Romelu Lukaku joined the distinguished company of Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney, Robbie Fowler, Emile Heskey and Ryan Giggs among the youngest players to score 20 Premier League goals with a fine performance in Everton's exciting 3-2 win over Newcastle United on Monday night.
The Belgian on-loan Chelsea forward, 20, became the youngest foreigner to score that amount of goals in England's top flight and there could be no doubting the quality of his performance as Roberto Martinez's Everton ensured they remained the only unbeaten team.
But while Newcastle, who had been 3-0 down at half-time, staged a comeback, it was impossible to ignore a deplorable first-half defensive performance at Goodison Park from Alan Pardew's visitors. It continued their Jekyll and Hyde season and they could have no complaints after inflicting their own problems.
Lukaku scored twice either side of assisting a Ross Barkley goal and, although Yohan Cabaye and Loic Remy made it a nervy finish, the home side's win ensured they moved into the top four and have still not lost at home on a Monday in the league since a Merseyside derby defeat by Liverpool back in 2001.
Newcastle midfielder Cabaye and striker Papiss Cisse were left on the bench against Everton at Goodison Park.
The pair had started the Magpies' last Premier League match at Hull City but were replaced by Yoan Gouffran and Cheik Tiote. Pardew told Sky Sports before kick-off that Cabaye was not fit having not trained for a few days while Cisse needed to be rested.
Everton also made two changes from the league win at West Ham United, with midfielder James McCarthy coming in while Lukaku was handed a home debut and first Premier League start for Everton. Steven Naismith and Nikica Jelavic dropped to the bench.
Where it was won and lost
Pardew told Sky Sports in his pre-match interview: "Tonight, it is going to be very important we are clinical in our defending, especially in our decision-making, because Everton ask you a lot of questions."
Newcastle's performance could not have been in greater contrast to their manager's words and they fell behind after just five minutes. Everton are typically fast starters at home under the floodlights but Sky Sports co-commentator Alan Smith said, "Newcastle were just not prepared for it."
Everton's goal owed much to the fine work down the right of Kevin Mirallas, who beat Davide Santon. But Fabricio Coloccini's poor header on the halfway line allowed Mirallas to cross for his fellow Belgian, Lukaku, to provide the finish while Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa was guilty of ball-watching. It was a sign of things to come. Lukaku was brilliant and Newcastle's defending was abysmal.
It was Lukaku's fifth goal in his last five Premier League appearances and it epitomised his home debut in which the first half ended with him having scored two goals and provided an assist. He had already had one effort ruled out for offside before he opened the scoring against Newcastle and he was a constant handful for the away team - touching the ball eight times inside the opening 15 minutes, scoring his goal and also creating a chance for Barkley, which the teenager could not convert.
Newcastle hoped Hatem Ben Arfa, playing on his favoured left-hand side, would be their best attacking outlet but Everton right-back Seamus Coleman came out on top in winning four of his five duels with the Frenchman inside the first 20 minutes. Coleman was excellent and also got forward whenever possible and, unlike left-back Leighton Baines, he was regularly allowed to cut in from the flank. It appeared Martinez's rampant Everton had targeted Ben Arfa, who was guilty of not tracking back.
With Lukaku having already created that one chance for Barkley, he again set up his team-mate in the 25th minute and this time the England international made no mistake in making it 2-0. As Newcastle failed to challenge Lukaku in the middle of the pitch, the striker could roll a pass into the path of Barkley, who supplied the finish. They linked up well throughout the game and it was the second pass between the pair which had led to shots and a goal. Barkley was fantastic in playing slightly behind Lukaku and played 50 passes with a superb completion rate of 92 per cent before he was substituted in the 88th minute.
Pardew had also said in his pre-match interview: "Certainly when Everton have got possession, we might be at our most dangerous." But his plan for counter-attacking had gone out the window after going two goals down inside half-an-hour. And eight minutes before half-time, the Newcastle boss would again see his defenders press the self-destruct button.
It was 3-0 when more diabolical Newcastle defending allowed a long kick from goalkeeper Tim Howard to go straight through to Lukaku. Coloccini was again guilty in allowing the ball to bounce while Yanga-Mbiwa ran away from the flight of the ball and goalkeeper Tim Krul misjudged it to give Lukaku a tap-in. It was Lukaku's 14th Premier League goal in 2013 and only Christian Benteke (18), and Daniel Sturridge and Robin van Persie (both 15) have scored more in the calendar year.
Smith said: "Newcastle just seem to have this in their make-up. They can be very good when they want to be. They have got good players. But when they are bad, they are shocking!" Sky Sports' Jamie Carragher echoed those thoughts about Newcastle's defending at half-time, when he said: "For me, that is shocking." Gary Neville thought likewise, as he said: "It has been a nightmare."
Newcastle ended the first half with only one player, Tiote (four), having made more than two tackles. Centre-backs Yanga-Mbiwa and Coloccini had not made a single tackle and had just one interception between them.
Yanga-Mbiwa paid the price at half-time and was replaced by Michael Williamson while Cabaye came on for Ben Arfa, who had won only one of his nine duels in the first half. Away from Newcastle's appalling defending and Everton's lightning attacks, Gareth Barry, making his 500th Premier League appearance, was again hugely influential for the home team all night. Barry touched the ball more times than any other Everton player (80) and made the highest number of passes for his club (75) in the entire match.
500 - Gareth Barry tonight becomes only the 10th player in @premierleague history to make 500 appearances in the competition. Milestone.- OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 30, 2013
Cabaye immediately demonstrated why Pardew was prepared to gamble on his fitness with a stunning, long-range effort with his right foot to give Newcastle a glimmer of hope when making it 3-1 in the 51st minute. It was the first goal Everton had conceded at home in a league match in eight games - a time period of 11 hours and 27 minutes.
The Frenchman made a massive difference as Newcastle significantly improved in the second half. Admittedly playing in a central position, inside 25 minutes of coming on, he touched the ball the same number of times (23) as wide-man Ben Arfa had managed and played almost double the amount of passes (21 against 12) than his squad-mate. Ben Arfa had enjoyed a 100 per cent completion rate in his passes but they had been in safe areas on the flanks which did not hurt Everton. Cabaye finished the second half having attempted 37 passes.
Remy's third goal in four games for Newcastle, for whom he has also produced an assist, in the 89th minute meant the visitors could say they rescued some pride. But Everton's superb first half, inspired by Lukaku and Barkley, combined with Newcastle's glaring mistakes before the break meant Martinez's team deserved the win.
"What you see today, that's him (Lukaku). He is strong, powerful, very knowledgeable for a No.9 to have that awareness around him, and he is technically really gifted, so that always brings a very strong package. At times he was unplayable. He opens up the spaces for others as well, and we will get stronger. We need to get to know him and the players around him need to get to know him."
"Nothing went right for us and the inconsistency being shown was disturbing at one point. We managed in the second half to get ourselves a little better balanced in the team to make some sort of game of it. We came out with a bit of pride and almost at the end got more than that, but the goals in the first half were not acceptable for me, and we're going to have to tighten up and make a couple of changes there."
"When you think about a forward who can be a massive presence in terms of his physical attributes as a target man but then has good feet and he plays people in, Lukaku has got a little bit of Didier Drogba about him. I know Chelsea have let him go for a year but I bet Jose Mourinho is thinking, 'I hope that 12 months goes quickly!'"
Powerful and predatory Lukaku was the man of the match after his two goals and an assist but Everton's other goalscorer, Barkley, was not far behind after an eye-catching display. Cabaye also deserves credit having changed the pattern of the game for Newcastle when coming on at half-time.