Tuesday 20 February 2018

Everton ride luck to keep stuttering season alive

Bournemouth 0 Everton 2

Matt Ritchie of Bournemouth and Gareth Barry of Everton compete for the ball Photo: Getty
Matt Ritchie of Bournemouth and Gareth Barry of Everton compete for the ball Photo: Getty
Charlie Daniels of Bournemouth takes a penalty kick saved by Joel Robles of Everton Photo: Getty
Romelu Lukaku of Everton and Adam Federici of Bournemouth compete for the ball Photo: Getty

Vitality Stadium

Brinkmanship is second nature to Everton and the manner of this victory might add to Roberto Martinez's sense they can pull this season from the fire. Had Joel Robles not saved Charlie Daniels' first-half penalty, this might have been the latest tale of wayward finishing. In the event, Ross Barkley's deflected shot tipped things in their favour and Romelu Lukaku completed the job.

Martinez may be publicly optimistic of bridging a six-point gap to the Premier League's European places but that would demand an unlikely turnaround; it would only be a minor exaggeration to say this was their season on the line and the occasion certainly felt more charged than for Bournemouth, whose seven changes reflected that their plight at the bottom of the league remains alive.

A rhythmic start from Everton was little surprise, but nor was Bournemouth's early exploration of a familiar vulnerability. Juan Iturbe had already dispossessed a dawdling Bryan Oviedo inside the left-back's own half when, exposing Barkley similarly, he ran 50 yards and struck wide of Robles' left post.

Another forward, Junior Stanislas, found space to drive between Everton's defence and midfield only to slash high. Lukaku would have given plenty to be afforded that level of room in the opening 28 minutes and, when he did, Everton found the opportunity their possession had never threatened. Tommy Elphick, starting his second match after an ankle injury, had a 10-yard start to a ball along the left flank but was hunted down. Lukaku rounded the centre-back with ease and, after cutting in from a tight angle, was denied by the right boot of Adam Federici.

It was not an easy chance, but Everton have little taste for the simple life. That was in evidence after 37 minutes when James McCarthy, tasked with clearing a Daniels corner near the penalty spot, greeted it with an arm. Martin Atkinson's penalty award was straightforward; Robles' save was not, even if Daniels' penalty, sent to his left, was at an amenable height. Three Bournemouth players were quick to the rebound; only one could make the shot and Everton were lucky the taker was right-back Simon Francis, who jabbed high and wide.

Considerably more would be needed to avoid a replay, and Barkley's breakthrough arrived via a measure of fortune. Two wayward efforts had summed up his opening period but, when Cleverley laid the ball back outside the left corner of the penalty area, there was no deterring him from a third. This one, struck well, took a clip off former Everton midfielder Dan Gosling and arced over Federici.

Lukaku had one ruled out for offside, but increasingly Everton were getting the breaks. Shortly after the hour a Stanislas free-kick glanced off Lukaku, jumping with his back to the ball, and appeared to be spinning past Robles. This deflection, though, sent the ball centimetres wide. Gosling should have made amends but headed at Robles from a cross by Stanislas, who created another chance for the substitute Matt Ritchie.

Everton's second came from the kind of improvisation that keeps even their most sceptical supporters keen. Whether Oviedo meant to find Gareth Barry's feet at the near post with a corner was debatable; Barry's initiative in backheeling first-time was not, and nor was Lukaku's instinct in sweeping home.


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