Wednesday 17 January 2018

Silver lining for El Judas as Toffees march on

Everton 3 Swansea 2

Everton's Romelu Lukaku (R) is challenged by Swansea City's Ashley Williams during their English Premier League soccer match at Goodison Park
Everton's Romelu Lukaku (R) is challenged by Swansea City's Ashley Williams during their English Premier League soccer match at Goodison Park
Everton's Ross Barkley (left) celebrates scoring their third goal of the game with team-mates during the Barclays Premier League match at Goodison Park
Everton's Leighton Baines (L) challenges Swansea City's Angel Rangel during their English Premier League soccer match at Goodison Park in Liverpool
Everton's Sylvain Distin (L) challenges Swansea City's Michu during their English Premier League match at Goodison Park
Everton's Ross Barkley (C) is challenged by Swansea City's Jose Alberto Canas (L) and Chico Flores

Richard Jolly

Revenge does not form part of Roberto Martinez's vocabulary. He is too urbane, too polite, too magnanimous.

Yet the fact remains that, since he left the Liberty Stadium in 2009, a section of the Swansea fans have branded him 'El Judas' and City's 3-2 win in May pushed his Wigan side to the relegation trapdoor. Now, in a role reversal, his Everton team beat his former employers by the same scoreline to ensure they remain imperilled.

Swansea may not play like a team in danger of the drop but, after going eight games without a win, their plight grows worse by the week. In contrast, Everton are now on their best run at Goodison Park since 1986, having recorded an eighth successive home victory.

The common denominator has been Martinez, an expert at turning one point into three. Yesterday, his alchemy came in his half-time team talk. "In the last 20 minutes of the first half we were too open," the Everton manager said. "We changed that mentality and focus." Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas, hitherto ineffective, returned re-energised. Both played pivotal parts in the decisive five-minute spell that yielded two goals.

Everton's second goal amounted to a long-range one-two between the two Belgians. Lukaku laid the ball into Mirallas's path and the winger arced his run around the Swansea defence before crossing for the striker to finish. Destroyer turned decoy for their third as Lukaku missed Mirallas's corner, the ball bounced in the six-yard box and Ross Barkley emerged unnoticed to head in what proved the winner.

Swansea mounted a valiant effort. Wilfried Bony and Pablo Hernandez drew fine saves from Tim Howard before Williams headed in the Spaniard's corner. It made them the first visitors to Goodison to score twice since November and Martinez, typically forgiving past slights, tipped his old club to survive.

"I know for a fact they will get enough points to achieve their aim this season," he insisted. As the instigator of their brand of passing football, his knowledge of City proved useful. "Swansea are one of the best teams in possession in the league and you have to use that to your advantage," he added.

So Everton did for the opening goal, catching Swansea on the counterattack, isolating the speedy Barkley against Chico Flores and seeing the Spaniard trip the Englishman. Leighton Baines converted the penalty.

Yet Swansea's leveller had the stamp of Martinez, too. Wayne Routledge picked out Angel Rangel and the Spaniard centred to give Bony a simple finish.

"I am a bit to blame for how they play," said Martinez. Having taken six points against Swansea this season, he may share a different form of responsibility if Swansea City defy his prediction and slip out of the division.


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