Swansea City v Everton – 22nd December 2013
Ross Barkley’s stunning late free-kick helped Everton to victory at Swansea and into the Premier League top four.
Barkley, 20, missed a chance early in the second-half and hit the bar from 20 yards before whipping the dead-ball winner in off the crossbar.
In a frenetic second period, Seamus Coleman struck from 25 yards, before Dwight Tiendalli’s volley deflected in off Everton defender Bryan Oviedo.
Everton, now 10 games unbeaten, sit two points off league leaders Liverpool.
The free-kick reminded me of Wayne Rooney’s against Arsenal for Everton many years ago. Magnificent technique from the young lad, pure brilliance.
The Toffees manager Roberto Martinez played for Swansea before guiding them to League One promotion as manager in 2008 and said returning to south Wales brought back “great emotions” ahead of kick-off.
Barkley’s winner, and Everton’s continued refusal to lose a second game of the season, will have sent the Spaniard back to Merseyside in similarly upbeat mood.
Only Italian side Roma and German champions Bayern Munich have lost less league games across Europe than the Toffees and with the tightest defence in the Premier League, the Blues enter the festive period with unquestionable momentum.
Their verve and confidence was on show for all to see in the second half against Michael Laudrup’s side, as Everton missed chances before Coleman and the influential Barkley had their say.
Swansea have never beaten Everton but, as in each of their previous eight league matches this season, had more possession than their opponents.
That Everton boast the best defensive record in the league went some way to that statistic not being telling in this game and ensured Swansea have just two wins in nine.
Barkley, who made his England debut this year, wasted the game’s best opening early in the second period when he lost his footing when through on Swansea goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel.
Any Everton fears that the young Liverpudlian’s confidence may be dented were squashed when he dribbled 30 yards to fire against the crossbar, before Coleman netted his fourth of the season.
The Irishman’s shot had too much pace and swerve for Tremmel, who deputised for the injured Michel Vorm.
Everton’s defenders have now contributed eight of their 29 league goals this season, and it was Coleman’s opposite right-back Tiendalli, who restored parity.
He got a tame connection on a cross from the impressive Ben Davies but the ball deflected off Oviedo, wrong-footing goalkeeper Tim Howard.
Everton in good company
Only Italian side Roma and German champions Bayern Munich have lost less league games this season than Roberto Martinez’s side across Europe. Defeat at Manchester City is the only time Everton have lost this season in the Premier League.
The open and attacking nature of the second half made the first period, in which Everton’s Kevin Mirallas went closest to scoring, largely unforgettable.
The Belgium forward drew a near-post save from Tremmel and infuriated team mates when his shot was blocked, with Romelu Lukaku well placed for a pass.
Laudrup, who distanced himself from links with the vacant Tottenham manager’s post in midweek, watched as his side offered only wayward efforts from top-scorer Wilfried Bony and Pablo Hernandez as the opening half drew to a close.
Goals from Coleman and Tiendalli ensured the fast start to the second half never dipped, before Barkley curled a majestic free-kick home from 25 yards via the underside of the bar.
The home side, now with just 10 points from 27 at home, rallied and Hernandez saw a stinging shot parried by Howard before substitute Roland Lamah had a volley expertly saved by the American goalkeeper in injury time.
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