It was the range of quality that Ross Barkley showed in his wonder goal that so caught the eye. First the power, then the subtlety, the ease of moving from right foot to left, and then the patience to pick his spot after a run that surely exceeded 80 yards, one that started midway inside his own half. The 23rd minute last night was when Barkley moved up another level, the kind of goal that is difficult for international managers in World Cup years to ignore.
There was another element to the goal which propelled Everton to a significant victory, one that lifted them back to fifth place, just six points behind Arsenal with a game in hand. It was the chaos that Barkley created at the heart of the Newcastle defence, as he ran fearlessly towards them. English players have had that kind of freedom coached out of them for generations. Barkley had announced his arrival as a sublime talent before his side’s visit to St James’ Park, but that destructive moment will raise expectations, and quite rightly so.
There can be no question that he must fly to Brazil, the 20-year-old with the world at his feet. That goal was his sixth of the season in his 28th Premier League game. Those stats raise eyebrows for a first full season in central midfield.
There were other displays of note for Roberto Martinez’s side. Romelu Lukaku was a nuisance for dispirited Newcastle, scoring his side’s second and in Gerard Deulofeu was a player who embodied trickery. Such was the emphatic feel that Leon Osman struck a third. Everton will believe this was just the springboard for a late drive to the close of the season.
Newcastle created chances before going behind to Barkley’s stunning strike. In the second minute alone, Luuk de Jong, Papiss Cissé and Yoan Gouffran all had chances.
Then came two moments of genuine quality. First, in the 18th minute, Tim Krul produced a superb save with his left foot to deny Lukaku.
Then, in the 23rd minute, came Barkley, and it was breathtaking. That the goal originated from a Newcastle corner will not have helped the mood of Alan Pardew, watching in a Tyneside hotel as he served the last of his three-match stadium ban.
Once the initial set piece from Paul Dummett had been charged down, Newcastle panicked. First Cheick Tioté’s weak header failed to direct the ball back into the Everton penalty area and when the visitors broke, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa missed a crucial challenge. That was midway inside the Everton half. It was also when Barkley took over. From there, he hit the gas, striding past the halfway line with genuine menace. Dummett could not catch the England midfielder and Tioté did not risk a foul with Barkley now speeding across the edge of the Newcastle penalty area.
The ball by now was on his left foot and he swept past Vurnon Anita and Fabricio Coloccini, the Newcastle captain slipped. Barkley picked his spot with his left foot, smashing his shot into the top corner of Krul’s goal.
It was Barkley’s night, but there was much to admire in the probing of Deulofeu. In the 52nd minute, Krul again saved well with his feet from a low drive from the on-loan Barcelona winger. Barely a minute had passed when Deulofeu this time turned creator, crossing low to Lukaku, who fired in the second.
The home side rallied late. Anita missed a simple opportunity after fine play by substitute Hatem Ben Arfa and in the closing moments, Tim Howard denied Cissé’s headed effort with his finger tip. Then, with two minutes remaining, Osman struck a third into the top corner.