Lukaku equals scoring record, Koeman trains sights on Europe

Everton's Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku (right) and Sunderland's Swedish midfielder Sebastian Larsson during an English Premier League football match at Goodison Park in Liverpool, England, on Saturday (Feb 25).
Everton's Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku (right) and Sunderland's Swedish midfielder Sebastian Larsson during an English Premier League football match at Goodison Park in Liverpool, England, on Saturday (Feb 25).PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • Ronald Koeman insisted he has not given up on a late Europa League challenge after Everton's 2-0 win against lowly Sunderland.

A brilliantly worked finish from Idrissa Gueye in the first half opened the scoring for Everton before Romelu Lukaku's late finish confirmed the three points at Goodison Park on Saturday.

Although seventh-placed Everton are unlikely to catch the teams above them in a bid to finish fifth in the Premier League, that does not mean boss Koeman has stopped dreaming of securing a Europa League spot.

Moreover, seventh would be sufficient to secure a Europa League third qualifying round place if sixth-placed Manchester United won yesterday's League Cup final and if the FA Cup winners qualify for the Champions League.

"The worst situation for a football player is playing for nothing," said Koeman.

"I like to play for something until the end of the season. We know the team behind us is West Brom, who we play at home in two weeks, and above there is still a gap.

PLENTY TO PLAY FOR

The worst situation for a football player is playing for nothing.

RONALD KOEMAN, Everton manager, on his desire to keep pushing for a Europa League place.

"We know teams still need to play after this weekend and maybe it's not ended? Even with five or six points, it is possible to reach them. If we keep the momentum then anything is possible."

Lukaku has now scored 60 Premier League goals for Everton - equal with club legend Duncan Ferguson - and his finish was his eighth at Goodison Park in just five games in 2017.

His 17th league goal of the season also left him level with Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez in the race for the Premier League Golden Boot.

Bottom of the table Sunderland were dreadful for most of this contest despite a recent visit to New York to rejuvenate their legs and minds.

There seems little chance they can avoid relegation and this loss will have hurt manager David Moyes more than most others this year considering his 11 years as Everton boss between 2002 and 2013.

A return to the Championship is looking increasingly inevitable for the Black Cats, but Moyes has not given up hope quite yet.

"We have 12 games to go and I'm looking forward to a good run," he said. "I'm sure we have one to come. We are not that far away when winning a few games might turn things around. Sunderland have been here before and hopefully that experience might help us."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2017, with the headline 'Lukaku equals scoring record, Koeman trains sights on Europe'. Print Edition | Subscribe