Everton lifted themselves into the top four, preserving their status as the top flight's only remaining unbeaten side with their third straight Premier League victory, although they were forced into a nervy finale by a Newcastle side that grew in confidence after being destroyed in the first half.
The Blues looked on course for the kind of deluge of goals that usually eluded Roberto Martinez's predecessor as they surged into a 3-0 lead on the back of a sublime first half display. Having been turned over in their own back yard by Hull City the weekend before last and then put to the sword emphatically by a rampant Everton under the Goodison lights, Alan Pardew's Magpies were potential lambs to the slaughter.
They were allowed to gradually work their way back into the game after half time, however, and though a point would have flattered them enormously, they might have grabbed it in injury time had Loic Remy's drive not flown over Tim Howard's crossbar just afew minutes after he'd made it 3-2. That would have been staggeringly rough justice on Everton who, in their best moments, were irresistible.
Martinez made a number of the expected changes to the team that lost at Fulham in the Capital One Cup last Tuesday with perhaps only Steven Pienaar missing from what would ideally be his first-choice starting XI. Nevertheless, the team that he did field he looked to have everything needed to steamroller their way to an impressive victory as they took the game by the scruff of the neck in the first half.
It was a half owned by home debutant, Romelu Lukaku who scored two and laid on the other and had the ball in the net on two other occasions before 43 minutes had elapsed. The Belgian was narrowly offside in only the second minute as he put the ball past Tim Krul but it would take only three more minutes before he was on the scoresheet for real thanks to another goal forged in Belgium.
Kevin Mirallas scampered down the right flank leaving his marker for dust, looked up and squared it invitingly for his international teammate who swept home via Krul's arm, the ball deflecting inside the far post to make it 1-0.
Barkley arrowed a shot narrowly wide from the left side of the area and the impressive James McCarthy forced a save from Krul that Leon Osman tried to chip into the far side of the goal on the rebound as the Blues turned the screw.
And they rewarded in the 25th minute when Lukaku collected a pass in the centre of the field, held it until Barkley had dissected the Barcodes' defence with a run and then put a perfectly-weighted ball through that the young midfielder controlled and then despatched past the goalkeeper.
Though 2-0 down, Newcastle began to find their feet a little after the half-hour mark, with Everton beginning to cede some of the possession they had been greedily hogging to that point but the visitors were the architects of their own destruction eight minutes before the break with some shocking defending.
Lukaku tracked Howard's long boot downfield as it bounced between Williamson and Coloccini, did enough for Krul to bottle it as the pair came together in the Newcastle box and then profited when the 'keeper missed the ball entirely, leaving the Belgian striker to neatly turn inside Coloccini's last-ditch challenge and emphatically slam his second goal into the empty net.
With his third goal in as many games for the Blues, Lukaku was clearly enjoying himself but the offside flag deprived him of a hat-trick as he finished off another lovely passing move. Still, with Hatem Ben Arfa only forcing the first real save from Howard deep into first-half stoppage time, Martinez's men went into half time on a high.
The complacency that had begun to creep in in the latter stages of the first period, however, bled noticeably into the second half as Santon was allowed to drift a shot over the bar from distance and then Yoan Gouffran raced in behind the home defence to latch onto a through-ball that he clipped over the advancing Howard and, thankfully, off the far post.
Normal service appeared to have resumed at the other end as Mirallas, who had shaken off an injury he'd sustained in the first half when he kicked the turf taking a corner, drive into the box and drove in a low cross-cum-shot that Krul palmed towards the back post. The ball squirmed agonisingly behind Osman who couldn't quite steer the loose ball home.
But a couple of minutes later, with the otherwise excellent McCarthy backing off, Cabaye, a half-time substitute, was allowed space to pick unload a superb effort from 25 yards that dipped into the top corner of Howard's goal.
It was the first goal Everton had conceded at Goodison Park since March and it briefly sparked a reaction as Barkley skipped through the Newcastle defence and forced a save from Krul and Osman shot disappointingly high and wide from 20-odd yards.
For all their manager's emphasis on retaining the ball, though, the Blues were still ceding far too much possession to the visitors but Anita's shot was, thankfully, fired straight at Howard and he was able to gather it safely shortly before the hour mark.
It was then that Everton began to reassert themselves a little and start to claw back some possession. McCarthy was putting in a good shift breaking things up in the middle and stringing passes across the centre alongside Gareth Barry who was less impressive than he had been on his debut against Chelsea but was still an important component in the engine room.
All four of the central midfielders had their lapses in concentration over the course of the game, though, that might otherwise have been punished but there were plenty of promising signs that Martinez has decent depth to cope with the rigours of a Premier League season.
