Everton’s Romelu Lukaku hits four to floor Bournemouth in 6-3 thriller
Do not be fooled by the scoreline, this was not a Six Nations match, though if someone had thrown on an egg-shaped ball in the second half it would scarcely have been any stranger than some of the events already taking place on the pitch.
This was a seesaw of a nine-goal thriller, with Bournemouth threatening the most unlikely of comebacks after being dominated for most of the game. Ronald Koeman believes Everton emerged stronger from the January transfer window, and for a hour they were too much for their lightweight opponents to handle. Romelu Lukaku, who ended up with four goals, was too powerful for Bournemouth’s defence on his own. Yet the Everton manager was nowhere near as pleased with what he saw in the second half, for after establishing complete control and a three-goal lead the home side all but surrendered their advantage in losing their momentum after the interval.
Bournemouth went behind after 30 seconds, before most members of their team had managed to touch the ball, and for the rest of the first half they looked demoralised and resigned to a beating. If Eddie Howe made any plans to deal with Lukaku’s threat they were in tatters in under a minute. The Everton striker merely breathed on the Bournemouth defence on the home side’s opening foray and an obliging gap appeared. Cutting in from the right, Lukaku strode into it and beat Artur Boruc with a confident shot into the top corner.
That did nothing to harm Everton’s self-belief and swagger and Ademola Lookman almost made it two moments later, bamboozling Harry Arter on the edge of the area but sliding a shot narrowly wide. They went further ahead midway through the first half when Lukaku again made a nuisance of himself, this time by reaching the dead-ball line past some fairly shoddy defending by Tyrone Mings and Mark Pugh to turn a pass back for James McCarthy to score.
If Bournemouth imagined things could not get any worse they were wrong. Under no particular pressure Simon Francis hit a risky backpass for Lukaku to intercept and score with nonchalant ease. They were lucky to turn around only three down. Seamus Coleman saw a shot saved just before the break and had Lukaku found Lookman to his left, instead of Ashley Williams to his right, when Everton went charging upfield against an undermanned defence, the young forward might have made a better job of finishing. “The first half wasn’t pretty,” Howe said. “We didn’t handle the goals very well at all.”
Both sides looked flat at the start of the second half, though at least Bournemouth showed spirit in hitting back with what looked like a consolation goal. Everton gave Jack Wilshere too much space to weigh up his options and the result was a lofted pass that split the two home centre-halves and allowed Josh King to run through. While that did not seem too much of a worry, alarm bells began ringing when Pugh almost sent in King again two minutes later.
Unable to break out of their own half, Everton conceded another when Ryan Fraser crossed for King to collect his second. For just a few minutes, during which Joel Robles had to beat out a goalbound effort from Arter, it looked as though one of the fightbacks of the season might be on. But Everton still had Lukaku, and when they reshuffled their backline and finally worked out how to get up the pitch again it was a relatively simple matter for the striker to play a return with Coleman and meet his cross for a hat-trick.
With only seven minutes remaining that ought to have been that, yet an unpredictable script still had more twists. Lukaku scored a fourth, courtesy of Ross Barkley’s clever backheel, before Arter deservedly got onto the scoresheet at the other end, collecting a rebound off an upright before tapping the ball in. The final goal went to Barkley, who rounded Boruc and raised his arms in celebration before stroking the ball into an empty Park End net.
“It was a strange result after the half-time score. Our intensity dropped,” Koeman said. “It was a great game for the fans, but not for me.”
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