ROMELU Lukaku’s brace set Everton on course for an impressive first win of the season as Roberto Martinez’s side secured a surprisingly comprehensive victory at Southampton.
Disgruntled away fans called for chairman Bill Kenwright and the board to leave Everton in a banner flown over St Mary’s, but those frustrations were forgotten for 90 minutes at least as Lukaku’s double and a classy Ross Barkley effort secured an impressive 3-0 win.
It was some way to end a six-match winless run on the south coast and dampened the feel-good factor around St Mary’s, where late owner Markus Liebherr was remembered five years after his passing.
The game will have made uncomfortable viewing for Southampton manager Ronald Koeman, back on the sidelines after missing the trip to Newcastle following Achilles surgery.
The hosts started well enough, with Graziano Pelle, Sadio Mane and Dusan Tadic having efforts of varying quality before Matt Targett forced Tim Howard into his first save of the match in the 17th minute.
Barkley’s free-kick was deflected behind for a corner and Arouna Kone’s shot from the resulting corner was blocked, but Martinez’s side managed to break the deadlock in the 22nd minute.
Saints won a corner after Howard smartly denied Mane but Everton broke at speed from it, with Kone played down the right and crossing for Lukaku to head in off the underside of the bar.
It was a sucker punch Saints failed to respond to, with James McCarthy seeing a cross-shot kept out before Tom Cleverley wasted a gilt-edged chance to score after Barkley’s initial effort was saved.
Everton were not made to pay for that missed opportunity, though, as Barkley played through Lukaku, who confidently slotted past Maarten Stekelenburg as half-time approached.
Saints were all too easily being carved open and Koeman acted at the break, bringing on defensive midfielder Oriol Romeu just days after his arrival from Chelsea.
The hosts began to look more confident, with Jose Fonte heading wide and Pelle denied by a last-ditch challenge and then a save soon after.
That high-tempo start soon petered out but Saints were still having chances, with Howard denying Mane from long range.
They could not reduce the deficit, though, and Everton pulled further ahead six minutes from time, with Barkley curling home at the end of a fine team move after impressively cutting inside.
Everton boss Martinez hailed a “perfect” display all over the pitch from his team as they bounced back in style following a disappointing home draw with Watford.
He said: “Today we were really dynamic and powerful on the counter. I think we got the right balance overall. I thought we were excellent in every department in our performances.”
It was a different story for Koeman, who was far from impressed with his side’s first-half display.
The Dutchman said: “The first half was not good, maybe we had one or two chances but the performance of the team was not what we expect.”