Everton vs West Bromwich Albion match report: Lethal Romelu Lukaku leads the way for fightback against WBA

West Bromwich Albion 2 Everton 3

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The Independent Football

It had to be Romelu Lukaku. The striker who played his best football in a West Bromwich Albion shirt tapped into that old Hawthorns magic to turn a game on its head and send Everton into the top five.

Poor Tony Pulis must wonder whether to stick or twist. The famously cautious West Brom coach saw his team build a two-goal lead either side of half time through Saido Berahino and Craig Dawson, only to forget the Pulis fundamentals and invite Lukaku to gorge on open space.

His first, a powerful header 30 seconds after Albion had doubled their advantage, was all raw courage at the back post. His second and Everton’s third was the lethal strike of a born predator, turning the ball home with just six minutes to go.

In between Arouna Koné scored with his first touch after being played in brilliantly by Lukaku. Oddly, this was not an outcome any could have predicted in a first period wanting for spectacle.

This was a game demanding to be won by teams with reasons for optimism, yet the early stages were characterised by a shared absence of ambition. Everton were too safe in possession and West Brom too content with opportunities on the counter.

Gerard Deulofeu might have been sat in the stands for the first 20 minutes for all he saw of the ball. His Everton team-mate Ross Barkley saw plenty of it but was woefully out of touch. We are still waiting for Barkley to take his career by the collar and dominate games. If engagements like this, under lights in perfect conditions, do not inspire, you wonder what might.

Presented with the clearest chance of the opening half an hour, he needed only to make contact with Deulofeu’s incisive pass to give Everton the lead. His mistimed, left-footed effort from 10 yards was the work of a player half a yard short physically and in the head.

The rehabilitated Berahino, making his first appearance at The Hawthorns since the opening-game defeat by Manchester City, occupies the same talismanic territory for West Brom as Barkley for Everton. The difference is the constraint imposed upon him by the organisation favoured by Pulis. He was like a Porsche stuck in traffic for much of the first half, throatily waiting for a gap through which to rip. He had one chance to put his foot down and left the Everton defence for dead. 

A mistake by Ramiro Funes Mori was compounded by Gareth Barry, who fed the ball to James Morrison midway through the Everton half. Berahino’s run across the Everton defence made the choice for Morrison, who played a delightful pass into the box. The rest unfolded like a dream sequence, Berahino striding confidently on to the pass to smash the ball first time past the goalkeeper Tim Howard.  

Goals are a rare commodity in this part of the West Midlands, this being only the third scored at The Hawthorns by Albion in the Premier League this season. It was the second in successive games for Berahino, who again showed why Tottenham were so keen to take him to White Hart Lane in the transfer window.    

West Brom should have been two-up within five minutes of the restart, the ball falling invitingly for Darren Fletcher on the edge of the box. The Albion captain was too quickly on to it, lifting the ball over the bar albeit at ferocious pace.

The disappointment didn’t linger long, Dawson rising at the far post four minutes later to direct a header into the roof of the net from Chris Brunt’s corner. These were unexpected riches, two goals on the same night.

It had the effect of anaesthetic on the West Brom defence, who promptly fell asleep at the other end to allow Lukaku to head home Deulofeu’s cross just 30 seconds later. 

It was a reminder of the striker Lukaku used to be when he wore the blue-and-white stripes of West Brom, a marauding presence who appeared to have a goal in him every time he crossed the half way line.

Lukaku was instrumental in the strike that brought Everton level with 15 minutes to go, spinning past the challenge of Jonny Evans to slip the pass to substitute Koné, who had been on the pitch only a matter of seconds and slotted past Boaz Myhill with his first kick of the game