Lukaku return boosts Everton
Everton 1 West Ham 0
Published 02/03/2014 | 02:30
This was a sequel to savour for Everton. Roberto Martinez has only used Romelu Lukaku as a substitute twice. Both have come against West Ham. On each occasion, he has struck.
They have proved twin winners. Six months after his scoring debut, the Belgian staged an action replay to end the Hammers' finest run of the season and ensure that consecutive league defeats have not derailed Everton's campaign.
Lukaku's first goal of 2014, expertly converted from a similarly fine cut-back from Leighton Baines, illustrated how much Everton suffered during a month when their only prolific finisher was first injured and ineligible.
His presence on the bench for almost an hour was the consequence of a chest infection. It was, too, the result of strategic thinking by manager Martinez.
"I knew he would be more effective finishing the game rather than starting," said the Spaniard. "The last few minutes become harder to defend with Romelu's freshness and power." So it proved. Lukaku excelled as an impact substitute for West Bromwich Albion last season while Martinez has an uncanny habit of sending on game-changing replacements.
Combine both factors and there was an inevitability about the outcome.
"It was a wonderful move," added Martinez. Rarely restrained in his praise, he was especially effusive about Lukaku. "You are not going to find a better striker around the world in terms of having that power, that strength, that back-to-goal ability. He has got everything. Romelu is someone we have missed for a long time."
Lacking their spearhead, Everton were rarely at their most fluent. The only incisiveness came from a familiar channel with the left-sided axis of Baines and Steven Pienaar combining to trouble West Ham.
The Englishman was twice the South African's supplier when he came close. A first shot was touched on to the post; a second was skied over.
Both were involved in the goal. "Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar were at their very, very best," Martinez said. "Their understanding and their chemistry was clear."
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