Belfast Telegraph

Martinez: Everton back in the swing

Everton are "mentally refreshed" and ready to tackle Liverpool in the Merseyside derby after ending their eight-match winless streak at Crystal Palace, according to Roberto Martinez.

Boss Martinez hailed his beleaguered side for turning the "chore" of chasing victories into "an opportunity", with Romelu Lukaku firing his second goal in three games.

Belgium striker Lukaku has endured a tough month after the death of close friend and former Anderlecht academy team-mate Junior Malanda.

Everton manager Martinez hailed Lukaku's resilience in shrugging off a six-game goal drought across December, tipping the 21-year-old to fight back to top form.

"I've seen the players mentally refreshed now, we had a little bit of a break and I thought today we looked really strong mentally," said Martinez, ahead of Everton hosting Liverpool next Saturday.

"It seemed an opportunity rather than a chore, to get the three points.

"Well the Merseyside derbies are always phenomenal events and they are games that almost look after themselves.

"Today was very important for us to face a team in the moment of form that Crystal Palace is, it was a real test.

"So it was one where we had to focus, and now we can really enjoy it and look forward to the Merseyside derby.

"I was pleased with Romelu's performance with the infectious way he was working in that forward line.

"I thought he looked powerful, I thought he looked really fresh and that was pleasing when you've got a striker like Romelu at that sort of level.

"He just sets high standards of attacking play.

"I think we've all had a tough time as a team because we had such a high expectation of ourselves and when you don't reach those expectations it's going to be difficult.

"But I don't think Romelu has any reason to feel down about it, he's been an incredible footballer, he's a responsible young man.

"Sometimes we forget he's only 21, he came back from the World Cup and sometimes it's tough to get your match fitness up to speed.

"And now he's fully fit, he's ready, he loves taking responsibility.

"And he's a striker as we all know who has the potential to be if not the best, one of the best in world football."

Everton's former Wigan boss said Saturday's victory at Selhurst Park was not about feeling relieved, though.

"More than relief it was real satisfaction, the last two performances in the league have been very, very good, and we didn't get the three points," said Martinez.

"Today it felt we had to be perfect to get the three points because they are a team full of confidence who have been scoring with ease.

"When you look at a team that can score eight goals in the last three games it shows their form, so for me it's a real satisfaction.

"We scored early, and that's the hardest thing in football, to hold onto that lead in a place like Crystal Palace.

"We were the first ones not to enjoy us not getting wins consistently.

"We know what we can do, we know the expectations and that was difficult.

"You want to enjoy your football, and show what you can do, and for a while we couldn't do that.

"We've got 15 games in the league, we want to show what we can do, and make sure we enjoy in Europe a really good run in the knockout stages."

Palace boss Pardew admitted his side lacked killer instinct in falling to their first defeat in his tenure.

"We never really produced a classical moment, or a great moment today," said Pardew.

"That was a shame, we had a lot of good play but that final pass, that final idea, let us down today."

Pardew conceded Palace missed Marouane Chamakh after the striker suffered a broken nose, and lamented Phil Jagielka clearing Dwight Gayle's shot off the line.

"The loss of Cham was crucial today, his guile and experience around the box would have been important," said Pardew.

"He's got a broken nose we fear, so fingers crossed he doesn't get my cold.

"He wasn't concussed, but it was a heavy blow to the nose.

"But I think he'll be okay for Leicester.

"I thought Gayle's shot was in, and the players' reaction looked like it was in.

"So whoever invented that goal line technology wanted kicking up the bum today!

"To be fair the linesman said 'it's not on the watch', so I knew straight away really."

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