Everton red-hot on United's heels

Everton's Kevin Mirallas celebrating after scoring the first goal in the match against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday (March 11).
Everton's Kevin Mirallas celebrating after scoring the first goal in the match against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday (March 11).PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • While the battle for seventh place in the Premier League seems resolved, a skirmish for sixth is gaining intrigue.

Following their 3-0 win on Saturday over West Brom, Everton are now seven points ahead of their opponents and have a chance to overhaul Manchester United, two points ahead with two games in hand.

"Sixth would be amazing," said their manager, Ronald Koeman. Finishing sixth could get them into Europe next season. Everton have spent this year trapped in no man's land between the top six and the bottom 13.

If they represented a target for the upwardly-mobile West Brom, the balance of power was tilted still further towards Everton by one West Brom alumnus and a man Baggies manager Tony Pulis hoped to sign in January.

Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku followed up first-half strikes from Kevin Mirallas and Morgan Schneiderlin with his 19th goal of the campaign in a one-sided affair at Goodison Park.

With Tottenham in FA Cup action this weekend, Lukaku, who has seven goals in his last five appearances, was able to join Harry Kane at the top of the Premier League's scorers chart.

Lukaku first displayed his potency in the top-flight at West Brom during a season on loan from Chelsea where he only started 20 games but scored 17 goals.

Four years later, and already Everton's record scorer, he continues to ally potency with statistical merit. In becoming the only Evertonian to strike 19 times in a Premier League campaign, he displaced himself from their history books.

In being the first to reach 20 in all competitions in successive seasons since Bob Latchford, he brought echoes of their past on a day when Everton paid tribute to another former Goodison great, the late Alex Young.

"Normally Romelu Lukaku will score in every game," added Koeman, who said he was "very close" to signing a long-term deal.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2017, with the headline 'Everton red-hot on United's heels'. Print Edition | Subscribe