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Romelu Lukaku ended a five-game goal drought to help Everton return to winning ways at Goodison Park with a 2-1 victory over Southampton in the Barlcays Premier League.
Seamus Coleman gave the hosts the lead with a marvellous individual effort, but Gaston Ramirez equalised from 35 yards with a dipping effort that deceived Everton goalkeeper Joel Robles. Chelsea loanee Lukaku was on hand to finish a sweeping move just three minutes later and keep Everton in the hunt for European places.
Were it not for Thursday's defeat by Sunderland, Everton would have been celebrating an unbeaten year at home, but they responded to that set-back with a measured performance in front of their fans. Defeat for Southampton was their fourth in eight matches and leaves them adrift from the top eight.
Leighton Baines returned to Roberto Martinez’s XI and Robles made his first Barclays Premier League start for Everton in place of the suspended Tim Howard, with Kelvin Davis returning to the Southampton goal ahead of Paulo Gazzaniga and being called into action by Ross Barkley from Coleman’s cross in the third minute.
The hosts’ bright start paid off six minutes later when right-back Coleman picked the ball up on his flank and burst into the area before smashing an unstoppable strike into the top far corner. It was the Irishman's fifth goal of the season, surpassing his tally for the previous four campaigns combined.
Southampton came into this game on the back of a rousing 3-0 win over Cardiff City on Thursday, but struggled to find any sort of fluency for much of the opening period. Adam Lallana spurned a good chance after weaving through two defenders.
They were nearly made to pay just after the break, when a low cross from Bryan Oviedo found Barkley in the six-yard box, but the 20-year old failed to find the target.
Southampton began to find their feet as the game wore on, and several had chances in a matter of seconds after 65 minutes, Luke Shaw having a low drive blocked, before Jay Rodriguez's effort was deflected wide. Five minutes later they were on level terms in emphatic circumstances when substitute Ramirez sent a wicked swerving effort past Robles and into the roof of the net from distance.
The visitors could not hold on and were behind once again just three minutes later, as substitute Steven Pienaar and James McCarthy combined to give Lukaku a chance, which he finished with aplomb.
Everton pushed for a third in the closing stages, Lukaku firing over and forcing a great save from Davis, but a one-goal margin proved enough for victory.
Everton manager Roberto Martinez: "It was an extremely good game of football and I couldn't be happier with the overall performance.
"From the outside looking in you are going to judge a striker on their goalscoring ability and the numbers. But Romelu, when he arrived here, he was a young player and he couldn't play 60 to 65 minutes.
"For me if he scores goals, yes it's magnificent, but for me I judge him by all the different aspects of his game. We've been working on other aspects of Romelu's game and were never in a position to worry about his goals. He attracts two or three players."
“Joel had a good game - he was in control of his box and playing with a new defence. Joel is blaming himself [for the equaliser] but I don't think that's the case. These balls swerve everywhere and he [Ramirez] struck it well.
“[On Jagielka injury] With this soft tissue injury it could be up to four weeks, but knowing Jags he will be back earlier. It is just the accumulation of games and the demands of this month - November into December is high-risk in terms of injuries to the players.”
Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino: “Overall the game was a very good game, with both teams very good going forward, but it is still a shame because we leave with nothing and deserved more from this game.
"The team put in a great performance, not just one player, but the team as a whole and I'm very happy with the performance but obviously very disappointed with the result. From the three shots they had on goal they scored twice and we created a lot of chances for ourselves but in the end we come away with nothing."
"I am very happy with his [Ramirez’s] performance today because he's in the process of recovering his confidence and his attacking style and he's on the right path. It's clear that he is in a process of adaptation - it's taking him some time to adapt.
"Today he got some minutes and scored a great goal so we hope that with time and with more games he will be able to recover that confidence he needs to be a better player in the future."
|28 Jan 2014||v Liverpool (A)|
|20 Apr 2014||v Man Utd (H)|
|11 May 2014||v Hull (A)|
|12 Apr 2014||v Sunderland (A)|
|01 Mar 2014||v West Ham (H)|
|01 Feb 2014||v Aston Villa (H)|