Two days after his 20th birthday, Dominic Calvert-Lewin celebrates his first goal for Everton against Hull.Everton strolled to their 10th home win this season as Marco Silva’s vulnerable Hull City were beaten 4-0 at Goodison. With all eyes on Romelu Lukaku after a week of thought-provoking outspokenness, a classic misdirection trick allowed Dominic Calvert-Lewin an early opener before Enner Valencia and Lukaku turned an edgy lead into a comfortable win late on.

Although the game bore plenty of positives, Everton did not play well. The opening goal however was as encouraging as they come. Naturally attention will be drawn to the combined 38 years of Tom Davies who marauded forward and found the right pass, and Calvert-Lewin who finished unmarked from eight yards, but this was an opportunity enabled by Ross Barkley’s vision, a growing influence for Koeman’s side.

As Davies bent his run to exploit Andrea Ranocchia’s deep position, Barkley took Hull’s defence out of the game with a calm through-ball. Ranocchia’s laughable cover made Davies’ job easier in picking out Calvert-Lewin. The youngster stroked home from eight yards. Koeman has been criticised for perceived mistrust of youngsters, and indeed creative players. It’s tough to envisage a more compelling counter-argument than Calvert-Lewin’s first for Everton.

To suggest the floodgates subsequently opened would be to mislead. Hull, as is typical of their efforts under Marco Silva, competed throughout. The visitors found space and ought to have found an equaliser when Sam Clucas anticipated Ashley Williams’ error but overdid his attempted lob. Hampered by Oumar Niasse’s contractually-arranged absence, Hull’s threat nevertheless grew, particularly when Morgan Schneiderlin limped off to become the focal point of Evertonians’ pre-Anfield derby anxiety.

Hull’s problem was clear – 49% of possession, eight corners to five, no shots on target – but their finishing was not helped by wayward final passes. Silva’s plan to squeeze Everton towards his three centre-backs, and three central midfielders worked to a reasonable extent but it was lopsided. The channel between Curtis Davies and Harry Maguire was fruitful all game for Everton. Indeed, they exploited this weakness for each of the first three goals.

Game-changer

Everton required both an understandably harsh dismissal for Tom Huddlestone who lunged at Idrissa Gueye, and Enner Valencia’s introduction to comprehensively unsettle Hull, but they were clinical thereafter. A mere 69 seconds into his outing, Valencia offered Lukaku a target for a neat chip over Maguire and Davies before finishing past Eldin Jakupovic to kill the game. On the stroke of full-time, roles were reversed when Valencia freed Lukaku inside Maguire to add an unfair reflection to the scoreline.

Romelu Lukaku celebrates his second goal in front of the Gwladys Street during Everton's 4-0 win over Hull.

And still there was more as Omar Elabdellaoui’s tired back-pass saw Lukaku one-on-one with and shortly beyond Jakupovic. His 21st league goal this season completed both Everton’s victory and a bold step personally. “Instead of living in the past, you have to think ahead. How this club has to grow, how this club has to improve”, Lukaku said whilst outlining his desire to play in the Champions League this week. To back it up: a goal to become Premier League top scorer and Everton’s first 20-goal marksman since Gary Lineker in 1985/86, and another one for good measure. This is a seriously impressive young striker developing superbly.

Everton may not be able to match Lukaku’s ambition for the remainder of his time at Goodison, but, leaving all that aside for a second, they ought to be pretty content with their present conditions. Victory over Hull made it six straight at Goodison in 2017 with all three goals conceded in that stretch occurring in a frantic, complacent 31 minutes against Bournemouth.

The Toffees have backed up their genuine threat to the weaker members of the top six by temporarily taking one of their places, Man Utd slipping down to seventh for a few hours at least. But with Arsenal looking as bad as they have for two decades, Koeman’s side could still pose a threat if one or two catch-up games work out in their favour. Whether or not that pans out, Everton (theoretically at least) have given themselves a chance of a complete turnaround following their derby defeat in December.

That painful 0-1 loss was Everton’s seventh in 15 games. Since then however, the Blues have lost just once (at Spurs) in 12 games, having won nine of those games. Indeed in 2017, Koeman’s side have scored the most, conceded the joint fewest and collected the most points. That’s a really impressive return but one clearly undermined by their weak display at White Hart Lane. Big-game improvement is the next development Koeman’s Everton need to make. With Liverpool and Man Utd up next after the international break, this is the perfect opportunity to address that weakness.
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By Chris Smith
Follow me on Twitter @cdsmith789 

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