The killer instinct to smash teams when they have the impetus will hopefully come. Lukaku might have provided the death blow to Newcastle with 23 minutes left but Tiote just put him off at the crucial moment and he sliced a shot wide from around the penalty spot and when Coleman was tripped by the same player on the edge of the box, Baines skied his free kick into the stands.
The introduction of Gerard Deulofeu promised to give Newcastle something else to think about in the final 18 minutes, though, and the young Spaniard delivered a few minutes after coming on for Mirallas when he danced past three players to the near post and when the ball finally broke to Baines on the left side of the box, the left back flashed an effort back across goal and just wide of the post.
Newcastle remained dangerous, though, and with 88 minutes on the clock, Remy capitalised on poor defending to set up the possibility of another grandstand finish by them at Goodison. Baines was beaten in the air to a cross from
the left flank and Jagielka allowed the French striker to bundle him over as they challenged for the knockdown, Remy tucking the ball past Howard.
Fortunately, though, the Frenchman's drilled effort three minutes into injury time rocketed over the bar and Everton's grip on the three points held firm.
It is still early days in Martinez's reign but there was so much to admire in the way his team sliced Newcastle up in the first half with football that just oozed class at times. In Lukaku, Everton have a genuinely top-class striker who could, on this evidence, easily reach the 20-goal mark if he stays fit and the team keeps giving him the kind of service he received tonight. He still has elements to learn to add to his game and he still looks a little short on full match fitness and sharpness but he is a joy to have in the team.
Equally, though, with six goals conceded in the last three games, the defence is looking a little too porous for comfort and that is an area for the manager to work on lest supporters grow more uncomfortable with the reputation his Wigan teams earned for defensive generosity.
Despite the close scoreline, though, Everton were significantly better than Newcastle overall and thoroughly deserved the win. Six games unbeaten and fourth in the table is a great start to the campaign under a new manager and new methods and while handing out a battering tonight would have sent the Blues off the Etihad this coming weekend with real adrenaline in their veins, the fact that they secured the victory and leap-frogged Manuel Pellegrini's side in the process should stand them in good stead for what should be their sternest test of the campaign so far.
Roberto Martinez made two changes from the West Ham starting line-up for the first Monday night Premier League game this season. Pienaar and Kone are apparently fit again but do not feature, with Gibson and Oviedo also absent. Romelu Lukaku made his first League start in his home debut for the Blues and James McCarthy comes in to partner Gareth Barry, who makes his 500th Premier League appearance.
Lukaku rolled the ball nonchalantly into the Newcastle net in the first minute after lovely interplay with Barkley, but he was just fractionally offside as the Blues started with some fine intent, Mirallas overplaying a cross from the right.
Barkley was set up nicely by Lukaku and struck his shot with great force but it curled away from the goal. At the other end, Ben Arfa beat Jagielka well and won a corner off Coleman coming in hard but Phil Dowd blew up immediately for an infringement by a Newcastle player.
Baines was an early booking for a perfectly timed sliding tackle... supposedly late, but how was he then the one to get his foot to the ball? A very odd one (on replay). An interesting move all down to an aggressive McCarthy ensued from a Krul clearance and it looked like goal Number 2 but Osman, rather than laying back from the byeline, played a clever if far too slow chip from the rebounded block over Krul that allowed the defenders to get back and head away.
Coleman then went on the gallop down the right, and it looked like something must come of it but his pass inside was intercepted and Krul eventually cleared. But, from a good midfield pass off Mirallas, Lukaku then played in the most perfectly weighted forward pass for Barkley, just too fast for Coloccini, to cleverly dig it out and fire confidently past Krul. Simply wonderful stuff from Everton.
Yanga-Mbiwa barged Baines over but nothing came of the set-piece. At the back Distin was strong as ever, and clever in nullifying the Barcodes' efforts as the visitors saw a little ore of the ball until a massive hoofed clearance from Howard bounced very nicely for Lukakau who had a lot of work to do, beating Krul and others to slot home very nicely.
Mirallas gave away a dangerous free-kick after going in the book for a rather ugly-looking challenge on Remy? Lukaku started playing winger a little down the right but twice misplaced the crucial final pass. Ben Arfa forced a low stretching dive from Howard just before the end of a very very satisfying first half from Everton.
Everton looked half-asleep after the break, allowing three Newcastle attacks, with Guffran getting free and chipping past Howard only for the ball to bobble off the bottom of the post and back in front of the line for Barry to clear. What a let-off! But they went up the other end and so nearly scored when Mirallas whipped in a low cross that Osman just could not wrap his clever feet around when the empty goal was gaping. Newcastle scored with a brilliant shot from Cabaye that left Howard flapping as it rocketed into the Everton net. The first opposition goal scored in the league at Goodison since March
Osman was determined to get on the scoresheet but his shooting was not up to the required standard, as the Blues looked a little shell-shocked at times by a rejuvenated Newcastle side. Next was Anita, firing one at Howard, with Everton's possession game in tatters as it looked very much like becoming another "game of two halves". Lukaku moving even further out on the wing (WHY?)
