Everton vs. Aston Villa: 6 Things We Learned
Both goalkeepers excelled early on to keep the contest scoreless in what was a frantic first period.
Villa began the second half in the ascendancy and seemed the more likely scorers, but failed to trouble Tim Howard as frequently as before.
This proved costly when Lukaku stroked home a clinical finish on 68 minutes, following a well-worked move involving Leon Osman and Leighton Baines. Osman then sealed the points 13 minutes later, hitting home Gareth Barry's clever lay-off.
The win temporarily elevates the Toffees to third in the table, after their fifth triumph in six games.
Here's a look at a few Everton-related talking points to emerge from this contest.
America Trumps Belgium... Initially
This match was billed as a clash between two Belgian beasts in Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke, poised to wreak havoc on both defences.
However, up until 68 minutes, it was a pair of Americans who stole the show, with Brad Guzan and Tim Howard, especially, in imperious form.
The first 20 minutes could have been confused with a highlight reel of Howard's best saves, as the American No. 1 made a series of key interventions, including a stunning penalty save to deny Benteke.
After some periods of inconsistency last season, this was Howard back to his best, and he did as much as anyone to claim the points.
Everton were equally frustrated by Guzan early on, with the Villa stopper reacting well to deny Lukaku and Mirallas.
The Value of Lukaku
Romelu Lukaku eventually triumphed in the battle of the Belgians, scoring the crucial opener.
In his short time at Goodison Park he's provided something that Everton have so rarely had over the past few years—a reliable source of goals.
So often the Toffees would toil away, dictating long periods of games without making their dominance count.
This game would have been drawn last season, but Everton are vastly more potent with Lukaku on board.
With the match evenly poised, his fifth strike in five Premier League games proved the difference, as he nonchalantly slotted home the opener.
Strikers have so rarely maintained form at Everton, with Nikica Jelavic's initial burst and Yakubu's first season the most prominent success in recent memory.
Both contributed to memorable seasons at Goodison Park, and if Lukaku can prolong his form, Everton will take far more points without always having to dominate.
Confidence at 1-0
One of the most noticeable aspects of this win was the confidence displayed once Everton went in front.
There's often been a tendency to sit back and protect a lead in recent seasons, but the goal roused the Toffees into some of their most attacking phases.
As they become more familiar with their system, this may be a recurrent trend, as Villa suddenly seemed a far easier side to control and play through.
Having initially condensed the space, the hosts needed the ball and duly pressed up the pitch. Everton stuck to their approach and found it far easier to pass right through, controlling the game and subsequently finding a second goal.
Barry's Key Influence
Gareth Barry has rapidly become an important man in Roberto Martinez's system.
While he wasn't always prominent during the key exchanges, his overall influence was telling. He was the Toffees' leading passer for his fourth consecutive match, pulling the strings once again and maintaining his side's tempo.
He was especially vital at 1-0, helping the Toffees control the game and he showed fine awareness to set up Osman's goal.
Barry has now played in five of Everton's Premier League games this season, in which the Toffees have taken maximum points available—15 from 15.
This is impressive enough, but what underlines his value further is the fact that his new side are yet to register a win in the four matches he's missed, taking three points from a possible 12.
Osman Not Surrendering His Place
With Steven Pienaar back from injury, Roberto Martinez made the bold call of dropping Leon Osman at the start of the match.
When fit, Osman started every Premier League game last season—36 of 38—but while this was a difficult call, it was the right decision, initially putting Everton's strongest XI on the pitch.
What any manager craves is competition, and, rather than sulking, as so many modern players do, Osman responded in ideal fashion with a goal and an assist in a 30-minute cameo.
He replaced the disappointing Ross Barkley and slotted in behind Lukaku, a position he's always looked more comfortable in.
Form fluctuates during a season, and if players lose their place it's important they fight hard to get it back; competition in every position is vital for success.
Osman showed exemplary professionalism in this match, and Martinez may now find it hard to omit him next week.
More Impact from Martinez
This point was highlighted after the win over Hull, but it's worth emphasising again.
With a game tentatively poised, Martinez was once again refreshingly proactive from the bench, making an early change that proved pivotal.
That's now consecutive games his substitutions have directly affected the result, feats he also achieved in the League Cup against Stevenage and at West Ham.
Thanks to his latest input, the Toffees occupy a Champions League berth after a hugely impressive run of form.
Martinez's new side now have 18 points from their first nine games, their best start to a season for nine years. The last time they registered more points at this stage was 2004/05, when they qualified for the Champions League.
Statistics via WhoScored?