Lukaku fires Everton to victory
On-loan Everton striker Romelu Lukaku marked his home debut in emphatic style with two goals in a deserved 3-2 victory over Newcastle which ended up being far more nervy than it should have been.
The Belgium international's performance was one, but not the only, reason why his new team displaced parent club Chelsea in fourth place as the Toffees made it six matches unbeaten - a league start not matched for seven years.
Lukaku has now scored six goals in his last five Barclays Premier League appearances, having netted a hat-trick in his final match on loan at West Brom last season.
That statistic alone, even before taking into account this performance in which he also had the ball in the net two other occasions in the first half but was denied by an offside flag - will prompt more awkward questions of Jose Mourinho's judgement in allow the 20-year-old to spend another season away from Stamford Bridge.
The fact he has scored more league goals (three) this campaign than all the strikers the Portuguese has at his disposal looks like another glaring error by the two-time Champions League-winning manager.
Lukaku's fledging partnership with Ross Barkley, playing behind in the hole, also resulted in Everton's other goal as the 19-year-old collected a lay-off from the Belgian to score Everton's second after charging through the middle of an obliging Magpies defence.
Everton's passing was fast and crisp and Kevin Mirallas often, and right-back Seamus Coleman slightly less frequently, tore the left side of the visiting team to shreds.
But Newcastle, who have won one of their last 11 league trips to Goodison Park and have taken just 16 points from their last 23 away games, were woeful in the first half. Captain Fabricio Coloccini and centre-back partner Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa were abject at best and it was no surprise to see the latter replaced by Mike Williamson at half-time.
However, it was fellow substitute Yohan Cabaye, a surprise omission from the starting line-up, who made Newcastle's only real impact with a brilliant 30-yard strike just after the interval.
But even conceding their first goal in 11 hours 27 minutes could not knock Everton out of their stride and Loic Remy's 89th minute goal gave the scoreline a lop-sided look.
It was not as if Newcastle had not had due warning about the threat of Lukaku.
Ever since he arrived on deadline day he was talked about as being the Toffees' game-changer, and he duly delivered on his league debut last time out with a late winner at West Ham.
Within two minutes he had opened up the visitors' defence but his cheeky backheel into the net was the clue he already knew the flag had gone up.
Three minutes later there was no reprieve as Mirallas left Davide Santon trailing in his wake to cross low for Lukaku to stroke home despite Tim Krul's best efforts to keep out the shot.
Lukaku and Barkley had a practice run for the second goal when the big striker laid the ball off for the attacking midfielder to fire first-time wide of the far post.
They perfected the move midway through the half when Sylvain Distin and Mirallas picked out Lukaku who fed Barkley through the middle and he charged past Coloccini to clip past Krul for the academy graduate's first Goodison goal.
The speed with which manager Roberto Martinez has successfully implemented his passing game so soon after David Moyes' departure is testament to both him and the intelligence of the players and their willingness to commit to a new way of working.
But Everton's third goal was pure route one as goalkeeper Tim Howard's punt downfield was seized upon by Lukaku, easily beating a statuesque Coloccini and rounding Krul before gleefully firing into the open net from close range.
Lukaku found the net again but was denied by another offside flag before Newcastle finally registered their first shot, Howard easily saving low from Hatem Ben Arfa.
It was the last act for the Frenchman who made way for Cabaye at the start of the second half, and within six minutes his compatriot had pulled one back with a blistering long-range strike.
But there was to be no inspiring comeback like the 4-4 against Arsenal from an even worse position in 2011 and, even though Remy poked home from close range late on, it was little consolation.