Barkley: He really took the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half and he was a joy to watch. Let's hope he can carry this on for the rest of the season, finish it strongly, sign his contract, rest up for the summer and go again next season. His celebration would surely suggest he wishes to stay. My Man of the Match. 8
Mirallas: Not the feisty nark he has been of late, nor his best performance, but he still caused problems and contributed to the win – he put the corner in for Phil Jagielka's header and laid on the pass before Ross Barkley's deflected goal. 6Lukaku: Kept busy and was there for the kill when needed. Should he leave he will take some replacing. 7
Valencia (for Gueye): Made a good impact down the right. 7
Barry (for Mirallas): Got involved. 6
Lookman (for Barkley): Got involved. 6
Just three home games remain for Everton in 2016-17 as they try and push their way into the top six on the back of what has been phenomenal home form since the turn of the year.
The Blues can set a Premier League record of eight successive home wins this weekend if they can beat Burnley who have yet to win away from home this season. The Clarets have relied on their own home form to keep them clear of relegation danger so far and they travel to Merseyside sitting in 12th place, eights points clear of the bottom three.
For Ronald Koeman's Everton, a second successive game at Goodison Park offers the opportunity to move into fifth place in the table, at least until Arsenal, who travel to struggling Middlesbrough, and Manchester United, who host Champions-elect Chelsea, tomorrow and to sustain the momentum for more difficult assignments to come in the final few matches of the campaign.
The Dutchman is boosted by the return from suspension of defender Ashley Williams who missed last weekend's win over Leicester City as he served a one-game ban for his sending off at Old Trafford but will have an otherwise unchanged squad from which to choose.
Muhamed Besic made his long-awaited return to action earlier in the week following his recovery from a ruptured ACL with 45 minutes for the Under-23s but the Bosnian is not expected to be involved at first team level just yet.
Brendan Galloway also featured for the second string for the first time this season after returning from a loan spell at West Bromwich Albion but the terms of his release from the Baggies stipulate that he can only play at U23s level.
Koeman would not be expected to make too many changes for this one given how well his charges fared last weekend. He made just one substitution in that game, withdrawing Morgan Schneiderlin with 17 minutes left as a precaution following his two-game injury lay-off, a reflection of his confidence in the players on the pitch to finish the job on the vanquished Foxes.
Kevin Mirallas's energetic and feisty display should see him keep his place playing off Romelu Lukaku up front while Matthew Pennington will likely make way for Williams at the back.
Sean Dyche, meanwhile, can recall the fit-again Steven Defour but has to make a decision over the match fitness of Johann Berg Gudmundsson after his recent recovery from a knee injury.
Koeman was particularly perplexed at how his side had managed to lose the reverse fixture at Turf Moor so while he will be wary of Burnley's strengths, he may also have a particular desire for revenge in this game. His Toffees are, however, a different proposition these days to the one that was sloppy and profligate with possession in that encounter last October.
Better with the ball and more incisive up front, Everton should have too much for the Clarets who have notched just nine goals on their travels all season.
Kick-off: 3pm, 15th April, 2017
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Last Time: Everton 1-0 Burnley
Predicted Line-up: Robles, Holgate, Jagielka, Williams, Baines, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Davies, Barkley, Mirallas, Lukaku