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Ross Barkley propelled Everton into the top four of the Barclays Premier League on Sunday by scoring a late winner to seal a 2-1 victory at Swansea City.
After a goalless opening period, Seamus Coleman produced a sensational strike to put the visitors ahead in the 66th minute. But Swansea pulled level against the run of play four minutes later as a close-range Dwight Tiendalli effort deflected in off Bryan Oviedo, who was credited with the own goal, before Barkley netted a superb free-kick in the 84th minute.
Barkley's stunning goal – his third of the season – ensured former Swansea manager Roberto Martinez enjoyed a winning return to his old club as Everton made it 10 matches unbeaten in the Barclays Premier League.
The result lifts Everton to fourth, one point ahead of Chelsea, who meet Arsenal on Monday, and two points behind leaders Liverpool, while Swansea remain 11th.
Michael Laudrup made five changes to the Swansea side that drew 1-1 at Norwich City last Sunday, with injured trio Michel Vorm, Nathan Dyer and Michu among those to drop out, while Chico Flores and Wilfried Bony came back into the starting XI.
Martinez made two alterations from Everton's 4-1 win over Fulham last time out – James McCarthy and Kevin Mirallas replacing Leon Osman and the injured Gerard Deulofeu respectively.
It was the hosts who applied the early pressure, but Wayne Routledge sent the first opportunity out for a throw-in after being teed up by Jonjo Shelvey.
Mirallas worked his way into the Swansea penalty area in the 14th minute, but, after sending Ben Davies one way and then the other, the Belgian drilled an effort straight at Gerhard Tremmel.
Swansea were almost left red-faced after 20 minutes, as Tremmel spilled the ball at the feet of Romelu Lukaku from a free-kick, but the German goalkeeper recovered just in time to gather.
Routledge played in Bony as the game reached the 30-minute mark, but the Ivorian scooped his effort well over the crossbar in a half that saw Swansea fail to register a single shot on target.
Everton unlocked the Swansea defence in the 56th minute, with Lukaku playing Barkley into space, but the young English prospect slipped in the penalty area and failed to get any purchase on his eventual effort.
Barkley had Everton's best chance of the match moments later, unleashing a thunderous strike from 18 yards that was touched onto the crossbar superbly by Tremmel.
But the visitors broke the deadlock with their next attack. Coleman – a constant threat down the right – received the ball some 25 yards out, took a couple of steps goalwards and smashed an unstoppable effort into the back of the Swansea net for his fourth goal of the season.
The Swans were level against the run of play four minutes later, as Tiendalli prodded home a Davies cross from close range via a Oviedo deflection – the hosts' first goal against Everton since February 1983.
The encounter looked to be heading for a draw until Barkley fired in a wonderful free-kick off the underside of the crossbar from 20 yards to snatch maximum points for Everton.
There was almost a late reprieve for Swansea who called Tim Howard into action in added time to make a reaction save from a Pablo Hernandez’s close-range effort, but Everton held on for the victory.
Swansea City manager Michael Laudrup: "We did not deserve to lose, conceding such a late goal at a moment when Everton, I think, were okay with a draw. It was harsh and the least we deserved was a point. That's how football is.
"Their goalkeeper made a couple of great saves. I don't want to say Everton found luck, because it was a great free-kick, but they found the three points.
"We did well, we played against one of the most in-form teams in the league. We have to move on, the games will come in three days."
Everton manager Roberto Martinez: "Huge credit to the team, it's such a pleasing win because it was a difficult game. We showed the desire and discipline to win the game and this is a very satisfying day."
"The goal from Ross [Barkley] gave us something to be proud of and something I want to savour. We have a few youngsters. Ross, John Stones, James McCarthy, Romelu Lukaku, Seamus Coleman... We have a real nice blend and what pleases me is that in the group, everyone is prepared to work hard for the team.
"Ross is growing game by game and is a diamond of English football. The free-kick was an example of what he can do."
|26 Dec 2013||v Chelsea (A)|
|28 Dec 2013||v Aston Villa (A)|
|01 Jan 2014||v Man City (H)|
|11 Jan 2014||v Man Utd (A)|
|19 Jan 2014||v Spurs (H)|
|28 Jan 2014||v Fulham (H)|