Baines and Lukaku inspire East End fight back

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Ross Barkley embraces match-winner Romelu Lukaku at the full-time whistle.GettyImagesRoss Barkley embraces match-winner Romelu Lukaku at the full-time whistle.

Quick passing, sharp movement and a team consisting of players doing their utmost to stamp their authority on proceedings -- this passing lark is a visual treat at times, though it took 45 minutes to click into gear at Upton Park. Flowing football replaced the statuesque movement, excruciating tempo and general abject fare of the first half, and the vehicle for this turnaround was Roberto Martinez.

Adapting that well-known phrase, fortune favoured the Spaniard at Upton Park. After a turgid opening period, when West Ham outworked and outthought their unbeaten visitors, there was no hesitation from Martinez. Swift and decisive in his decision-making, the second half began with a double substitution.

Having witnessed his team limp lifelessly to the interval, these bold changes transformed Everton. Disjointed football switched to dazzling courtesy of the early changes and 15 minutes of hair-dryer treatment from the manager, as the team executed the style of play that Martinez intends to make the norm at Merseyside.

- Lukaku debut excites Martinez
- Baines inspires dramatic win

Arriving as one of the substitutes, James McCarthy, on for Steven Naismith, took on the water-carrying duties alongside an impressive Gareth Barry. Providing the stabilising platform absent in the opening period, this midfield duo allowed those ahead of them to turn the screw.

Kevin Mirallas claimed the assist for the winning goal, and supported by the security of McCarthy and Barry dominating the midfield behind him, the Belgian provided a timely reminder of the threat and creative ability offered by him at his best.

Just like McCarthy, Romelu Lukaku entered the action as a halftime change. The Belgian showed why a host of clubs clamoured for his signature on deadline day. Noticeably more involved than the man he replaced, Lukaku had 40 touches of the ball compared to 15 by Nikica Jelavic, and Everton carried much-needed presence in attack.

Strong, able to hold on to the ball with his back to goal, Lukaku added a new dimension thanks to his strength, pace and eagerness to impress. Grabbing the match winner, the Belgian earned all the plaudits set to fall his way following this all-action debut.

Linking well with the productive duo of Mirallas and the ever-involved Ross Barkley, Lukaku provided the focal point for an attacking trio offering the guile and attacking intent so obviously lacking during the slipshod first half.

Nonetheless, while Lukaku grabs the headlines accompanying any winning goal -- one that signalled a first away win in 11 matches and a 600th league away win -- the biggest catalyst for victory was Leighton Baines, who has dug Everton out of more holes than he cares to remember.

Describing Baines is an increasingly arduous task; the superlatives capable of accurately portraying his influence on this Everton side are thin on the ground. Those wondering why Everton stood firm amid summer interest from Manchester United received a crystal-clear answer Saturday.

Already at the heart of the majority of the brighter moments going forward, the left-back twice stepped up to curl exquisite free kicks beyond Jussi Jaaskelainen. The first arrowed over the wall to the left and, as if to underline his set piece expertise, the second went in the opposite corner via the frame of the goal.

Light-years away from the insipid, tame first-half display, Everton ended the match in total control. The red card dished out to Mark Noble helped matters, but the visitors were the dominant force prior to the intervention of Lee Mason.

The key moving forward is ensuring the second-half performance is the blueprint in future weeks. This passing style requires players playing with invention and without fear; more of the same is needed when Everton visit Fulham midweek.


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