Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Lukaku debut excites Martinez

Roberto Martinez was thrilled with Romelu Lukaku's goalscoring debut
Roberto Martinez was thrilled with Romelu Lukaku's goalscoring debut

Everton manager Roberto Martinez backed Romelu Lukaku to take Goodison by storm after watching the Belgium striker inspire a 3-2 Barclays Premier League victory over West Ham.

Leighton Baines may have struck twice with two brilliant free-kicks in the second half, but it was the half-time arrival of debutant Lukaku that transformed Everton into match-winners.

The 20-year-old, on loan from Chelsea until the end of the season, nodded home the 84th-minute winner but his overall contribution was just as crucial.

"Romelu is the type of striker that influences everyone around him because of the gaps he creates. Other players around him become a threat," Martinez said.

"The goal is everything that typifies him - the character and desire to want to be successful. That's why he will be such a big asset.

"He's a very intelligent footballer and I want him to continue enjoying his football because his potential is incredible."

Lukaku was knocked out briefly in the act of scoring after clashing heads with Joey O'Brien but Martinez - who confirmed he cannot be recalled by Chelsea - dispelled any concerns over his health.

"For a second we were worried, but after 10-15 seconds he was fine," he said.

Everton equalised twice through the dead-ball skills of Baines, who beat Jussi Jaaskelainen twice with free-kicks.

"We are well aware of the quality Leighton has. The first free-kick shows that," Martinez said.

"Where he takes his quality to the next level is by scoring with a completely different type of free-kick. That's what makes him special.

"Many players around the world are good at free-kicks, but he's able to do it a second time. Leighton places the ball wherever he wants at that distance. I think he's unique."

West Ham boss Sam Allardyce identified Lukaku as the difference between the teams, but also felt that Mark Noble's red card was a turning point.

Shortly after firing West Ham ahead with a penalty, Noble was sent off for hauling down Ross Barkley, giving Baines the chance to drill home his second free-kick.

"Right up until Mark Noble getting sent off I thought the players were great. We played against a very good side and we matched them," Allardyce said.

"But we found a different Everton side once Lukaku came on - he made a huge difference to them.

"We had to make sure we controlled that situation, which was Everton getting more and more in the attacking mould because playing off him was more difficult for us to cope with.

"It is frustrating as we are disappointed to have lost it. It's easy for me to say Mark Noble played the ball, but I think he did."

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