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Venue: Liberty Stadium, Swansea
Premier League
 Sunday, 22 December 2013; 4:00pm
1 2
Tiendalli (70')
Half Time: 0-0
Coleman (64'), Barkley (86')
Attendance: 20,695
Fixture 17
Referee: Lee Mason

Match Report

Anything short of an Arsenal victory tomorrow evening and Everton will go into Christmas just two points off the top of the Premier League table. You'd have been hard pressed to have found even the most optimistic of Evertonians predicting that at the start of the season, such has been the incredible form of Roberto Martinez's team as we approach the halfway point of the campaign.

Equally, few could have predicted just how integral Ross Barkley would become to the Blues just four months into life as a regular starter under the new manager. Not least Neil Warnock who sent him back to Finch Farm from a loan spell at Leeds United because he couldn't guarantee him first-team football. Or David Moyes whose inherent caution precluded him from allowing the youngster to make his mistakes on the big stage and grow into the player currently blossoming before the eyes of the nation.

A starring role in Everton's impressive display at Arsenal a fortnight ago turned heads and today, in front of Sky Sports live cameras again, the boyhood Blue produced a moment of dead-ball brilliance to earn three more priceless points for Martinez's men... and then casually admitted after the game that he doesn't really practice free kicks. Such is the understated demeanour of the Blues' new young hero.

Thanks to results like this and a stubborn refusal to fall away from the Champions League race, Everton are finally being regarded as a top-flight force again and they certainly possess two traits common to most top sides: the ability to win games when not playing at the top of your game; and match-winning individual quality in your ranks. In today's win over Swansea, Everton's fourth in five games against the South Wales side since they gained promotion to the Premier League, they boasted both.

Swansea manager, Michael Laudrup, bemoaned his side's misfortune in not earning a point after the match but the Blues were good value for the win despite not ever really hitting top gear. Credit went to the home side for their industry in closing the visitors down and not allowing Martinez's side to take control of possession but they were never reallly able to generate any momentum of their own until they fell behind to a stunning Seamus Coleman strike after 66 minutes.

Indeed, neither side had been able to lift proceedings above the pedestrian in a tedious first half but Everton created the clearer openings and less selfish play by Kevin Mirallas might have yielded a goal for the Blues in the opening 45 minutes. The Belgian was lively and worked hard when not in possession but he was foiled by Gerhard Tremmel in the Swansea goal with a low shot after quarter of an hour and too greedy seven minutes later when he raced towards goal having dispossed Chico-Flores but elected to shoot with Romelu Lukaku wide open to his right.

Lukaku, for his part, went another 90 minutes without a goal and is becoming the recipient of more criticism of his workrate and movement from some quarters but he was again let down by a lack of service from his teammates and was often forced to drop deep or contest aerial battles as Everton employed an unusually high percentage of long passes.

Barkley, meanwhile, was always looking to drive forward with purpose and he had strong claims for a penalty after 25 minutes when he went down in the area under a challenge by Ashley Williams. The incident's location near the byline made it a tough call for a referee of Lee Mason's dubious accuracy and there was no flag from his assistant either.

The Swans, meanwhile, had sprodically threatened to create something, particularly through Jonjoe Shelvey who gave Coleman the slip early on and teed up Wayne Routledge but the winger sliced his shot badly wide. And Wilfried Bony was similarly wayward with a shot from distance after half an hour as Tim Howard's goal remained relatively untroubled.

As expected, Everton gradually increased the tempo as the second half progressed and Coleman, in particular, was seemingly given more license to bomb down the right flank. Twice he raced onto throughballs and got around the back of Ben Davies but he couldn't pick out a Blue shirt with his cutback from the byline.

Mirallas, too, would find the 'keeper's arms rather than a teammate from a similar position a few minutes later but a rapier-like run by Barkley in the 56th minute looked to have carved open the chance for the first goal of the game. Unfortunately, he lost his footing at the crucial moment and ended up bobbling the ball into Tremmel's arms.

He would go closer after Gareth Barry's volley had dipped over the crossbar with another surging run after 64 minutes, moving the ball onto his left foot around 20 yards from goal and lashing a shot goalwards that the goalkeeper did well to push onto the crossbar. It was an effort reminiscent of his goal at Norwich on the opening day and one bettered by Coleman a minute later.

