Setback for McCarthy as Barkley stars
Everton 3 West Brom 0
England boss Gareth Southgate was in attendance at Goodison Park as Ross Barkley united both managers in praise in Everton's 3-0 dismissal of West Brom.
Southgate's presence on Merseyside could prove profitable for the 23-year-old playmaker, who has not appeared in a Three Lions squad since Euro 2016.
Barkley was afforded licence to commit himself to attack and he did just that, helping force the Baggies on the back foot and capping a strong all-round showing with a fine cross that begged to be nodded home by Romelu Lukaku.
Southgate must now be pondering whether to call up Barkley for the forthcoming games against Germany and Lithuania and Ronald Koeman expects him to have liked what he saw.
"I think so, yes. He played really well," he said when asked if Southgate would have left impressed.
"Sometimes you need to be lucky as a player . . . if the national coach is in the stand when it is not your best game maybe he goes home with a different opinion about the player.
"He's a fantastic player and he showed that with his assist. Outstanding. Everybody knows Ross had a difficult time in the beginning of the season but he's really improving."
Koeman's opposite number Tony Pulis was even more ready in his praise for a player who has long been tipped as a major star, debuted for his country in 2013 but has yet to nail down a role.
"That's the best I've seen Barkley play today and I've been up against him quite a few times," Pulis said.
"I thought he was very, very good.
"Then there's Lukaku who is one of the best strikers in the Premier League. Those two up front are very, very good and that's the difference these clubs have."
Pulis did not fault his side's effort but felt the timing of Everton's first two goals, an opportunistic finish from Kevin Mirallas and a lovely piece of craft from Morgan Schneiderlin which came in rapid fire at the end of the first half, knocked the stuffing from the visitors.
"I don't think it did reflect the game but conceding the two goals before half-time killed us," he said. "Two goals in five minutes mentally affected the players.
"Up to that point we were well in the game. We've not thrown the towel in at all, the players worked really hard."
Koeman's spirits were only dampened by two bits of disappointing injury news, Ireland international James McCarthy's latest hamstring-related setback and Leighton Baines' enforced withdrawal at half-time.
"Leighton had a problem with his back, he couldn't move any more - that was the reason we had to change," he said. "And James again has some problems on his hamstring. It is not a big hamstring, maybe one or two weeks, but I am really disappointed."
The injuries are mounting for Ireland ahead of the crucial World Cup qualifier against Wales with McCarthy not the only player's fitness in doubt. Central defence could be a particularly problematic area for manager Martin O'Neill.
Newcastle United defender Ciaran Clark was forced off just over an hour into his side's shock 3-1 home defeat to Fulham yesterday. The former Aston Villa defender, who has been a virtual ever-present under Rafa Benitez this season, will have scans on a knee injury, the Newcastle manager confirmed last night.
Clark and Brighton defender Shane Duffy have become O'Neill's first-choice central defensive partnership in this qualifying campaign.
But Duffy is already ruled out of the Wales game after he suffered a broken metatarsal which required surgery last week. Derby County centre-half Richard Keogh is also currently sidelined with a calf issue.
Sunday Indo Sport