Ronald Koeman hailed Ross Barkley for producing “one of his best performances of the season” to inspire Everton to a 2-0 win over West Ham United.
The midfielder was a threat throughout and completed a neat team move on 76 minutes to extend the Blues’ cushion after Romelu Lukaku had earlier broken the deadlock with his 50th league goal for the Club and ninth in nine outings against the Hammers.
The goal was Barkley’s third of the season but first since the 4-0 EFL Cup win over Yeovil Town back in August.
“It was one of his best performances of the season,” said Koeman. “He was working hard, he was tackling and offensively he was important in the game.
“He had some shots on target, Adrian made an incredible save from him in the first half, he scored the second goal, he was the link between the back and the front in creating and that’s the play we want to see from our midfield. That’s what you need to do and then, normally, these kind of players, with the individual qualities that they have, they make the difference.”
Going into the game without a win in five matches, Everton were slow out of the blocks and only truly came to life after Lukaku settled nerves by converting a brilliant cut back from Yannick Bolasie five minutes after the break.
“It’s a good win and I think in the end we deserved it because we played well in the second half,’ said Koeman. “Maybe the first half was not what we expect when we play at home.
“Maybe because of the last few results we did not have that belief and that confidence to show our qualities and, for me, that was the obvious difference between the first half and the second half. The first goal gave us that confidence, that boost and then you could see how strong the team can be.”
The Blues also kept a first clean sheet since the 3-0 win at Sunderland in early September, despite goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg failing a late fitness test.
Joel Robles came in for his first game of the season, while Ramiro Funes Mori made his first start in six in place of skipper Phil Jagielka.
Koeman added: “It’s important to have a clean sheet after what happened last week. We had some changes in the defence and I think everybody did a great job defensively.
"Bryan Oviedo defended well, Ramiro Funes Mori was strong defensively and Joel made some important saves at difficult times in the game. The whole team performance was very positive today.”