Romelu Lukaku’s first goal for an English club who actually own him set Everton FC on their way to a first victory of the season at West Bromwich Albion.
The Belgian striker never netted in 12 appearances in a Chelsea shirt while his 17 strikes for the Baggies in 2012/13 and 15 for the Blues last season were as a loan player.
Out of respect for the home support at The Hawthorns and former team-mates who had given him a warm reception on his return, Lukaku’s reaction was muted.
This was ironic given that while Evertonians had cheered all of Lukaku’s goals last season, there was the nagging feeling that he still wasn’t their player and a concern that they couldn’t get too emotionally attached and it’s only now that they can start to take him fully to their hearts.
On a week that Goodison legend Neville Southall had declared Martinez to be the club’s best manager since Howard Kendall, one wonders what the Blues most successful boss would have made of Lukaku’s reaction.
Kendall famously chastised long time Maine Road stalwart Paul Power for not reacting with glee after scoring against Manchester City, declaring: “You’re an Everton player now, you celebrate your goals.”
And Lukaku was only on loan at West Brom!
The Blues made one change to the side that started the 6-3 home defeat to Chelsea with John Stones replacing Sylvain Distin in central defence after the Frenchman picked up a knock in training.
With the visitors selected two right-footed central defenders, skipper Phil Jagielka moved over to the left to accommodate his younger, less experienced team-mate.
Martinez’s men were already 2-0 down to the Londoners with less than three minutes on the clock in that encounter but on this occasion they benefited from an early defensive lapse from the hosts to take the lead.
Barely two minutes had elapsed when Leighton Baines escaped down the left flank to pick out Steven Naismith.
The Scot whipped a ball into the Baggies penalty area that Jonas Olsson could only clear straight to the feet of Lukaku.
The Belgian picked his spot inch-perfectly as he swept the ball beyond Ben Foster into the corner of the goal for his first strike since completing his club record £28million move from Chelsea in the summer.
At the other end, a loose ball in the penalty area fell kindly to Saido Barahino but Stones’ well-timed sliding tackle deflected the ball away for a corner kick.
Despite their early breakthrough, the Blues were struggled to find their rhythm with Alan Irvine’s side pinning them back in their own half for long periods.
In a similar build-up to Lukaku’s goal at the other end, Baines attempted to snuff out the danger home centre-forward Brown Ideye was causing in the Blues penalty box only for his clearance to fall at the feet of Chris Brunt but despite some initial excitement from the home fans as Tim Howard’s net rippled, the West Brom captain’s effort had just gone the wrong side of the post.
Everton, who had scored in the 45th minute of their three previous games so far this season, improved towards the latter stages of the first half.
Lukaku exchanged a couple of neat close range passes with Mirallas to tee-up his compatriot but the former Olympiakos man just couldn’t get his shot in while Lukaku then went close himself, showing good strength to brush past Craig Gardner before curling a left-footed inswinger just wide of Foster’s right-hand post.
Following on from their improvement just before the interval, Everton started the second half brightly but Naismith – who had netted in all three of their games so far – missed a golden opportunity to double their lead on 50 minutes.
Lukaku powered his way through the heart of the West Brom defence, unleashing a stinging shot that Foster could only parry and although Naismith anticipated the situation well to get to the rebound first, he blazed over the bar from a central position just outside the six yard box.
At the other end, Howard had to be alert to beat Ideye to a dangerous low cross from the right after on-loan Liverpool defender Andre Wisdom had forced his way past Baines.
Concerns that the Blues would live to regret the miss were alleviated on 67 minutes though as a Foster howler gifted them a second goal.
Mirallas’ low drive from 20 yards out appeared to be tame but a slight bounce on the turf deceived the England back-up keeper and the ball slipped under his body and into the net.
Looking to consolidate what he he had having seen a two-goal lead evaporate late on against Arsenal and perhaps with an eye on Thursday’s Europa League visit of Wolfsburg to Goodison, Martinez withdrew Lukaku a minute later to bring midfielder Leon Osman into the fray.
Buoyed by the second goal, Everton’s players visibly grew in confidence while heads appeared to drop in the home side as the visitors defence began to be opened up by some slick passing from Baines and Mirallas and the latter almost netted again only for a fizzing effort to curl just wide.
Home shouts for a penalty following a Stones tackle on Berahino were in desperation rather than genuine expectation after what was a terrific challenge from the young England international and Osman could have made it 3-0 but his placed effort was tipped wide by Foster after taking a deflection off Craig Dawson.
Foster again saved well from Osman after a back-heel from Mirallas while Howard worked hard to earn his first clean sheet of the campaign with an impressive late double save to deny Berahino and substitute Georgios Samaras.
Just as it was last season, it has taken the Blues four games to get up and running with their first Premier League win but while a year ago, Lukaku was forced to watch from the sidelines as Martinez’s men locked horns with his parent club, now he really is all theirs and surely that’s something to celebrate.
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