Everton v Hull City
Everton completed an excellent first season under Roberto Martinez’s tutelage with a final-day 2-0 win over Hull City.
James McCarthy notched his maiden goal in a blue shirt early in the contest before Romelu Lukaku signed off from his loan spell with a 15th strike of the campaign a minute into the second half.
The victory absolutely cemented a fifth-place finish in the table and ensured Everton ended the season with 72 points – the Club’s highest tally since the title winning-season of 1986/87.
Another impressive statistic to come out of the afternoon was that Leon Osman became only the 10th Everton player to star in every game throughout a Premier League season.
Prior to kick-off, Roberto Martinez made three changes from the previous weekend’s defeat to Manchester City, with the most notable alteration being the return of Sylvain Distin.
John Stones and Ross Barkley made way, with the pair not even taking a place on the bench as the Spaniard took the opportunity to rest both of his young stars.
Once the action was underway, Everton went ahead in the ninth minute and they were in control from that point onwards.
McCarthy’s deadlock-breaking strike typified the way Everton have played this season, with excellent build-up play from the back leading to the midfielder’s finish.
Lukaku spun his defender 30 yards from goal, played an incisive pass to Steven Naismith who then provided a perfectly weighted slide-rule ball to the Irishman. McCarthy hardly had to break stride and his first-time shot found the target, despite goalkeeper Allan McGregor’s best efforts to keep it out.
Hull’s response was a long-range strike from Sone Aluko and another attempt from distance by Jake Livermore which again was of no trouble to Tim Howard.
The Blues went close to scoring a second midway through the half but neither Lukaku nor Seamus Coleman, who had made a late dart to the far post, could turn in Leighton Baines’ inviting left-winged cross.
Howard twice saved well to deny marauding left-back Maynor Figueroa and Lukaku almost prodded home shortly before half-time after McCarthy’s lung-burst run down the right.
Lukaku then got his goal within a minute of the restart as he doubled the Blues’ lead with another outstanding team move.
Naismith and Osman combined in the centre of the park before the latter picked out Lukaku with an excellent defence-splitting pass. The Belgian got in behind Hull defender Paul McShane and after composing himself buried a right-footed finish past McGregor in front of the travelling Toffees, who had not stopped singing all afternoon.
It was plain sailing for the Blues from then in, although the Hull fans felt aggrieved when a penalty shout for a high boot from Distin on Matty Fryatt was turned down by referee Howard Webb with 25 minutes remaining.
The Blues had further chances to extend their advantage, firstly through Aiden McGeady, who created an opening with his trickery, and then Seamus Coleman’s sliced 25-yard shot.
Gerard Deulofeu was given a late cameo from the bench in the final game of his loan spell and there was also a short outing for Steven Pienaar who had been missing since March with a knee injury.
Hull’s best chance of the afternoon arrived in the final five minutes when Curtis Davies stooped to power a header past the post.
But the Blues were able to hold on for a clean sheet which, married with two fine goals and three points, was the perfect way to bring the curtain down on a hugely successful 2013/14 season.