Ronald Koeman hopes Romelu Lukaku is back into top form with hat-trick
Published 13/09/2016 | 00:01
Everton boss Ronald Koeman is hoping striker Romelu Lukaku has played himself back into top form after seeing him plunder a hat-trick at Sunderland.
The Belgium international scored all his side's goals inside 11 second-half minutes as the Toffees ran riot at the Stadium of Light following a frustrating opening 45 minutes to claim a 3-0 victory.
They were his first Premier League goals in 12 games and could hardly have come at a better time as Koeman's men extended their unbeaten start.
The manager said: "He's a fantastic striker and of course sometimes it's difficult. When you are a long time not scoring for your club, everybody is talking about that.
"You need to support the player, the players needs to be comfortable and confident in himself, and he showed tonight again that he is one of the best strikers you can have.
"I am pleased with the hat-trick because that gives the player, but also the rest of the team, a really big boost for this Saturday.
"I wasn't a striker, so I don't know that feeling if you don't score for a long time, but it's important because strikers are looking to score goals and if they don't score, the team can be winning, but they are more satisfied if they win and score a goal."
Lukaku opened his account with a 60th-minute header from Idrissa Gueye's cross and then doubled his tally in similar fashion eight minutes later with the impressive Yannick Bolasie this time the provider.
Sunderland were undone once again within three minutes as Lukaku ran on to Kevin Mirallas' defence-splitting pass to beat keeper Jordan Pickford for the third time.
Koeman, who had been less than happy with his side's first-half display, was delighted with the response to his half-time instructions, and challenged them to aim for European qualification this season.
He said: "The target for this season is European football - that, in my opinion, is realistic. It's also part of our ambition, where we'd like to be and what we'd like to fight for.
"The start in the Premier League is good - 10 points from four games - but we need to continue and we need to prepare for the next game on Saturday against Middlesbrough because maybe that will be more tough and more difficult than it was in the second half tonight."
For opposite number David Moyes, it was a sobering evening as he saw Sunderland extend their run without a league victory in August or September to 23 games dating back to 2012.
Moyes said: "If there are things that we have done, it is we have worked on defending crosses and being in the right positions, but we certainly didn't show it tonight.
"We didn't stop the crosses, didn't defend the crosses, didn't get in the right positions when they did come in.
"If you give Everton a bit of credit, they boys picked the crosses out well, one to the by-line and another one, but for us, we never stopped them and more importantly for me, we weren't in the middle of the goal to stop Lukaku heading them in and that was the disappointing part for me."
Moyes has no doubt about Lukaku's quality, but admitted his players had made it easy for him.
He said: "I have got to say he is a top striker, but I thought we made it quite easy for him, I don't think we made him have to work too hard to score his goals tonight. But they have got a very good centre-forward in Lukaku."