Ross Barkley scores wonder goal as Everton continue Top Four charge
World Cup hopeful Ross Barkley scored one of the goals of the season as Everton continued their pursuit of the Barclays Premier League's top four.
The England international stated his case eloquently in a 3-0 victory over Newcastle at St James' Park with a superb solo effort to remind Roy Hodgson of his blossoming talent.
Barkley's contribution was little short of stunning as he produced a 22nd-minute run and finish worthy of winning any game in front of a largely stunned crowd of 47,266.
The 20-year-old picked up possession inside his own half and powered his way through the mesmerised home defence before blasting an unstoppable shot past keeper Tim Krul.
Team-mate Romelu Lukaku was just as clinical when he was presented with a chance to effectively kill the game off.
Gerard Deulofeu, who was a sizeable handful throughout, tested Krul with a skidding 52nd-minute effort from a tight angle and then served the ball up on a plate for the Belgian to fire into the roof of the net for his 13th of the season.
To their credit, Newcastle did not throw in the towel as Cheick Tiote tested goalkeeper Tim Howard with a 57th-minute piledriver and Yoan Gouffran sent a volley screaming just off target.
However, Lukaku might have doubled his tally 16 minutes from time but for a good reaction save by Krul, before Leon Osman cemented the victory with a third goal three minutes from time.
Everton were deserved winners on a night when absent Magpies boss Alan Pardew received confirmation, if he needed it, of just how far his squad have to go to compete on a regular basis with the top six.
The home side's night was summed up 12 minutes from time when Vurnon Anita looked certain to score from substitute Hatem Ben Arfa's cross, but missed the target from point-blank range.
Buoyed by successive home victories, Newcastle started brightly and pinned Everton back in an early flurry which saw Papiss Cisse and Gouffran have early efforts blocked and Gouffran scuff a shot when he should have done significantly better.
But the visitors responded in short order to force a series of corners which left the Magpies in little doubt as to the challenge they faced.
Indeed, it was they who started to gain the upper hand with Leon Osman in particular picking holes in the home defence, and Krul had to be at his best to deny Lukaku after he had been played in by Osman with 18 minutes gone.
However, there was little the Dutchman, or indeed anyone else, could do to prevent the Toffees from taking the lead in spectacular style four minutes later.
Barkley ran on to Deulofeu's chest down inside his own half and set off on a run which took him deep into enemy territory, as he skipped past a series of half-hearted challenges and left Fabricio Coloccini flat on his backside before drilling an unstoppable left-foot shot high into the net.
Newcastle's response was concerted, if somewhat blunt, as Cisse found himself well-marshalled by an Everton defence in which John Stones had to leave the pitch briefly to have a head wound stitched.
For all the pressure they exerted, Howard did not have a save of note to make, and as they pushed men forward, the visitors exploited the space they left behind.
They might have done so to good effect in the final minutes of the half when Deulofeu blasted a right-foot shot across Krul and just wide of the far post to bring an end to a thoroughly entertaining half.
The Magpies returned in determined mood and Gouffran failed to make more of good work by Cisse, De Jong and Sissoko within two minutes of the restart when he mis-hit his snapshot.
Krul had to hack away another well-struck Deulofeu effort five minutes later, but his defenders did not heed the warning and Lukaku was in the right place at the right time seconds later to turn home the Spaniard's driven cross.
Tiote warmed Howard's hands with a blistering 57th-minute strike from distance and Gouffran sent a stinging volley just wide, but the game was rapidly slipping away from Newcastle, a feeling confirmed by Anita's late howler and Osman's cool 87th-minute finish after Deulofeu had excelled once again.