Everton stun Newcastle, improve chances of qualifying for Champions League
Newcastle: Ross Barkley scored a remarkable goal to send Everton on their way to a 3-0 victory at Newcastle United that improved their prospects of qualifying for the Champions League next season.
Romelu Lukaku and Leon Osman added further goals in the second-half at St James' Park on Tuesday as Everton increased the Premier League pressure on fourth-placed Arsenal, moving within six points of the London club with a game in hand.
The quality of their performance, personified by the contributions of Gerard Deulofeu, indicated that manager Roberto Martinez is justified in believing a top-four finish is within the Merseysiders' reach.
The highlight of the match -- indeed, one of the highlights of this or any other Premier League season -- was conjured up by Barkley in the 22nd minute.
Referee Lee Mason was significantly involved when he signalled advantage when Deulofeu was fouled as he chested the ball down -- and Barkley certainly took advantage.
He surged forward from midway inside his own half, leaving four Newcastle players in his wake before he angled his run into the area and, as Fabricio Colccini slipped, powered a shot high into Tim Krul's goal.
It was a memorable illustration of the technique and tenacity that will surely persuade England coach Roy Hodgson to include Barkley in his squad - and possibly in his team - at the World Cup finals in Brazil.
Barkley had already been involved along with Osman in a smart passing move that created an opening for Lukaku, whose shot was saved by the legs of keeper Krul.
Yet Newcastle were far sharper than the visitors in the initial stages when shots from Papiss Cisse and Yoan Gouffran were blocked by James McCarthy.
Cisse, Luuk De Jong and Cheick Tiote also found space for shots from the edge of the area, but Everton 'keeper Tim Howard had not been tested by the interval.
And Everton could have been further ahead because Deulofeu, an elusive threat throughout the game, was inches away from steering an angled shot inside the far post with Krul beaten.
Deulofeu, a Spaniard on loan from Barcelona, was particularly influential at the start of the second half as he again showed why he is rated highly by the Catalan club.
His 52nd-minute shot forced Krul to make another save with his legs as the defence opened up in front of him once again.
And, within 60 seconds, Deulofeu's pace had taken him away from Paul Dummett before he delivered a low cross that presented Lukaku with a simple chance to score from close range.
It was the signal for Newcastle to send on Hatem Ben Arfa, who had transformed their performance when he made a similar second-half appearance against Crystal Palace last Saturday.
The French midfielder was largely on the fringes of the action on this occasion, although he did create an opportunity for Vurnon Anita who sliced his shot wide from only three yards in the 79th minute.
Howard was eventually forced into a save when he turned aside a header from Cisse ten minutes from the end, but it was the only moment of concern for the 'keeper and his team-mates.
Everton added a third goal in the 87th minute, with Deulofeu and Lukaku combining to set up Osman for a finish that was as clinical and compelling as this impressive display.