Everton pulled off an excellent win coming from behind for the second year in a row at The Hawthorns. Hosts West Bromwich Albion took an early lead from a corner, an issue that has plagued the side since the previous regime. However, a tactical substitute by manager Ronald Koeman made all the difference, with additional substitutions underpinning the Blues’ dominance on the day.
On the game today -
“We played well but it was still difficult because it always is coming to this place. When West Brom scored to make it 1-0, that made it harder to create. Of course, making it 1-1 close to half-time was a key moment in the game. It was a different situation in the dressing room and different situation for West Brom.
“In the second half, it was really good. Good football. The substitutes had a big impact in the final result, but we forgot to kill the game. We had two big chances – one for Ross Barkley and one for Romelu Lukaku. You need to be lucky with second balls, but there was good defending, good spirit and we deserved the three points today.”
Koeman confirmed that the first-half change he made was strategic -
“It was a tactical change. We started with three at the back like we did against Tottenham last week.
“But you know if you go 1-0 down, West Brom still drop more back and you need really a target man, you need to make the pitch more wide with wing players to create your own space and from that stage on we were the dominant team.”
Goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg once again made some crucial saves on the day, and it didn’t escape the manager’s notice -
“After half time there was a crucial save [from Stekelenburg], like last week.
“That’s why it’s important to have a goalkeeper that saves you in one or two moments per game. He saved us maybe one point last week and at least one goal again today.”
Young defender Mason Holgate was excellent once again in the backline, and got a mention too -
"I’m very pleased with the young boy [Holgate]. He looks like he’s already played two seasons for Everton. He was comfortable. It’s not easy for him to be a third centre-back and then we changed system and he played right-back.
"He did a great job against Craig Gardner and James McClean. He was stopping crosses and he has a great attitude. It’s good for the people in the Academy that the manager believes in young players.”
Gareth Barry came in for some special praise from Koeman, who said some very positive things about the ageless midfielder, and him scoring the winner-
“He is a very clever player on the pitch, his passing is fantastic.
“If the team is compact and you don't need to run a lot in distance he can press and win tackles and he is aggressive and he was in the box today.
“That surprised me! Not that he was in the box, because at corners he took his position (that we wanted).
“But he's still one of the best players that I have managed in my teams because of the cleverness of him in football is really a high quality.”
Winger Yannick Bolasie put in a good cameo performance -
“Bolasie is a player with a lot of physicality and his work-rate is incredible to the team and there are his offensive qualities.
“It was a fantastic cross for Ross and the second chance was an assist for Romelu from the centre of the pitch.
“I'm really happy because that's why we signed this player. I'm very pleased in his debut that he is showing those qualities.”
The most far-reaching statement that Koeman made on the afternoon though was on Lukaku’s future. It was reported in a Dutch paper last night that the player had personally told the manager that he would be staying at Everton -
“That is true.
“He spoke to me yesterday morning that he made a decision by himself to stay at least one more season at Everton. That was great news for everybody.
“It's possible (he signs his new contract).”
He also clarified his decision to keep the Belgian striker off his starting XI -
“I'm not doubting the player's qualities. He was 10 days out with an injury.
“He did yesterday his second session, but I'm not so stupid to put him on the bench next week! There's no question.”
So there, a comeback three points away from home this early in the season and Lukaku’s immediate future (until the end of this transfer window in eleven days) secure for the Blues to enjoy this weekend.