Some increasingly sloppy play was tantamount to suicide by Everton, an inexplicable mix of over-confidence and sheer laziness seeing the ball given up in shocking positions with worrying regularity as Newcastle threatened to get themselves right back in it. Martinez finally realized he needed to do something to swing the pendulum back in the proper direction, bringing Gerard Deulofeu on for a decent last 20 mins in place of Mirallas.
Some mixed play finally got the ball to Barkley in a shooting position but he leaned back horribly and scooped it well over the bar. Coleman was then tripped by Tiote, who should have really got a second yellow, Baines curling the free-kick over the bar. Barry was then booked for what seemed just an ordinary block. Deulofeu then went on a wonderful mazey run but the pullback was lacking, Baines then striking a rocket across the face of the Newcastle goal. More PATB silliness before Barry had to handle a Cabaye shot, thankfully hitting the wall from the set-piece. Another great move for Deulofeu, this time on the left, but somehow his effort was blocked away. Naismith then came on for Barkley, who had done very well again.
More totally dopey defending allowed Debuchy to toe in after bursting between two defenders in front of Howard, as the Blues seemed determined to snatch a draw from the jaws for victory... Utterly unbelievable. More reinforcements, in the form of Stones, coming on for Osman as 4 very nervous minutes of added time needed to be played out hopefully with a touch more professionalism. Lorik Remy lashed one just inches over the bar after more nonsense defending. A late free-kick, and no-one in the Newcastle box, silly silly play almost ceding possession...
An absolutely brilliant first half... an absolutely shameful complacent sloppy second half verging on professional incompetence, Everton very lucky to secure three points and 4th place. But it's results that matter and a win was absolutely required here, so that is all we should really talk about... but that first half was really, really good!
Everton are back at Goodison Park under the lights this Monday evening for the visit of Newcastle United as Roberto Martinez looks to shrug off last Tuesday's Capital One Cup disappointment and extend his side's unbeaten start in the Premier League.
As they have done so in all of their matches so far this season with the exception of the win over Chelsea, the Spaniard's side dominated their cup tie with Fulham, particularly in the first half, but, having grabbed just the one goal from their efforts, they were at risk of the Cottagers mounting a comeback in the second half. Fulham duly did and won the tie 2-1 thanks to two second-half goals.
With their focus now back on the League, the Blues are back home after beating West Ham 3-2 in thrilling fashion nine days ago and they have the huge incentive of fourth place being up for grabs should they beat the Barcodes in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
As he did against Stevenage in the League Cup second round, Martinez made eight changes on Tuesday and most of the team that started against the Hammers is expected to return to the starting line-up. That should include Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas, Leighton Baines and Tim Howard and it should be a landmark night for Gareth Barry, set to make his 500th appearance in the Premier League — only the 10th player to pass that milestone.
Martinez is suitably impressed by his new midfield general saying, "I don't think there are many more significant records than that. I think it represents his professionalism, the way he looks after himself, the way he sees the game and the experience that he brings into any side.
“And you can add the 50 appearances he's had for England, so far. He's in such a great moment in his career.”
Barry is conceivably battling for a starting berth with fit-again Gibson, whose struggle to regain match fitness is much needed in the Evertion midfield engine room, although it's possible – though unlikely – that Martinez could deploy them both in the centre at the the expense of Leon Osman and James McCarthy.
Indeed, the Spaniard has perhaps his most difficult selection to make since taking the reins at Everton, with Steven Pienaar also apparently recovered from a hamstring strain and Steven Naismith having scored in two of the last three games from attacking midfield.
Up front, Romelu Lukaku was given the nod at Fulham and he is vying for the striker's role with Nikica Jelavic and Arouna Kone who has yet to start a league game this season but is back in contention after recovering from injury of his own. Jelavic started at Upton Park last weekend but was replaced at half time by Lukaku and it's hard to look beyond the Belgian for the starting role against Newcastle.
For his part, Alan Pardew has struggled to get any consistency out of his team this season after a poor 2012-13 campaign – making a mockery of his those ill-advised comments a while back (or perhaps driving home his point but not in the way he intended!) about his club being "in a dfferent league" to Everton.
They lost their last Premier League game at home to Hull after twice leading and they sit in 16th coming into this match but they have won once on their travels so far, that a 2-1 win at Aston Villa two weeks ago.
Given the respective league form of the two sides and home advantage of Goodison Park, this really is a game from which the Blues should be looking to claim all three points. Victory would put them into the top four and onto the heels of the Arsenal at the summit and also signal Martinez's intent in his first season in charge.
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* Everton deducted 6 points for PSR breachView full table