The Irishman appeared to be charging towards the opposition area in typical fashion but he surprised everyone by unloading a powerful shot from 30 yards out that arced away beautifully from Tremmel's reach and bulged the net behind him, sending the packed away end behind the goal into delirium. The infectious chorus of "Allez, allez, au..." struck up as the travelling Blues sensed victory.

The goal stirred Swansea into responding, though, and uncertainty started to settle in a little in the Everton defence as Laudrup's side started pressing. A 70th-minute cross from the left by Davies seemed innocuous enough but Pienaar had momentarily switched off to the danger posed by Dwight Tiendalli behind him and the Dutch fullback managed to get a foot to it. Unfortunately, the ball struck Bryan Oviedo, bounced past Howard and it was 1-1.

Initially, with Swansea looking the more composed and productive side following the equaliser, it seemed as though Everton might have to settle for a point. Certainly, for fans conditioned to such disappointments in games like this in recent seasons, it looked that way but there is a noticeable conviction in the players under Martinez and they would find the keys to victory inside the last 10 minutes.

McCarthy it was this time who took the ball and just charged forward with single-minded intention, only to be felled unceremoniously by Davies 25 yards from goal. The defender picked up a booking for his trouble and while referee Mason marshalled the defensive wall into position, Barkley signalled his intention to Lukaku to take the free kick. He duly stepped up and whipped a right-footer over the wall and in off the underside of the crossbar, right above Tremmel's glove. One more string to the young prodigy's bow...

Swansea tried to rally again but they would twice be denied by Howard, first when he superbly parried a ferocious effort by Pablo Hernndez and then in injury time when he pushed Roland Lamah's well-struck effort over the crossbar following a clumsy foul by Barkley in a dangerous area outside the box. All that was left then was for the Blues to close out the game and secure a win that extends their unbeaten run to 10 games.

Such is the intensity of the competition among the League's top eight that, despite winning six of those 10 matches, if Chelsea avoid defeat tomorrow they will push Everton back into fifth place again. Yet, as more of the teams above and around them prepare to face each other over the Festive period, the Blues return to Merseyside for two home games that present them with another chance to gain ground and keep their own top-four aspirations well and truly alive.

Another three games in the space of a week will test Martinez's squad, though, especially if the knock sustained by Steven Pienaar and which forced his removal from the fray after 78 minutes keeps him out of contention. Pleasingly for Martinez, though, with Leighton Baines anticipated to return against Sunderland on Boxing Day, he has the option of pushing Oviedo forward to left midfield without risking too much disruption to what is an otherwise settled team.

There is sufficient depth for now and if we can make it until the New Year without any further injury problems, the manager will hopefully be able to bring in his targeted reinforcements to bolster the numbers.

One game at a time but it's wonderful being an Evertonian at the moment.

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Summary

An even first half, both sides playing the Martinez way, with few chances worthy of note. The second half saw sumptuous football from Everton that finally delivered with a pile-driver from Coleman but Tiendalli somehow powered home a deflected goal off Oviedo as the rain poured down. It came down to Barkley and an absolutely brilliant free-kick curled over and around the wall, in off the bar... Magnificent way to end a superb performance.

Everton took on Swansea City, a club that stands large in the career of Roberto Martinez, with McCarthy back following suspension, Barkley and Mirallas providing the forward impetus to feed Romelu Lukaku, Deulofeu missing with a hamstring injury. Antonin Alcaraz and Apostollos Vellios on the bench alongside potential super-sub Leon Osman, rested after a great display against Fulham.

The first real attack came from Swansea, Shelvey setting up Routledge misreading the ball, Shelvey then bamboozling Coleman on the right to set up Routledge again, but he screwed the shot wide. A chance came at the other end, a good ball in for Lukaku as Swansea looked to ramp up their high pressing game, trying to lay down a marker, but Everton started to settle and play the ball around with more confidence... if a little too slow to really penetrate.

Floes cynically tripped a skin-headed Barkley as the Big Evertonian threatened to run away from him but Everton elected to play the centrally positioned kick short and it came to nothing. But Everton kept attacking, with Mirallas doing a cameo down the right and firing low, an easy save at the near post. Pienaar headed Everton's first corner weakly at Tremmel.

Swansea then had a reasonable spell of possession without really threatening the Everton goal, Shelvey called for a high foot on Coleman. Mirallas robbed Flores but went head down and had his shot blocked with Pienaar to his left and Lukaku to his right, booth starring at a gaping goal. Very selfish.

