Saturday 16 December 2017

High praise for superb Lukaku


Rory Dollard

Roberto Martinez insists Chelsea are getting a good deal out of Romelu Lukaku's loan spell at Everton despite the Belgian looking every bit the finished product.

The 20-year-old striker scored the opening goal at Villa Park with a clinical first-time finish after 68 minutes and was only denied in the first period by a fine reaction save from Brad Guzan.

The Belgian comfortably outperformed compatriot Christian Benteke, who missed a seventh-minute penalty on his return to the Villa side, and now has five goals in as many appearances for the Toffees.

There are many who feel Chelsea would benefit from that kind of output, but Everton boss Martinez is convinced all parties are benefiting from his year at Goodison Park.

"We want him to fulfil his potential and he has got a terrific potential to fulfil. That's what the parent club want too – for him to play every minute, to experiment and to get himself to the next stage of his career," said the Spaniard.

"You can understand with the options Chelsea have they can allow Romelu to go to an environment for 10 months where he can really benefit. Chelsea get a player who can hopefully fulfil the potential we all know he has."

Asked how much Lukaku could still improve, Martinez set no upper limit. "He is getting stronger and stronger and today he was a threat throughout and lasted 90 minutes," he said. "In many aspects he is getting better and stronger."

That the game was still goalless when Lukaku struck was hard to believe. The home side should probably have killed the game inside half an hour.

Benteke saw a powerful penalty well saved by Tim Howard in the seventh minute and the American denied him again with a well-hit effort across goal. Andreas Weimann somehow contrived to botch a straightforward one-on-one with the goalkeeper moments later.

Leon Osman put the seal on Everton's fifth victory in six league games when he stroked home with nine minutes left.

Villa boss Paul Lambert declined to attack his side for their early wastefulness, despite the result meaning they have taken just three points from a possible 15 on home turf.

"We have got to take our chances," he said. "We should have been three up. But I can't be too harsh on the lads.

"The penalty was a terrific save and the second chance Christian did the right thing in going across the keeper. He just made another great save."

Sunday Independent

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