Everton look as good as assured of a place in the last 16 of the Europa League after a fine performance yesterday against Young Boys on the Swiss side’s artificial pitch in Bern, where Romelu Lukaku scored a hat-trick and the Merseysiders claimed a fine first-leg victory.
Their manager, Roberto Martinez, said Lukaku had demonstrated that he “loves playing for Everton” with his performance.
The 21-year-old Belgium striker, whom Everton paid a club record £28m for last summer to recruit from Chelsea after having him on loan for the previous season, was quoted last week following a 1-0 loss to his former employers as saying he would like to “eventually arrive at a top club again”.
But Martinez played down that matter last night. “There has been a lot written – there was a conversation taken a little bit out of context after the Chelsea game,” he said.
“It was clearly someone looking for a headline about if Rom wanted to perform in order to come back to Chelsea, and his answer probably didn’t reflect what he meant.
“It’s never an issue. Rom was delighted to commit himself to Everton.
“He loves playing for Everton, and I think he showed that today.
“A footballer needs to be measured by the way he talks on the pitch. Sometimes a microphone can be put in front of you and people then dissect everything you say and highlight a word or line which is not appropriate.
“It’s not an issue. He’s a special footballer who we love seeing developing, and he’s just enjoying being an important player for Everton.
“He’s the complete striker, but he’s only 21 and people forget about that.
Martinez had stressed before the game that his players were “ready” for the challenge, having prepared by training on a similar surface back home, but it looked as if they might be in for a troubled evening when the hosts took a 10th-minute lead through Guillaume Hoarau.
However, Everton were soon looking more than comfortable as they responded emphatically, racing into a 3-1 lead by the interval courtesy of two Lukaku efforts either side of a Seamus Coleman finish.
The visitors had had plenty to deal with at the other end, with Tim Howard producing some excellent saves and Sekou Sanogo Junior’s strike being deflected on to the post by James McCarthy, but they seemed well and truly in the clear just before the hour mark when Lukaku wrapped up his treble with his side’s fourth away goal.
Four minutes later they were reduced to 10 men, John Stones being sent off for holding back Hoarau in the box, but the French striker sent the resulting penalty over the bar and Everton held out from there to maintain their handsome advantage in the tie ahead of next week’s second leg at Goodison Park.
The only other real negative for Martinez aside from Stones’ dismissal was the sight of both Bryan Oviedo and James McCarthy coming off after suffering injuries, as well as Steven Naismith taking a knock to the knee – but the manager, like the 3,700 Everton fans inside the stadium, will be delighted overall with how things went.Reuse content