Gaz drove for this one, picking up myself and Steve on the way. While we were stuck in roadworks traffic we heard the news on the radio that The Sun journalists had been banned from Goodison Park. Good news on a poignant day for many.
We parked up as usual and had a bit of a stroll around in what was a nice, if blowy, afternoon. We eventually settled down into The Medlock Hotel for a few drinks and watched Tottenham Hotspur crank up the pressure at the top on Chelsea. A few of the other guys joined us in the pub and the team news brought no surprises with Ashley Williams replacing Matthew Pennington the only change to the team which defeated Leicester City last weekend.
We walked on towards Goodison Park, noticing a promotional giveaway for McVities Nibbles just near St Luke's Church and we all grabbed some matchday snacks, Ste even a little mortified he didn't make more of the opportunity as we all just grabbed the one pack. I saw later in the evening that he wasn't the only one who was a little opportunist with the treats: (https://twitter.com/EvertonArentWe/status/853288498027266049).
We heard Z-Cars ring out just as we entered the turnstiles and were in our seats just in time for the Hillsborough tribute. We then lined up to kick off, Everton attacking the Park End in the first half. When it was announced that Mark Clattenburg was departing for Saudi Arabia, I thought we had seen the last of him, though alas he was back at Goodison Park one final time to officiate this one. We're not a very forgiving or forgetful bunch us Evertonians, and I'll never forget his outrageous performance in the Merseyside derby a decade ago; however, I have to say I thought he officiated the game very well yesterday. He tried his best to play advantage throughout and this resulted in a pretty good flow to the game.
Burnley started the game very strongly. They outfought us in the midfield and created some early openings, not least when Ross Barkley anticipated the danger well to get back on his goal line to head clear an effort from Everton target Michael Keane. Burnley had further opportunities to get in front before Everton finally switched on. Sam Vokes had two chances, one when he was played through and Phil Jagielka did well to force him wide before Joel Robles rushed out to save his tame shot; the other a golden opportunity when he seized on Phil Jagielka's underhit backpass but could only tap straight at Joel Robles.
This seemed to be the wake up call that Everton needed, as with 10 minutes remaining in the first half Everton applied a fair bit of pressure and created openings of our own. Romalu Lukaku missed a reasonable chance with a haeder, Mason Holgate forced Tom Heaton into a useful save and I think Lukaku blazed over.
We finished the first half better than we started it, but were quickly out of the traps for the second half and really began with purpose. Ronald Koeman didn't hesitate in making us line up with a stronger attacking threat, adding Enner Valencia to our right flank and removing the cautioned Idrissa Gueye. The difference was immediate, Everton really getting into Burnley quickly and scored just four minutes into the half when Kevin Mirallas corner was flicked on by Ashley Williams and headed home by Phil Jagielka. Tom Heaton repelled both of Jagielka's efforts though both had crossed the line it seemed from the replay and the goal was awarded, Phil Jagielka cartwheeling away in celebration. That's four goals in four games from corner kicks, three of which scored by captain Phil Jagielka.
The lead was short lived of course when a rush of blood to the head from Joel Robles resulted in the Spaniard charging out towards the dead ball line and clattering into the back of Sam Vokes. It was an easy award for Mark Clattenburg to make, and Sam Vokes converted the penalty pretty easily, sending Joel Robles the wrong way. Burnley level inside three minutes.
When the penalty was awarded, it struck me how furious Ross Barkley was with his goalkeeper. It showed me how up for the game Ross Barkley was and, though it took Everton probably another 10 minutes to re-exert their authority, when we did Ross Barkley was very instrumental. As we applied the pressure we were playing ever so well and were becoming too much for Burnley to cope with. Tom Davies and Ross Barkley were exceptional during this period of sustained pressure. Kevin Mirallas, who had a bit of an off day, missed chances before we re-took the lead, two of which were in quick succession when he first scuffed Leighton Baines' pass at goal, and then smashed it against the post from the rebound.
The goal wasn't much longer in coming and it was Ross who collected Kevin Mirallas's pass and ran it into the penalty area and drove at goal, the ball deflecting off Michael Keane and then Ben Mee and looping into the net out of reach of the despairing dive from Tom Heaton. The celebration from Ross was a joy to behold as he jumped onto the wall of the Gwladys Street just near us so he was within touching distance of the adoring supporters. He got booked for his troubles but seemed to care little as he lapped up the applause. It was great to hear the Gwladys Street singing his name after a troubling week for our local star. It was just a shame this one has been accredited as an own goal for Ben Mee rather than for Ross Barkley.
Just three minutes later the game was secure when Romelu Lukaku received Leighton Baines's pass, span Keane and finished spectacularly to drive Everton into a 3-1 lead. Like Ross, Romelu similarly lapped up the adulation. The goal brought with it a couple of landmarks. Firstly it ensured that Leighton Baines is the only defender in Premier League history to assist 50 goals – no mean feat. More spectacularly however is the stat that Romelu Lukaku is the first player to score in nine consecutive home games since Dixie Dean in 1934. What price he can make that 10 against Chelsea in a fortnight?
Though they tried, Burnley failed to really create anything in response and if not for a poor pass from Enner Valencia late in the game, we could have added extra gloss to the scoreline though anything more may have been harsh on Burnley who competed well in a feisty game which was played in good spirit. I was certainly entertained.
The win puts us up to fifth position albeit with Arsenal and Manchester United with three games each in hand. Finishing higher than 7th remains a tough task but if we take each game as it comes and keep on collecting the points then who knows. Either way, European football is looking more and more of a certainty.
Robles: Didn't do badly really other than his big mistake for Burnley's penalty. As one of the fella's nearby at the match said - he's really blown his big chance of his career at Everton this last month or so. Surely Ronald Koeman also believes we need a new goalkeeper for next season? 5
Baines: Always galloping forward and got an assist. A good effort as always from Leighton. 7
Williams: Did well, particularly in the first half when we were under more pressure. 7
Jagielka: The one underhit backpass aside, he didn't really put a foot wrong. Great to see him get on the scoresheet again also. 7
Holgate: One of his most impressive performances this season. Very strong at right back and a little unlucky not to score in the first half. 7
Gueye: Was doing OK until substituted at half time. 6
Schneiderlin: Controls the midfield very well and is a very feisty player. Could be a great player for us for many a year. 7
Davies: He was excellent, especially in the second half as we strove for the winner. 8
Barkley: He really took the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half and he was a joy to watch. Let's hope he can carry this on for the rest of the season, finish it strongly, sign his contract, rest up for the summer and go again next season. His celebration would surely suggest he wishes to stay. My Man of the Match. 8
Mirallas: Not the feisty nark he has been of late, nor his best performance, but he still caused problems and contributed to the win – he put the corner in for Phil Jagielka's header and laid on the pass before Ross Barkley's deflected goal. 6Lukaku: Kept busy and was there for the kill when needed. Should he leave he will take some replacing. 7
Valencia (for Gueye): Made a good impact down the right. 7
Barry (for Mirallas): Got involved. 6
Lookman (for Barkley): Got involved. 6
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