A great piece of theatre from Barkley, taunting the Swansea defence with a repeated donkey-kick feint, then being driven across the byeline, for a corner, but Bony actually fouled Barkley, and did not touch the ball, so strictly a penalty! Then a nervy moment as Tremmel dropped a looping ball but fell on it before Lukaku could strike.

More solid midfield possession, Everton in control but unable to really break a stranglehold in the defensive highline that was the perfect counter to Blues deliberate play, which forced long balls that lost possession, one coming right back for Bony to lash high and wide, Everton looking potentially vulnerable to a really quick counter-attack from The Swans.

Both sides were trying to mix it up a little, Everton pressing the Swansea defensive when they were passing it across the back, and forcing them to go long. Then great work by Oviedo, running in and and a fearsome block from Davies out for a corner, which was looped in by Barkley to the far post for another corner... but no, another ball called wrongly for the home side by Lee Mason. Then, two players going in high... Swansea kick!

Oviedo defended well to give up a corner which Distin puts out for a throw, rather than hoofing it, and Shelvey got the ball in for a bicycle kick by Bony that failed to connect. Everton pressed for a good turnover but Swansea then forced Everton to play possession all the way back to Howard, a very tight game that would need a mistake, it seemed, for anyone to break the deadlock.

Swansea won a free-kick wide right that was whipped in and cleared by the head of Jagielka. Another superbly timed sliding tackle from Bryan Oviedo, he looks so composed when making that now trademark move, as Martinez started to prep Osman.

Coleman zoomed past Davies after a hopeful long ball but his cross was slow and poor, and Swansea were quickly on the break, winning a corner that went harmlessly wide. Another long ball picked out Lukaku but he could only head it back. Barkley then did brilliantly to dispossess De Guzman and set up another smart Everton attack but again, Coleman's final ball not good enough. Barkley then backheeled nicely for Pienaar but he took a lash and it was well wide.

Then, a much faster move by Everton, Pienaar slotting in Barkely, a perfect chance, and he ties his feet in knots, falls over in a heap. Then another brilliant Barkley ball released Mirallas, who scampers down the right, centres to Lukaku but the defender cut out a certain goal.

Then, a fabulous run in by Coleman, would have been a brilliant goal but it was whipped off his toe at the very last second as he tried to fake Tremmel. Some fantastic attacking play by the All-Blues, but still the end-product ominously absent.

It was the hour mark already, in a fantastic game of football, with Everton seemingly holding all the cards but unable to flourish the final flush their fantastic football demanded. More good play created what should have been a fantastic chance for Lukaku but it was Barry who skied it when it should have been tucked into the top corner behind Tremmel.

Then, brilliant nutmeg and powerful run form Barkley, who smashes a shot from 25 yds, tipped fractionally by Tremmel, up onto and over the crossbar... fantastic stuff. Then, Coleman, nothing on, outside the area, a fearsome strike, a wicked curve away from Tremmel and inside the post an absolutely brilliant goal from Irishman. The perfect topping for some absolutely scintillating play from Everton. Words are insufficient to describe this... Just tremendous... School of Science... Sin Meido.

But just four minutes later and a deep ball in to the Everton far post and Tiendalli somehow bobbled it past Howard off Oviedo and into his goal, sending the home side into raptures, and giving Everton all of it to do again. Unbelievable stuff. How will Everton get this lead back?

Martinez resisted any temptation to change things, allowing his opposite number to make some changes, and it finally goaded him into action, Osman and Naismith on for Pienaar and Mirallas with 13 mins of this absorbing encounter.

The changes seemed to favour Swansea, as it took a little while for Everton's changes to gel, while Vazquez somehow got behind the Everton defence and tried to chip Howard one-on-one, straight at him!

McCarthy went on a great run and was fouled around 25 yards out, surely just a little too far for a shot on goal? No... BARKLEYYYYY!!!! FANTASTIC STRIKE!!! An absolutely brilliant free-kick in curled over and around the wall, in off the bar... Magnificent!

Swansea, stunned, came at Everton all guns blazing, a fantastic atmosphere from the small but noisy 20-odd thousand crowd. After something of a lull, Everton took heart from the tremendous crowd, with minutes ticking away, another corner and Osman trying to do it all himself, scooping over from a narrow angle.

