Everton showed great resolve, determination and commitment, mixed with a scattering of class to defeat Swansea City and move back into the top four and just one victory off the top of the Premier League table. The crucial 2-1 victory was richly deserved with Everton showing far more desire than their Welsh opponents.
Ross Barkley and Seamus Coleman will undoubtedly take the headlines after topping their fine individual performances with fantastic goals, but there was some good performances elsewhere with Tim Howard and Gareth Barry in particular shining in South Wales. Goalkeeper Howard produced some vital saves, continuing his impressive form so far this season. The American keeper has picked up his form this year and appears to be relishing the extra responsibility placed on all the players by Roberto Martinez.
The most pleasing aspect of Sunday’s victory was the determination to win, especially after Swansea’s fortunate equaliser, which arrived very much against the run of play. This was a real demonstration from Everton, providing evidence to the rest of the Premier League that the Blues are genuine contenders, not just for the top four, but for the title as well.
After a lacklustre first half, the players appeared for the second half with a steely resolve to ensure they left the Liberty Stadium victorious. Seamus Coleman and Ross Barkley in particular provided the spark with direct running at the Swans defence. Both goals were spectacular, showing great technique to beat the helpless keeper.
Coleman scored first, firing in from relatively wide and about 25 yards from goal. The Irishman had tormented the left hand side of the Swansea defence all match and he thoroughly deserved his goal. His celebration demonstrated how much the goal meant to Everton with wild scenes in front of the travelling contingent.
If Coleman’s strike was brilliant then Barkley’s free kick was world class. McCarthy won the free kick after a powerful run deep from midfield which Ben Davies brought to an end with a deliberate foul. Lukaku spotted the ball up about 22 yards from goal, but it was the precocious Barkley who lifted the ball up over the wall and in off the underside of the crossbar.
Martinez has spoken of the brilliant arrogance of his young players and yet again Barkley showed this in abundance. After the match he claimed not even to practice free kicks, but on this evidence he will be competing with Baines for free kicks in the future.
With the three points picked up on the road, Everton now have two home fixtures to cement their place amongst the main contenders. Sunderland arrive at Goodison on Boxing Day before Southampton make the long journey on the 29th for two sell out festive fixtures. On this evidence most attendances from now until the end of the season will be full to capacity.