A thrilling first-half performance proved enough for Everton to remain the Premier League’s only unbeaten team and move up into fourth place in the table with a 3-2 victory over Newcastle United at Goodison Park.
As good as Everton looked in the opening 45 minutes, Newcastle were equally as culpable in their downfall. Two goals from Romelu Lukaku, sandwiching a strike by Ross Barkley, put the hosts into a seemingly unassailable 3-0 lead at the break. But with Newcastle’s changes helping them in the second half and Everton losing some of their intensity, the visitors ensured a tense finale when Loic Remy added to Yohan Cabaye’s scorching effort in the 89th minute. There was to be no further drama, though, and Everton held onto continue their impressive start to the campaign under Roberto Martinez.
His opposite number, Alan Pardew, will doubtless try to take encouragement from their dramatically improved second-half performance, but has to have concerns about their shambolic display early before the interval.
The warning signs were there in the opening two minutes when Lukaku had the ball in the net, but was rightly called back for an offside. In only the fifth minute, there was no flag to rescue Newcastle’s already ailing back line.
Lukaku helped a long punt downfield to Mirallas on the right and while one Belgian made his way completely unchecked into the penalty the other simply sped past Davide Santon on the right before picking out a fine low ball across the box that Lukaku swept first-time into the net. Having got a hand to the ball, Krul must also take a share of the considerable blame.
Things were only to get worse. Everton went close through Ross Barkley and James McCarthy before an inevitable second goal arrived. Lukaku and Barkley’s linkup provides real encouragement for Everton going forward this season and the two combined effectively in the 25th minute. This time Lukaku played provider as he took advantage of a cavernous hold in Newcastle’s back line to feed a ball through to Barkley, who finished clinically low into the near corner.
But Newcastle’s nadir was yet to come. Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, who failed to cover himself in glory for the first two goals, could find no hiding place in being the central culprit in allowing a long ball forward to bounce and run through for Lukaku to get to ahead of the slow to react Krul and emphatically smash the ball into the unguarded net.
Not only had Newcastle been dreadful defensively but they had also created nothing going forward. The one man who looked capable of producing something positive was unsurprisingly Hatem Ben Arfa. There was some surprise then when the Frenchman didn’t return for the second-half and was replaced by fellow Frenchman Cabaye. Less surprising was Yanga-Mbiwa having his evening to forget being ended after just 45 minutes.
Looking for an unlikely revival, the visitors came close to making an early first step. Yoan Gouffran looked like he had pulled a goal back when he dinked an effort over the outrushing Howard only to see the ball come back off the post.
At the other end it was soon almost 4-0. Mirallas drove a low shot across goal that Krul could only palm out right into the danger zone where Leon Osman just failed to get his foot onto to turn into the net.
But Newcastle displayed far more control in the second half, albeit with Everton lacking the same urgency as the first. Still, in the 51st minute, Newcastle got a goal that their efforts after the break arguably deserved. It was some strike too, as Cabaye made his point that he should never have been on the bench at the start, with an unstoppable effort with the outside of his right foot from 25 yards that was always curling away from the forlorn dive of Howard.
Still, albeit memorable, the goal looked unlikely to be anything more than a consolation. Although enlivened by young Barcelona loanee Gerard Deulofeu, Everton were playing like a team that assumed the work had been done. And they were almost made to pay for their complacency.
With less than two minutes of normal time remaining, Remy got the better of a challenge with Phil Jagielka from Mathieu Debuchy’s knock down and prodded pasty Howard to ensure more than a few nerves around Goodison Park. But the forward on-loan from Queens Park Rangers smashed another chance over to end Newcastle’s hopes of a point that their first-half showing scarcely warranted.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.