Ross Barkley enhanced his ever-growing reputation by producing a wonderful late free-kick to give Everton a 2-1 win at Swansea.
Scorers: Swansea City - Oviedo (70 og); Everton - Coleman (66), Barkley (84)
Referee: Lee Mason
A fierce strike from Seamus Coleman had given the visitors a 66th-minute lead, but they were pegged back when Bryan Oviedo put Dwight Tiendalli’s off-target effort into his own net.
But Everton were not to be denied as midfielder Barkley stepped up with six minutes to go to beat Gerhard Tremmel with a strike which nicked the underside of the bar on its way in.
The goal, and another fine individual performance, will ensure the 20-year-old will again be in the headlines after a string of excellent recent displays, and it is hard to see how Roy Hodgson can leave him out of England’s World Cup squad. Barkley said he knew he was going to score his brilliant winner.
“It’s a relief because I had a chance to score with 20 minutes to go and I slipped, so to see the free-kick go in was a bonus and great for the team,” he said afterwards.
“I told Romelu Lukaku to leave it, because I saw the goal and thought ‘I’m going to score this’. I don’t really practice free-kicks because Leighton Baines is usually on the pitch, so I thought it was my chance.”
Everton skipper Phil Jagielka was happy that Barkley was on his side. “He slipped and thought it wasn’t his day, then five minutes later he hits the bar. Then he’s brave enough to take the free-kick and he did,” said Jagielka.
“It’s a massive result because everyone around us won. It was a big game for us, we might have been fortunate to take all three points but that’s the sign of a good team.”
Swansea boss Michael Laudrup agreed with Jagielka. “We did not deserve to lose, conceding such a late goal at a moment when Everton, I think, were okay with a draw. It was harsh, and the least we deserved was a point. That’s how football is. Their goalkeeper made a couple of great saves.
“I don’t want to say Everton found luck, because it was a great free-kick, but they found the three points. We did well, we played against one of the most in-form teams in the league. We have to move on, the games will come in three days.”
The win moves Everton up to fourth in the Barclays Premier League table, just two points behind leaders Liverpool. Swansea remain 11th after another frustrating afternoon which was the epitome of their season to date. There was plenty of good football, but the lack of an end product has cost them points during the first half of the season.
Everton were unbeaten in nine, but Swansea, whose form has been indifferent, made a positive start with Wayne Routledge twice finding space inside the area and slicing wide of goal on the latter occasion.
The Toffees slowly started to settle and Chico Flores almost gifted them an opener when his slack pass was picked off by James McCarthy and moved to Kevin Mirallas. The Belgian turned Ben Davies inside out, but his shot was well held at the near post by Tremmel.
Ashley Williams then made a crucial block on the winger after a misdirected Jose Canas pass had allowed him to advance on the Swansea box.
There was a pleasing flow about proceedings, although there was little in the way of goalmouth action. It was summed up when Routledge cut in to find Wilfried Bony, only for the Ivorian to fire over the bar. Barkley, sporting a skinhead haircut, was the victim of a crunching tackle from the excellent Williams as he looked to get into the box, and the Everton starlet wasted the game’s best chance early in the second half.
Passes from Oviedo and Steven Pienaar played the England international in on goal as the Toffees broke, but he stumbled as he was about to pull the trigger.
Williams made a timely challenge to deny a surging run from Coleman as Everton ramped up the pressure, before Barkley produced a trademark driving run to ghost away from Jonathan de Guzman and unleash a rising shot that Tremmel tipped onto his bar.
The German’s next action was to pick the ball out of his net. Swansea failed to cut out an Everton throw and the ball was worked right by McCarthy for Coleman to produce a swerving thunderbolt of a strike that beat Tremmel at his near post.
The lead lasted just five minutes. Davies whipped in a cross from the left and Tiendalli got in front of Pienaar to get away a strike which deflected off Ovideo to leave Tim Howard stranded.
Oviedo’s intervention meant Swansea had benefited from five own goals in the league this season, a higher tally than any of their own players has managed.
But Barkley made sure it was the visitors who took home the spoils, beating Tremmel with his superb strike to stun the Liberty Stadium.
There was still time for Hernandez and Alejandro Pozuelo to work Howard, but Swansea could not find a leveller.
The win marked Roberto Martinez’s first against his old club. “Huge credit to the team, it’s such a pleasing win because it was a difficult game,” the Everton manager said. “We showed the desire and discipline to win the game and this is a very satisfying day.”
On Barkley, who he has previously compared to Paul Gascoigne, Martinez added: “The goal from Ross gave us something to be proud of and something I want to savour. We have a few youngsters. Ross, John Stones, James McCarthy, Romelu Lukaku, Seamus Coleman… We have a real nice blend and what pleases me is that in the group, everyone is prepared to work hard for the team.
“Ross is growing game by game and is a diamond of English football. The free-kick was an example of what he can do.”