THEY rose to their feet at half-time to salute Martin Dobson, the 1970s stalwart who won four England caps during his distinguished Burnley career. Many offered another standing ovation at the end, applauding a four-times African Footballer of the Year. Players of the class of Samuel Etoâ€™o have been strangers to Turf Moor for much of the past four decades and, even in his dotage, he was dominant against an increasingly beleaguered Burnley side.
A game bookended by his wonderfully taken goals brought a second successive win for Everton. Eight days after they were perched precariously above the relegation zone, they clambered into the top half of the table.
Perhaps as pertinently Etoâ€™o belied the notion that both Merseyside clubsâ€™ fates rest with a lone forward. A Liverpool target in the summer, Etoâ€™o took his tally for Everton to four goals in five starts, which is more than Brendan Rodgersâ€™ strikers have mustered between them this season. Not for the first time Liverpool may be left to rue one who got away.
But such has been the focus on Romelu Lukaku, such was the size of his club-record transfer fee, that Etoâ€™o has been somewhat obscured as an Evertonian â€“but not at Turf Moor and, as both he and his youthful sidekick, Lukaku, scored, Burnley were left with a familiar lament.
â€œThe game was decided on high-quality players doing what high-quality players do,â€ said their manager, Sean Dyche. â€œThey showed a clinical edge.â€
His side did not. If the days when Etoâ€™o was the most feared No9 in the world game are long gone, along with the pace that made him so prolific for Barcelona, his finishing remains outstanding and his footballing brain has allowed Roberto MartÃnez to recast him as a No10. It was a role he performed with intuitive understanding, forever finding room between Burnleyâ€™s two banks of four. â€œHe can play anywhere,â€ said his manager. â€œHe can give a lot of aspects: technically, tactically and physically. His link-up play was exceptional and he brings a real know-how. There are few people who can teach things like Samuel due to his experience.â€
His opener illustrated Etoâ€™oâ€™s elusiveness. He began the move in the centre circle and materialised, some 40 yards further forward and several seconds later, in the Burnley box with perfect timing. He met Leighton Bainesâ€™s cross with a header that crashed in off the underside of the bar. His second goal, sealing victory, was curled in from 25 yards with enviable expertise. The woodwork subsequently denied Etoâ€™o a third goal after he anticipated Kieran Trippierâ€™s misplaced backpass and shot from an acute angle. Coincidentally, given the fixture list, his last hat-trick came when Chelsea last met Manchester United.
He has added potency to this Everton side, for whom Steven Naismith also looped a header against the bar. Inevitably Etoâ€™o was involved when Lukaku scored, sharing neat interplay with Naismith in a 24-pass move of patient probing. After the Belgianâ€™s initial shot was blocked by Stephen Ward, he shovelled the rebound in. While there have been mumblings of discontent among supporters, Lukakuâ€™s nine league games have already produced four goals. Such are the standards he has set that it almost feels underwhelming.
His other problem was that he had helped Burnley equalise. Nine minutes before his goal the Belgian had turned provider when a careless pass went to Lukas Jutkiewicz, who sent Danny Ings scurrying clear to elude Tim Howard and slide a shot into the unguarded net. It was not merely Ingsâ€™ first goal of the season but the first by any Burnley striker. It is a statistic that shows their problems.
Redemption arrived swiftly for Lukaku. â€œFootball is a game of errors and they will happen,â€ said MartÃnez. â€œI loved the reaction from Rom. He was unhappy because he gave the ball away and we got punished but, rather than accepting it, he did something about it. It was incredible to see that reaction.â€
Dyche focused less on the emotion than the figures. â€œLukaku is Â£28m,â€ he said. For Burnley, whose transfer outlay in their 132-year history stands at less than Â£50m, Lukakuâ€™s strike was a reminder of how profoundly unfair the Premier League seems. Even if their tormentor-in-chief Etoâ€™o arrived on a free transfer, his wages would not fit inside the Burnley budget.
Because of him Burnley, who have been ahead for only three minutes all season, were behind within four. If points were awarded for industry, they would not be in such difficulties. Instead they remain the only club in all the four divisions without a victory. â€œWe have got to try and find a way to win,â€ said Dyche, before alighting on a reason for optimism. â€œIt is an easy one next week: Arsenalâ€¦â€ – The Guardian