Friday 20 July 2018

Lukaku double sees off Saints

Southampton 0 Everton 3

Everton's Romelu Lukaku netted twice against Southampton at St Mary's
Everton's Romelu Lukaku netted twice against Southampton at St Mary's

Russell Kempson

Romelu Lukaku emerged from a relative barren spell, stretching back to last season, with two goals in a comfortable Everton victory over an out-of-sorts Southampton side at St Mary's.

Lukaku struck twice in the first half - once from a header - as Everton collected their first Premier League win of season. Ross Barkley pounced near the end to complete an impressive team display. It was Southampton's first defeat of the new campaign and not ideal preparation for the first leg of their Europa League play-off round tie against FC Midtjylland at St Mary's next Thursday.

Thirteen points separated the sides last season, with Southampton finishing in seventh place - and so qualifying for the Europa League - and Everton ending in a disappointing 11th.

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman missed the 2-2 draw at St James' Park, following an Achilles tendon operation, but was back in the dugout yesterday, albeit on crutches. But he will not have liked what he saw.

The warning signs were there early, with Lukaku outpacing Cedric Soares before being brought down on the edge of the area by Matt Targett. Targett was booked and Barkley's free-kick was off target. Koeman will have been worried further when a shot from the lively Arouna Kone was deflected behind.

Southampton had little imagination going forward. That was soon rectified, with Targett testing Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard with a well-struck effort from 30 yards and Sadio Mane forcing a good save from Howard with an angled drive.

It was a false dawn, though, with Everton going ahead in the 22nd minute. Having broken with lightning speed from a Southampton corner, Kone took the ball down the right flank with ease and his inch-perfect cross allowed Lukaku to head home via the underside of the crossbar.

Small wonder he looked relieved. It was only his fifth goal in 24 league games. It could have got worse, when Barkley drew a fine save from goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg and Tom Cleverley jabbed the rebound wide. And it did get worse in the 45th minute, when Barkley threaded a pass through to Lukaku and the Belgium striker finished with aplomb.

Koeman was aghast and, at half-time, brought on new £5m signing Oriol Romeu, the former Chelsea midfielder. Taking a central role, he swiftly showed that he is not averse to a touch of physicality. Just what Southampton needed. But for all Saints' huff and puff, all they could muster was a snapshot from Graziano Pelle that Howard dealt with comfortably. Double goalscorer Lukaku then turned provider with a low cross that was narrowly missed by the onrushing Barkley and Kone.

And Everton sealed an impressive win in the 84th minute when, after intricate work in the home area, Barkley cut in from the left and curled home an excellent finish.


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