Monday 11 December 2017

Koeman bigs up Barkley for bouncing back from problems


Everton manager Ronald Koeman
Everton manager Ronald Koeman Newsdesk Newsdesk

Everton manager Ronald Koeman had no doubts about picking Ross Barkley after the midfielder's week in the headlines. The 23-year-old found himself at the centre of a media storm after first being allegedly punched on a night out and then becoming inadvertently embroiled in the row which saw The Sun newspaper banned from the club after derogatory comments about him by columnist Kelvin MacKenzie.

He responded by creating Everton's important second goal, via deflections off two defenders, and celebrated by jumping into the Gwladys Street end as the Toffees beat Burnley 3-1. Asked whether there was any doubt over his selection, Koeman said: "No, I think it is the best way to play football. To forget what happened last week.

"Of course I can understand [the celebration] because what happened this week had really a big impact for him. I think he was focused on the football side the rest of the week and this afternoon. It is what happens in life. He will learn from what happens. I did some stupid things when I was 19, 20, 21. If you learn from mistakes, that is good. Everyone is human."

Barkley was heavily involved at both ends, twice heading off the line, as Phil Jagielka's opener was cancelled out by Sam Vokes' penalty before the Everton midfielder's decisive strike was followed by Romelu Lukaku's 24th Premier League goal. That equalled the great Dixie Dean's 1934 record of scoring in nine successive home league matches for Everton.

It meant Burnley are still looking for their first away win of the season.

Leicester manager Craig Shakespeare insisted he was satisfied with a point despite watching his team squander a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw at Crystal Palace. He also dismissed suggestions that his side became distracted by the prospect of Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final second leg against Atletico Madrid.

Leicester appeared comfortable when Jamie Vardy's second-half finish doubled the advantage built by Robert Huth's early header. Unconvincing defending then led to Yohan Cabaye scoring Palace's first goal, before Christian Benteke headed the hosts level, having leapt highest when heavily leaning on Yohan Benalouane.

Asked if they had switched focus to Atletico after going two up, Shakespeare responded: "No. There is a tinge of disappointment. But we should be pleased with a point, probably."

Benalouane was substituted as a precaution after suffering cramp, and with Huth suspended for Tuesday's fixture, Shakespeare is hoping Wes Morgan will be passed fit to bolster the centre of defence on Tuesday. "It looked better on Friday for him," he said. "It's a big ask for him but we'll give him every opportunity."

The point took Palace, who have five wins and a draw from their past seven games, up to 15th, seven points clear of the bottom three. "When you finish with a point having been 2-0 down, you have to be incredibly satisfied," said manager Sam Allardyce - who recruited Shakespeare to his coaching team while England boss.

Stoke manager Mark Hughes hailed Xherdan Shaqiri's technical prowess, and the dependability of Jonathan Walters and Peter Crouch, after all three starred in the 3-1 victory over Hull. The Potters' four-game losing streak was halted with a win that lifts them 11 points above the relegation zone; the Tigers are still just two clear after once again emerging from an away game empty-handed.

They were on course for a point when Harry Maguire levelled following Marko Arnautovic's early opener, but Hughes introduced Walters and Crouch around the hour mark and the two soon combined to restore the Potters' lead with a header from the former England international.

Another trademark strike from Shaqiri sealed the three points 10 minutes from time as the Swiss unleashed a 30-yard attempt that flew into the top corner.

"The icing on the cake was Shaqiri's goal which was a fantastic strike," purred Hughes. "He's all power and strength and muscularity. He's a technician as well."

Hughes added of Walters and Crouch: "They have done fantastic for this club for many, many years. They understand what's required when they are called upon. We needed their guile and understanding and they affected it exactly how I thought they would."

Stoke's slump had contributed to what Hughes acknowledged was "anxiety" among his ranks, and the tension around nearly boiled over when Erik Pieters and team-mate Lee Grant rowed on the pitch after a defensive mix-up. Grant shoved Pieters during an argument that occurred moments after Charlie Adam had kicked a seat when being replaced by Walters, just before Crouch's headed goal made it 2-1.

"If you're demanding of yourself and team-mates that's what happens," Hughes added of the incidents. "I haven't got a problem with it, it's not an issue within the group. I expect and demand they challenge each other every time we play."

Swansea boss Paul Clement believes the visit of Stoke next weekend is a "must-win" game for his side as they remain embroiled in the battle for survival. The Swans lost 1-0 at Watford, Etienne Capoue scoring the only goal after robbing Alfie Mawson on the edge of the penalty area.

The defeat, a fifth in six games, leaves Swansea two points from safety with five fixtures remaining. "It is an absolute must-win," Clement said of the Stoke game. "With five games to go we are more than likely going to need to win three of those.

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