Swansea 1 Everton 2
Ross Barkley capped another stunning display by scoring a superb free-kick six minutes from time to send Everton into the top four.
That could change this evening, of course, but for the time being, Roberto Martinez could hardly be more content.
Barkley, the prodigious young midfielder, whose personal contribution to this contest will have pleased England manager Roy Hodgson, settled this festive issue with a delicious strike from all of 25 yards.
After an own goal from Bryan Oviedo had equalised a 30-yard cracker from Republic of Ireland international Seamus Coleman, Barkley stepped up to prove that age is no barrier. He stole the ball from teammate Romelu Lukaku, who fancied his chances of yet another Premier League goal, before beating Gerhard Tremmel off the crossbar.
The execution was first class, the end result was a victory that manager Roberto Martinez claims to be one of the more significant wins of their season to date.
“We have had three very difficult away games and I knew how tough it would be coming to the Liberty Stadium,” said the former Swansea manager. “I could not be happier with the result.
“I felt we deserved to win it. We kept them quiet, apart from the soft goal we conceded, and that’s a good effort. It is very pleasing the way we concentrated for 90 minutes. It is probably the biggest satisfaction we have had this season.
“A lot has been said about Ross. He has incredible potential and I am extremely proud to see him grow. In the modern game you need to be adaptable and I think Ross can play in many different positions depending upon how we play.
“Yes, he will be marked, but we don’t mind that because if there are two men on him, we can take advantage of that elsewhere. Ross will have to accept that from now on.
“As a team, we just want to fulfil out potential and I still don’t think we have done that. We will speak about our aims when there are eight or nine games remaining.”
On the losing side, Swansea manager Michael Laudrup felt his side were unlucky.
Her said: “I think we deserved more. The first half was tight between two sides who want the ball. We wanted to get the winner in the last 10 minutes but it didn’t happen. I have got to accept it.”
Up until Coleman’s 30-yard strike that left Tremmel clutching at thin air, it had been a relatively modest affair with neither side scaling the heights in a first half that saw three shots from the home side finish closer to the corner flag than the goal.
Playing with greater freedom after the break, Everton finally established themselves and looked the better side. With Barkley prompting, Kevin Mirallas threatening and Lukaku a constant threat, the visitors should have gone ahead just short of the hour when Steven Pienaar’s through ball arrived at the feet of Barkley.
Sadly, with only Tremmel to beat, the young midfielder slipped at the vital moment and the ball bobbled to safety. They were not so fortunate six minutes later, when Coleman made no mistake. It was the full back’s fourth league goal of the season and one that set Everton on course for a fourth win in their last five.
Their lead, however, lasted barely five minutes. A deep cross from Davies reached Dwight Tiendalli at the far post and although the Dutchman’s volley was heading wide, Oviedo’s intervention sent the ball spinning in the opposite direction and past the helpless Tim Howard.
To Swansea’s credit, they set off in search of a second with Laudrup introducing Roland Lamah and then, Alvaro Vazquez. Unfortunately for the Dane, who was missing the likes of Angel Rangel and Michu, it was not to be. Instead, the day belonged to Barkley, who having seen Lukaku shoved to the floor 25 yards from goal, duly took the ball from the grasp of the Belgian and beat Tremmel with the most precise of strikes.
Everton entertain Sunderland on Stephen’s Day and on the evidence of this performance will fancy their chances of inflicting further damage on Gus Poyet. Admittedly, they will play better than this and lose. However, to come away from south Wales, once again, with three points, will send a timely message to those clubs around them.
Everton might not be title challenging material at present, but as far as a place in next season’s Champions League is concerned, they most certainly are.
SWANSEA CITY (4-2-3-1): Tremmel 6; Tiendalli 6, Williams, 6 Flores 5, Davies 7; Canas 6, De Guzman 5 (Pozuelo 85,5); Hernandez 5, Shelvey 6, Routledge 5 (Lamah 65,5); Bony 5 (Vazquez 75,5)
EVERTON (4-2-3-1): Howard 6; Coleman 6, Distin 6, Jagielka 6, Oviedo 6; McCarthy 5, Barry 6; Mirallas 6 (Osman 75,5), Barkley 8, Pienaar 6 (Naismith 75,5); Lukaku 5
Referee: Lee Mason
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