04 Feb Everton 6 – 3 Bournemouth
Striker Romelu Lukaku scored Everton’s fastest Premier League goal after just 31 seconds on his way to grabbing four in a 6-3 win over Bournemouth.
The 23-year-old struck almost straight from kick-off and was gifted another – after a fortuitous second for James McCarthy – as the hosts raced into a 3-0 half-time lead.
However, a Josh King double set up a tenser-than-expected finish before Lukaku added two more late on, becoming Everton’s second-highest Premier League goalscorer just one behind Duncan Ferguson (60).
There was time for Harry Arter to tap in the visitors’ third ahead of Ross Barkley scoring Everton’s sixth.
Manager Ronald Koeman had hailed the “different spirit” within the squad following a January clear-out of Darron Gibson, Bryan Oviedo, Tom Cleverley, Oumar Niasse and Gerard Deulofeu but new arrivals Morgan Schneiderlin and 19-year-old Ademola Lookman, handed his full Premier League debut, have brought a much-needed dynamism.
The side is gradually morphing into one which Koeman believes should be targeting sixth-placed Manchester United, two points ahead albeit with a match in hand, in the quest for European honours this season.
However, while they are still capable of second-half switch-offs like this one cracking the top six monopoly may prove difficult. If they are to do it Lukaku’s goals are going to be pivotal.
Soporific starts have so often affected matches at Goodison but not this one with Lukaku and McCarthy exchanging rapid passes before the latter curled home left-footed to beat David Unsworth’s 32-second effort against Fulham in David Moyes’ first game at the club in March 2002.
Lookman, who has settled quickly at this level having played League One football for Charlton up until Boxing Day, then flashed a shot across Artur Boruc’s goal.
Bournemouth could not get a foothold and when Lukuku twisted and crossed McCarthy bundled home after his initial shot hit Steve Cook and rebounded off the Everton midfielder’s body for his first of the season.
Evidence of how hard Koeman has got his side working was provided by Ashley Williams, who ran all of 80 yards to get on the end of a Lukaku pass but ran out of steam as he bore down on Artur Boruc.
There was not much movement required for Lukaku’s second as Simon Francis inexplicably passed to him 12 yards out.
Boruc denied Lukaku a first-half hat-trick by rushing to the edge of his area and also parrying Seamus Coleman’s shot with Bournemouth’s only effort from Cook batted away by Joel Robles before the break.
The visitors, with just two points from five matches in 2017, finally sprung into life after the break and King scored twice from close range before Harry Arter forced Joel Robles into a full-stretch save.
Everton were reeling for a while before their talismanic striker came to their rescue with two more expertly-taken goals to become the all-time leading Belgian in one of Europe’s top five leagues with his 76, eclipsing the 72 scored by Luis Oliveira in Serie A from the late 1990s to early 2000s.
Although Arter sneaked one in at the near post from close range Barkley finished things off in added time to make it 17 points from Everton’s last seven matches, surpassing last season’s woeful home points tally, and putting United firmly in their sights.
Bournemouth are looking over their shoulder with the relegation zone only six points away.