Added time: 3 mins, and Barkley gave away a free-kick, and from the follow-up, Lamah fired in a shot that Howard had to tip over. Swansea kept pressing, somehow got in Howard, but Vasquez closes his eyes and misses an open goal! Tremendous stuff right through to the last minute, and absolutely brilliant game of football, and a very, very very important win for Everton and Roberto Martinez, a tremendous reward for the raucous travelling army.

Michael Kenrick

Match Preview

Everton travel south for the first of four games in 10 days as they move into the busy Festive season with a clash with Swansea City as Roberto Martinez goes in search of another three points to keep the Champions League challenge alive.

Unfortunately, the race for a place in the top four grows ever more competitive and the importance of winning every match assumes massive importance. Though Everton are unbeaten in nine with five wins, they've not been able to lift themselves out of fifth place and Saturday's games weren't favourable to their cause either; all of Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United and Liverpool picked up victories but the Arsenal-Chelsea tussle on Monday will represent dropped points for at least one team.

As Martinez knows all too well, though, his team just needs to keep on winning and Champions League qualification will take care of itself. This weekend sees him return to the club where he made his managerial name as Swansea made their incredible rise from near-extinction and, eventually, to the top flight.

The Spaniard will have happy memories of his time there and the Liberty Stadium has been a good hunting ground for Everton over the past two seasons with two victories and two clean sheets. A repeat performance of last season's shwashbuckling performance would be just fine, thank you very much.

Martinez has changes to make to his first team, though, following the loss to injury of Gerard Deulofeu and the return from a one-game ban of James McCarthy. The Spanish forward will be sidelined until the end of January nursing a torn hamstring but the McCarthy is expected to return to partner Gareth Barry.

McCarthy's absence was noticeable against Fulham last weekend, particularly in the 25 minutes after half time where the Blues' lost thier discipline to a degree and missed the Irish international midfielder's tenacity and stabling influence.

Kevin Mirallas, who had a field day in this fixture last season, is the automatic choice to replace Deulofeu in right midfield, while Leon Osman is the likely candidate to make way for McCarthy in central midfield despite his goalscoring heroics at Goodison last Saturday.

The Swans under highly-sought-after boss Michael Laudrup, have been somewhat erratic this season but are comfortably mid-table with five wins. They will be weakened by the absence of winger Nathan Dyer, though, while star player Michu is also in a race against time to be fit. Laudrup will also be without goalkeeper Michel Vorm who had surgery on his knee this past week.

Though they haven't picked up as many victories at the Liberty Stadium as their manager would like, they are unbeaten on home soil since losing to Arsenal at the end of September.

The Gunners' victory is obviously the template that Everton need to follow if they are to realise those Champions League dreams and there is no reason why they can't achieve it if they keep playing the way they have been in recent weeks.

Lyndon Lloyd

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Match Preview
Match Summary
Match Report
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SWANSEA (4-4-2)
  B Davies booked:83'
  Routledge (66' Lamah)
  De Guzman (86' Pozuelo)
  Bony (76' Vazquez)
  Subs not used

EVERTON (4-2-3-1)
  Mirallas (78' Naismith)
  Pienaar (78' Osman)
  Subs not used
  Baines (injured)
  Deulofeu (injured)
  Gibson (injured)
  Kone (injured)
  McAleny (injured)
  Duffy (loan)
  Garbutt (loan)
  Junior (loan)
  Lundstram (loan)

Premier League Scores
C Palace 0 - 3 Newcastle
Fulham 2 - 4 Man City
Liverpool 3 - 1 Cardiff
Man United 3 - 1 West Ham
Stoke 2 - 1 Aston Villa
Sunderland 0 - 0 Norwich
West Brom 1 - 1 Hull City
So'hampton 2 - 3 Tottenham
Swansea 1 - 2 Everton
Arsenal 0 - 0 Chelsea

Team Pts
1 Liverpool 36
2 Arsenal 36
3 Manchester City 35
4 Chelsea 34
5 Everton 34
6 Newcastle United 30
7 Tottenham Hotspur 30
8 Manchester United 28
9 Southampton 24
10 Stoke City 21
11 Swansea City 20
12 Hull City 20
13 Aston Villa 19
14 Norwich City 19
15 Cardiff City 17
16 West Bromwich Albion 16
17 West Ham United 14
18 Crystal Palace 13
19 Fulham 13
20 Sunderland 10

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