Everton’s remarkable first half performance merited three points, despite a late scare in the final moments of the match. The Toffees remain undefeated under Roberto Martinez and climb up to fourth place in the league, as they blitzed Alan Pardew’s Newcastle at Goodison Park – specifically in the opening 30 minutes.
Yet it’s difficult to praise a sole player for the Toffee’s dominance, as there were outstanding first half displays throughout the Everton side. However, it was Romelu Lukaku who made a statement during his second loan spell since signing for Chelsea in 2011. The Belgian striker was reserved during his post-match interview, stating, “I just want to improve,” when asked about setting goals during his time in the Merseyside.
Nevertheless, there was a sign of improvement in Lukaku’s overall game against Newcastle. His ability to score goals was never questioned, but another reason why Mourinho was content on allowing him to leave on loan for another season – besides getting enough minutes – was his mediocre link up play. But Lukaku was involved in all three Everton goals on the night, scoring two and assisting one.
The 20-year-old striker’s physical presence forced Coloccini to head the ball towards Kevin Mirallas, who surged past Davide Santon and cut the ball back for the Belgian to slot past Tim Krul. 20 minutes later, Lukaku held the ball up and played a defence-splitting ball into Ross Barkley, who slid his shot past Krul to double the Toffee’s lead. Afterwards, Lukaku took advantage of Krul and Fabricio Coloccini’s defensive error, which led to the Belgian tapping the ball into an open net.
Lukaku is the physical presence the Toffee’s have lacked in their attack – and Martinez’s possession-based philosophy saw the likes of Gareth Barry, James McCarthy and Leon Osman dictate the tempo of the match. Osman started on the left, but he sat narrow without the ball and he tucked into central positions to help retain possession. Barry and McCarthy controlled the midfield as Everton’s fluid passing and quick change of play led to their dominance in the first half.
Ross Barkley also continues to shine in the no.10 position under Martinez. The 19-year-old English midfielder finished the match with a 92% pass completion rate spreading incisive passes across the final third. Barkley was influential in Everton’s attack going forward, and the partnership he’s developed with Lukaku looks promising.
However, for all of their dominance in the first half, the introduction of Yohan Cabaye nearly saw the Toffees drop points. The main issue Newcastle’s 4-3-3 encountered was a lack of creativity. The midfield trio of Vurnon Anita, Cheik Tiote and Moussa Sissoko lacked invention, energy and penetration, thus leading to their inability to threaten or harm Everton in the final third. Mirallas and Seamus Coleman nullified Hatem-Ben Arfa, while Loic Remy lacked the service he required.
But Cabaye shifted the match significantly – besides his breath-taking long-range goal, the Frenchman provided immediacy in midfield. Cabaye completed the most passes in the attacking third of any Newcastle player – second highest in the match – while intercepting the most passes in the match, despite being on the field for 45 minutes.
Cabaye’s presence improved Newcastle’s performance significantly, as he stamped his authority on the match – he scored a fabulous goal, played a pivotal role in Remy’s second, but the gap between the two sides was far too large.
Everton were in complete control of the match, yet Cabaye’s introduction instilled creativity in Newcastle’s attack – a feat they lacked in the first half.