Everton cannot stop winning at Goodison Park. The club has now taken three points in each of their last eight matches at the friendly confines. While the first half left something to be desired, the Toffees grew into the game and ended up comfortably beating Burnley 3-1 on Saturday to momentarily move into fifth place in the Premier League.
The opening half hour was a bit concerning for Everton. The commentators made note that the team looked lackadaisical in warmups prior to the match, and it showed in their play on the pitch. Passes failed to hit their mark, and every man in blue looked a step slower than their counterparts in claret.
Two attempted back passes by Phil Jagielka nearly led to Burnley goals. Idrissa Gana Gueye was off all day long. And there were very few chances created by the Blues.
Burnley, to their credit, was the polar opposite. Despite being situated in mid table with little threat of going down, the visitors were lively, aggressive and sharp early on. But they failed to convert their handful of chances as things went into halftime knotted in a goalless draw.
The second half was much better from Everton. Enner Valencia came on in place of Gueye, and with him he brought a more direct approach that created more goal-scoring opportunities. Almost immediately, Valenica was taking shots and pinging passes; a welcome addition against a Burnley side that Everton should dominate.
Inevitably, the goals started to come. First, Jagielka scored (again) from a corner (again). The Kevin Mirallas-to-Jagielka corner connection is real. This is the third match in a row in which the skipper has scored.
But moments later, Everton keeper Joel Robles made an idiotic challenge in the box, knocking over the Burnley attacker, leading to an obvious penalty and easy conversion for a Sam Vokes equalizer.
Those types of decisions are why Everton will be shopping for a goalkeeper in the summer. Robles has his good days where he is number one quality, but he makes so many bone-headed mistakes that he can’t be trusted each week.
Momentum remained in Everton’s favor, however, as they continued to look likely to score, and they would. A Ross Barkley strike from the top of the box deflected off of both Michael Keane and Ben Mee before bouncing into the goal off of the post past Tom Heaton.
Ross went into the Gwladys Street crowd to celebrate, earning a yellow card in the process. It has been a tough week for Everton’s favorite son. It started by being punched in a bar Monday morning, continued with talk that he and Koeman had words about his contract and concluded with some ridiculous talk from an English rag. Having a hand in what turned out to be the winning goal has to feel pretty good.
Moments later, Romelu Lukaku scored (of course) to finish Burnley off and secure the points for Everton. This goal was all about Lukaku’s strength. Leighton Baines fed him the ball, but Rom used his muscle and quickness to power through the Burnley defense and hammer a thunderous shot into the net, further extending his lead at the top of the Premier League scoring charts. Can we start talking about Player of the Year? It would certainly be warranted for the Belgian.
After the opening half hour, there wasn’t much to dislike about this Everton performance. Robles made a bad decision, but the Blues attack picked him up. Kevin Mirallas was creative and energetic today, but lacked the final touch. Other than that, it was what has become a standard butt-whooping at Goodison for the visitors.
For the time being, Everton are fifth place in the league, tied on points with Manchester United and three points ahead of Arsenal. Of course, both clubs have three games in hand. United host Chelsea tomorrow. Arsenal head to Middlesbrough on Monday.
Next up for the Toffees is a trip to the Olympic Stadium against an up-and-down West Ham side on Saturday.