Roy Keane, assistant to the Ireland national team, was an interested spectator as Everton secured a seventh consecutive home victory, running the rule over a trio of Evertonians with roles to play in Martin O’Neill’s national side. All three offered food for thought.
Seamus Coleman, the enterprising right-back, stood out in particular, and even though his 93rd-minute winning goal owed much to good fortune, his overall performance meant that Martinez was faced with a post-match question as to whether he ranked the 25-year-old from Killybegs as the best current player in that position in the Premier League.
“That position is very difficult,” said Martinez, avoiding a direct answer. “In the modern game, it is rare to have someone who can defend, who can be strong in one-v-one situations; that he can cover the centre-backs and then have the stamina to get forward. He has a clinical eye in front of goal and it is quite difficult to find a better full-back than him.”
This may not have been the most impressive goal of his young career, but the simple fact that Coleman now has seven goals to his name this season is an impressive statistic and one which has not gone unappreciated by his managers for club or, presumably, country.
“For Seamus Coleman to keep being in those good positions to allow him to score goals from open play is a significant thing,” added Martinez. “He had to mis-kick the ball to beat David Marshall but that’s just the way it was going today.”
That dramatic late winner also featured a telling contribution from Aiden McGeady, another Keane “target”. Currently feeling his way back to full match fitness after a spell at Spartak Moscow, the 27-year-old winger came off the bench and provided the cross, kept in play gamely by Gareth Barry, which was then turned into the net by Coleman.
“It’s important now that we keep our front players fresh,” said Martinez as he analysed the run-in to a season which he hopes will end with a top-five finish and European football at Goodison next season.
Another player Martinez has handled sparingly — young on-loan Barcelona winger Gerard Deulofeu — opened the scoring after 58 minutes when he showed a tantalising glimpse of his undoubted talent, surging into the area and beating the impressive Marshall via a big deflection.
But Cardiff appeared, and played, far better than their lowly league position suggested and claimed a deserved equaliser within nine minutes as Juan Cala turned in a Peter Whittingham free-kick.
Solskjaer correctly pointed to the fact sub Wilfried Zaha should have been awarded a penalty late in the game and the failure by referee Roger East to award the spot-kick proved all the more costly when Coleman produced his late heroics.
EVERTON (4-4-2): Howard 6; Coleman 9, Stones 7, Distin 6, Baines 7; Deulofeu 7 (McGeady 61, 7), McCarthy 7, Barry 7, Osman 6 (Barkley 81); Lukaku 6, Mirallas 6 (Naismith 61, 6).
CARDIFF (5-3-2): Marshall 9; Fabio 6 (Zaha 76, 7), Caulker 7, Cala 8, Theophile-Catherine 6, John 6; Kim 7, Medel 7, Mutch 6 (Whittingham 56, 7); Noone 6 (Daehli 61, 6), Campbell 7.
Referee: R East 5