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Thursday 18 September K.O. 20:05

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Goodison Park | 20th April 2014 16:10 | Attendance - 39436

Everton v Manchester United

Roberto Martinez's record-breakers were at it again as Everton's Champions League charge raced back into top gear with a fine victory over Manchester United.

The Blues were looking to bounce back from Wednesday's disappointing 3-2 reverse against Crystal Palace and keep up the pressure on fourth-placed Arsenal, who had earlier crept four points clear with a 3-0 win at Hull City.

And they did so, narrowing the gap to the Gunners back to one thanks to goals from Leighton Baines and Kevin Mirallas.

Much of the build-up to the game had centred on David Moyes' first return to Goodison Park since leaving his role as Everton manager in May last year.

Martinez, however, had urged his players only to focus on the task at hand and got exactly the reaction he would have hoped for.

A tally of 66 points was already better than the Toffees had managed in any prior Premier League campaign, while the run of seven straight wins halted by Palace was also a best in the competition's history.

Yet, in overcoming United, more new records were written, while unwanted sequences were cast aside.  

Indeed, Everton were going in search of their first league double over the Red Devils since last achieving the feat during the title-winning campaign of 1969/70. To that end, 44 years of frustration were undone.

The triumph also brought up 20 wins for the campaign - a Club record in the Premier League era and a first since another championship success in 1986/87.

Thirteen home wins for the season was also a record - the most accrued by the Blues in the Premier League era and a best since 1989/90.

Now on 69 points, Everton are six clear of sixth-placed Tottenham Hotspur with only three games left to play, while United are 12 adrift in seventh, albeit with a game in hand.

Still, a point at Southampton next Saturday will guarantee Martinez's men a top-six finish - and with it a return to European competition for the first time since 2009/10.  

Baines scores against Manchester United

Martinez made two changes from Wednesday's surprise defeat at the hands of the Eagles as James McCarthy and Steven Naismith came in for Aiden McGeady and Gerard Deulofeu.

And the Spaniard would have been pleased with what he saw from his side in the opening exchanges as they produced an upbeat tempo that pinned back the visitors.

Romelu Lukaku and Man of the Match Seamus Coleman both saw long-range efforts blocked inside the opening quarter of an hour, while Ross Barkley blazed wildly high on the volley.  

Despite that, there was little in the way of true goalmouth action.

That was until the in-form Naismith had a golden opportunity to open the scoring with 20 minutes on the clock. Sylvain Distin lofted a long ball forward from deep inside his own half and Lukaku climbed high to nod down for the Scot. Ten yards out, he could only fire over.

The former Rangers man made amends, playing his part when Everton duly hit the front seven minutes later.

The hosts had already seen referee Mark Clattenburg wave away appeals for a handball by Jonny Evans when, from Naismith's pass, Lukaku unleashed a shot that Phil Jones clearly blocked with his arm. This time Clattenburg had no doubt. And neither did Goodison. Baines stepped up, De Gea was sent the wrong way and the Toffees led.

It was the first time Everton had netted a penalty in a league game against United since Joe Royle last managed to do so in a 2-0 victory in August 1972. Another new note for the pages of the record books.

Lukaku was proving a menace and his outstretched leg came close to making it 2-0 on 36 minutes. Mirallas drilled a cross low from the right-hand side of the box, but the ball rushed agonisingly away from his lunging counterpart.

The desired second did arrive before the break though - and it was Mirallas left celebrating in front of an exultant Park End.

Coleman threaded a through ball in the direction of the winger and, with Alex Buttner comfortably playing him onside, he was bearing down on David De Gea's goal. A side-foot finish across the Spaniard coolly did the trick.

Kevin Mirallas slots the Blues' second

Undoubtedly buoyant at what he had witnessed in the opening 45 minutes, there was a blow for Martinez at the interval as a hamstring strain rendered Sylvain Distin unable to continue.

Antolin Alcaraz stepped in for the Frenchman and stepped straight into the action too - the Paraguayan dispossessing Wayne Rooney after the former Blues striker had shuffled past John Stones in the area.

Coleman then rifled high and wide at one end, before United's big-money January signing, Juan Mata, crashed a free-kick into an unbreakable Everton wall at the other.

In an attempt to bust the hosts' resolve, Moyes threw on Javier Hernandez, Antonio Valencia and later Danny Welbeck.

But still it was Everton who ploughed forward. Lukaku and Barkley both found De Gea's side-netting, while Naismith drew a fine fingertip save from the Spanish stopper, having also sent one cruising into the stands when he might have felt he should have done better.

And so, had the margin of victory been greater, it wouldn't have been unwarranted. Given the scenario, the three points alone will do Everton just fine.

Next stop: Southampton.

By Adam Clark

Blues celebrate Baines' goal

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