James McCarthy scored his first Everton goal as they eased to a 2-0 win at Hull City on Sunday to cap a fine season.
McCarthy's strike was added to by Romelu Lukaku just after half-time for Roberto Martinez's side, who controlled the game against a Hull outfit with one eye on next week's FA Cup final. Everton went in front after eight minutes when McCarthy finished a flowing move and they dominated, with Steven Naismith firing wide and Lukaku forcing a save just before half-time.
Chances were at a premium for the home side, who had a Jake Livermore effort go wide and Maynor Figueroa's deflected shot saved. But any hopes of a Hull fightback were dashed within 60 seconds of the restart as Lukaku got on the end of a fine Leon Osman ball to slot home.
The result means Everton finish the season with their highest points tally since their title-winning season of 1986/87 and 72 points equals Tottenham Hotspur's record last season of the most a team have gained without finishing in the top four.
Hull end their season 16th in the top flight, just improving on their previous best of 2008/09, but will head into the Wembley clash against Arsenal on the back of a five-match winless run.
Steve Bruce welcomed Sone Aluko, Paul McShane and Allan McGregor back from injury to boost his options ahead of the Cup final. However, the goalkeeper’s first contribution of note was to pick the ball out of the net as Hull were carved open after eight minutes when Naismith slipped in McCarthy and the Irishman’s drilled effort was too hot for McGregor to keep out. Naismith shot off-target and Livermore dragged an effort wide from 25 yards at the other end.
Lukaku scored a hat-trick on the final day of last season and he ought to have added a second for Everton after 25 minutes when a Leighton Baines cross found the striker, but he could not get a telling touch and the ball was cleared. Everton continued to impress and McCarthy's low cross was stabbed goalwards by Lukaku just before half-time but McGregor made a sharp low save.
Everton got the second goal their play deserved within a minute of the second half when Osman's slide-rule pass found Lukaku who brushed aside McShane before firing home inside the area for his 16th of the season.
Substitute Liam Rosenior, Curtis Davies and Robert Koren each passed up chances to score for Hull late on, as Everton secured a first win at the KC Stadium and consigned Bruce's side to a fifth defeat in their last seven home outings.
Hull City manager Steve Bruce: "We've got to the Cup final, everybody's talking about one thing, and it looked like that today.
"It's been a huge distraction, but thankfully now it's upon us.
"Everton were too good for us. We've sort of limped over the line, which is always disappointing, but overall this season we've done fantastically well."
Everton manager Roberto Martinez: "It's been a demanding campaign but the players maintained their standards. The team made sure we finished strongly with 15 clean sheets and 72 points.
“It's been a remarkable season, and it's been really exciting seeing young players growing. The Europa League is the step we need to see how far we can go as a football club. Today, Ross Barkley and John Stones just needed a rest."
|26 Dec 2014||v Sunderland (A)|
|28 Dec 2014||v Hull (H)|
|01 Jan 2015||v Hull (H)|
|10 Jan 2015||v West Brom (A)|
|18 Jan 2015||v West Ham (A)|
|31 Jan 2015||v Hull (H)|