Romelu Lukaku’s second-half hat trick was the difference as Everton smashed Sunderland 3-0 at the Stadium of Light on Monday evening. With the win, the Toffees now sit in third place in the Premier League (behind Manchester City and Chelsea) after four games.
Want a recap of the first half? No...no, you really don’t. Those 45 minutes would have been better spent doing literally anything else; playing FIFA, taking a nap, cleaning the toilet. Really, anything would do.
It was a disappointing opening to the day. Everton bossed possession, but Ross Barkley was off the pace and seemed to still be in a funk from not being selected for England this past week. Lukaku was barely involved and failed to score on a great chance. Winger Yannick Bolasie ran hot and cold.
At half time, Barkley was taken off in favor of Gerard Deulofeu and that seemed to change the game completely. Geri’s pace spread the Sunderland defense thin, making room for Lukaku who, after blowing a couple nice chances, scored three quick goals in the span of 11 minutes on the 60th, 68th and 71st minutes. Oh my! He could have even had a fourth but hit the crossbar.
The first goal came off a lovely Idrissa Gueye cross from the right side into the box and onto Rom’s head. The second was also a header. This time the delivery came from Bolasie near the touch line on the left. And then the triple came off a beautiful through ball from Kevin Mirallas, leaving only the keeper to beat and Lukaku did so cooly.
That second half was a marked difference from what we saw early on and a lot of it can be contributed to Ronald Koeman’s managing (and of course Lukaku’s performance). Koeman noticed that Barkley was out of the game and the gaffer clearly felt that a draw against a weak Sunderland side was not going to be acceptable. Making a change to a born and bred Toffee like Barkley sends a message to everyone: supporters, players and coaches. That is a major change from Roberto Martinez’s preference to seemingly revere bigger names like Ross and squash the smaller role players.
How poor Ross looked is a tad concerning. Unlike many of his teammates, Barkley had a week off, allowing his body to recover and prepare for the Premier League. Instead, he looked sluggish and unable to complete even the simplest pass. However, Koeman will certainly not be giving up on the talented midfielder. On the contrary, he will probably push him and make him better in doing so.
On a positive note, the defense looked strong yet again. The two goals they have allowed so far this year are tied for the fewest in the league (with Spurs). Maarten Stekelenburg had a couple of nice reaction saves. Both Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka were getting in front of shots and giving Sunderland little room to work. And how about Gueye!? That guy is all over the field. One moment, he is breaking up the Sunderland attack, the next he is assisting on a Lukaku goal. He is just all kinds of awesome.
This was a good day. Everton are continuing to do exactly what they need to in the season’s opening stages. These wins against lower league competition are going to provide them the cushion they need to push for European football when they come up against the “bigger” clubs in a few weeks. Well done, boys!
It’s a busy week for the Blues. They host Middlesbrough on Saturday in the Premier League and then get a visit from Championship side Norwich City next Tuesday in the third round of the FA Cup. Everton are yet to be beat this season in either competition.