Match report by Matt Roache
After the disappointment of boxing day this game had taken on added significance and it took two superb goals to get the job done against a very impressive Southampton side.
In a match that for long periods was very evenly matched, it was perhaps always going to take something special to win the game and so it proved, with both Seamus (surely the top right back in the league right now) and then big Rom producing finishes of real quality.
In a game of few clear cut chances, I sensed a slight feeling of resignation around the ground that when they equalised, we were going to go on to draw or even lose the game such was the balance of play after half time. There was a subsequent huge sense of relief when our 2nd went in and we saw the game out fairly comfortably.
Despite it not being our best performance in terms of fluidity and domination, there were still a number of plus points to come out of the game.
For me the best player on the park, and not for the first time this season, was James McCarthy. Granted, one or two of his passes went astray but he quickly atoned for these on almost every occasion. The lad has got a tenacity and engine that has been missing from the heart of our midfield for a few seasons now and he is looking every inch the player we all hoped he would be when he signed in August.
There is no doubt that the loss of Jagielka is a big one but if there is a position that we can afford an injury or two, it is probably at centre back. Antolin Alcaraz confirmed this with a performance akin to a man who has been playing consistently throughout the season rather than one who has not kicked a ball in anger for six months. He possessed a calmness about his play and read the game extremely well, certainly helping to soften the blow of losing the skipper.
The other major plus to come out of the game for me, was the return to form of Lukaku. Even before his goal, he looked like he was rediscovering some of his early season powerhouse form and his first time finish was excellent. After the goal, he looked like a world beater again and could have even ended up with a hattrick!
One not so positive part of the performance was the effect Osman had in the middle. Iâ€™ve always been one of Ossieâ€™s biggest fans and donâ€™t like to see the boo boys get at him but it is quite clear that we now struggle when he operates in a deeper midfield role. Naturally, he cannot cope when faced up against younger legs in the midfield and I feel that we get overrun a bit when this happen.
Iâ€™m sure that Martinez would rather use Osman off the bench this year (as he often has) but the size of the squad combined with injuries and suspensions means that he will be needed throughout the season. A more attacking role may suit him better, but then of course that may mean dropping Barkley deeper (if one of Macca and/or Barry are unavailable) and negating his attacking threat. Interesting thoughts for Roberto to ponder!
Anyway, the scale of the result yesterday only has to be measured when considering that Southampton have taken points off a number of the top 8 this season already and were arguably the most impressive team to visit Goodison this year.
Bring on Stoke!