Everton’s Romelu Lukaku Off The Mark In Win At West Bromwich Albion

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IT is easy to see why Alan Irvine has pleaded for time, but patience is already wearing thin at The Hawthorns. A second successive Premier League defeat, marked by two calamitous individual mistakes, was the cue for boos to reverberate at the final whistle, as the West Bromwich Albion supporters vented their anger.

An unpopular appointment when he was named as Pepe Mel’s replacement – and tasked with the considerable job of rebuilding the team after a chaotic summer in which 13 players left and 11 arrived – Irvine has his work cut out. An already difficult job was made harder still here, after Jonas Olsson and Ben Foster pressed the self-destruct button, gifting Everton both goals.

Romelu Lukaku, returning to the club where he enjoyed such a productive season-long loan in 2012-13, scored Everton’s first after only 100 seconds, when he punished Olsson’s dreadful clearance – the second game running that the Swede has handed the opposition a goal inside two minutes. Kevin Mirallas then grabbed the second, after keeper Foster allowed the winger’s tame shot to slip under his body.

Up against the club where he spent three spells – as a player, assistant manager and academy director – Irvine knew that he would get no favours. What the Scot could never have imagined, however, was that his players would be such a danger to their own team.

Albion huffed and puffed in response to falling behind, but never really looked like recovering once Mirallas had doubled Everton’s lead, on a highly satisfactory afternoon for Roberto Martínez and his players.

Coming into this game on the back of 6-3 home defeat by Chelsea, Everton departed celebrating a first victory of the season, and a much-needed first clean sheet. There was also the sight of Lukaku registering his first goal since his club-record £28m move from Chelsea. It was the striker’s 33rd Premier League goal in all – but, incredibly, the first time he has scored for a club that owns him.

How Albion must wish that the Belgium international was still leading their line. Instead, Irvine was left to reflect on the absence of a cutting edge up front, and the two defining moments in the match, when his players made the sort of errors that any coach or manager is powerless to do anything about.

“You’re talking about two international players – two proven Premier League players – and they don’t normally make those kind of mistakes,” Irvine said. “For us to make one, let alone two in the same game, is unusual. The lads are devastated with the goals, but mistakes happen. We just have to accept them and move on.”

Asked about the fans’ reaction at the end, Irvine said: “I understand it. We’re all frustrated, we all came here today hoping that we were going to get a really good performance and a really good result, so I can understand the fans being frustrated and disappointed – because it’s how I feel as well and it’s how the players feel.

“They know that for a fair part of that game they were playing well, and they know that individual errors have cost them.”

As much as Olsson was culpable for the first goal – when he made a pig’s ear of trying to clear a cross from Leighton Baines – there was much to admire about the way Lukaku curled a sumptuous shot, from the edge of the area, into the far corner. What followed was not so much a muted celebration as a full-on apology, prompting a round of applause from the Albion supporters.

Martínez was just delighted to see the ball hit the net. “He is only a young man, but we didn’t mind the [transfer] sum because I knew it was money well spent,” the Everton manager said.

Steven Naismith should have doubled Everton’s lead early in the second half, but he lifted the ball over the bar after Foster had repelled Lukaku’s raking drive. However, it was only a temporary reprieve for Albion. Mirallas, cutting in from the left in the 66th minute, struck a low shot that Foster seemed to have covered – until he dived over the top of the ball.

The Albion keeper did make a couple of fine saves to thwart Leon Osman late on, but, by then, the damage was done. – The Guardian