Sunday 18 March 2018

Round-up: Hoolahan leveller takes shine off Lukaku's record-equalling goal

Romelu Lukaku scored again for Everton
Romelu Lukaku scored again for Everton Newsdesk Newsdesk

Everton manager Roberto Martinez praised the threat of Romelu Lukaku despite ruing the striker's failure to secure three points at Norwich.

Lukaku became the first Everton player to score for a seventh successive game in 40 years, but spurned further chances in a first half the visitors dominated and Wes Hoolahan equalised in a 1-1 draw at Carrow Road.

"That's where you judge a striker. It's the amount of threat that he carries," Martinez said. "The clear-cut chances he produced is a very positive sign. On another day he would have scored four goals, or a hat-trick."

Lukaku has scored in six straight Premier League games, closing in on Jamie Vardy's new record of netting in 11 successive games. Leicester are the Everton's next opposition.

But Martinez would swap it all for a clean sheet after just one shut-out in the last 10 in the Premier League, with Everton's defending again culpable in Hoolahan's leveller two minutes into the second half.

"I would swap any record just to try to keep a clean sheet," Martinez added. "What we need to do is become a team that can control games and make sure we finish with a win. Overall the performance leaves you with a feeling of disappointment, because that should have been a three-point performance."

Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores warned his players they cannot afford to relax if they are to maintain their fine start to life back in the top flight.

The Hornets climbed to seventh place in the table as a result of their seventh victory of the campaign, a 1-0 win at struggling Sunderland.

However, Flores insists the initial target of securing their Premier League status remains the only focus, and that means adding to their tally of 25 points as quickly as possible.

He said: "That's the most important thing. We don't want to hear about 'relax'. I like the players to enjoy their day off and everything, but for us the most important thing is after two days to focus again, work hard every week and prepare for the next opponent."

Victory was secured within four minutes of kick-off at the Stadium of Light as the visitors took advantage of a dreadful start by their hosts. Striker Odion Ighalo and defender Sebastian Coates both appeared to get a touch to Allan Nyom's cross, with Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce at least attributing the goal to his man.

Alan Pardew praised Yohan Cabaye for being "the difference" in Crystal Palace's 1-0 defeat of Southampton.

Cabaye scored the game's only goal towards the end of the first half and was unfortunate not to get a second as he inspired his team to victory and created further goalscoring chances.

The three points strengthened sixth-placed Palace's pursuit of European football in addition to hampering the ambitions of a potential rival.

Pardew was instrumental in luring Cabaye, Palace's club-record £10m signing, from Paris St Germain, and after another fine performance the manager said: "It was a Frenchman who was the difference between the two sides, it was a masterclass from Yohan Cabaye.

"If you want to come and see how a midfielder plays in the Premier League - tackling, heading, passing, being calm on the ball, being frantic when you need to be - he did everything.

"I wouldn't say we dominated it for the whole period. The last 10 minutes got a bit frantic but overall I thought we deserved to win."

The defeat leaves Southampton without a win and with only a solitary draw from their past five games, and while manager Ronald Koeman insisted he remains unconcerned about their performances and that they deserved more at Selhurst Park, he knows their results have become a problem.

"I'm worried about results," he said. "I'm not worried about how we play football. If we don't create chances we need to be very worried. We are disappointed about the final result, I am not disappointed about the team. If we keep this level then the three points will come. I don't doubt that."

Slaven Bilic declared himself satisfied after his patched-up side battled to a goalless draw against Stoke. The Hammers are missing the attacking talents of their injured stars Dimitri Payet, Diafra Sakho, Manuel Lanzini and Victor Moses in front of goal.

Yet Bilic would have seen his side pick up a first win in six matches had Mauro Zarate's 80th-minute shot not cannoned back off a post. A draw was a fair result, though, as Stoke were also denied by the woodwork when Marko Arnautovic hit the crossbar midway through the second half.

"I'm pleased on one hand, considering we are missing key offensive players, with the way we played," said manager Bilic.

Stoke should have taken an early lead but Marco van Ginkel scuffed a sitter wide from in front of goal.

As well as the woodwork, both goalkeepers were kept busy with Jack Butland making fine saves from Cheikhou Kouyate's long-range effort and Andy Carroll's header, while Adrian twice denied Stoke sub Meme Biram Diouf with his legs.

And in stoppage time a goalmouth scramble saw Kouyate's header cleared from underneath the bar by former West Ham defender Glen Johnson.

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