Goalscorer Niasse Indebted To Creative Cuco

by Paul McNamara

Oumar Niasse hailed teammate Cuco Martina after the left-back’s pinpoint cross teed up the Everton forward for his seventh Premier League goal of the campaign against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Niasse headed home to double Everton’s advantage shortly after a strike from Gyfli Sigurdsson had broken the deadlock. Martina, whose tenacious defending prevented Palace’s England winger Andros Townsend from wielding any influence on the Goodison Park contest, slipped into creative mode on 51 minutes.

He reacted quickest to latch on to a loose ball high up the pitch, before jinking forward into the box and lifting in a delivery for Niasse to plant beyond visiting number one Wayne Hennessey.

Tom Davies ruthlessly blasted in a third goal for the Blues. And despite Eagles midfielder Luka Milivojevic converting a penalty with seven minutes to play, Everton completed another home victory to further burnish a Goodison record which has seen them amass 17 points from the 24 available since Allardyce watched the Blues topple West Ham United 4-0 on the eve of his official appointment as manager.

Relentless 27-year-old striker Niasse has started eight top-flight games this term and appeared a further seven times as a substitute. He now has two headed goals to add to three with his right foot and another two with his left.

“Cuco is right footed and playing left-back, which is very difficult for a defender,” Niasse told evertontv.

“He is trying to do his best, always. I know the guy, he is a great player and put in a really good cross today. Hopefully he will continue doing that.

“When the ball is in the box, you just use your instinct [to try to score]. The way it is coming, the position of the ‘keeper and the defenders: you have to look at all these things, then try to put it in. And that is what I did.” 

Niasse has started Everton’s past three games after coming off the bench against West Bromwich Albion to salvage a point for his side with a rasping near-post volley.

He missed two good opportunities to add to his tally in the subsequent victory over Leicester City. But the Senegal international, who is hitting the net at a rate of once every 120 minutes in the top flight this term, insists nothing will deter him from getting into goalscoring positions.

“It is always important to score as a striker,” said Niasse. "I had played two games in a row and not had that luck – especially against Leicester.

“But against Palace I had a great opportunity to score in the second half and it was great to do it in front of our fans.

“If you miss a chance, you have to keep going, playing your game, and doing everything to help the team.”

Martina, meanwhile, has been an integral component of Everton’s side since Allardyce took charge back in November. So tight was the leash on which the 28-year-old had direct opponent Townsend at the weekend that Palace directed only 28.8 per cent of their attacks down his channel in the second half – 4.9 per cent down on the corresponding figure before the break of 33.7.

The Curacao international, who joined in the summer following two seasons with Premier League rivals Southampton, has started and finished all of the Blues’ past 14 league fixtures – a period in which Allardyce’s team has recorded five clean sheets in the course of jumping from the fringes of a relegation scrap to a healthy top-half position.

Everton were two points above the bottom three heading into that floodlit encounter with West Ham on 29 November. They are now within swinging distance of seventh-placed Burnley – the Blues two points off Sean Dyche’s Clarets with a trip to Turf Moor on 3 March fast coming into view.

Martina has been in particularly creative vein of late, having also sent over a cross for Dominic Calvert-Lewin to score at Arsenal nine days ago.

And Allardyce recently heaped praise on the player, a natural right-sided defender thrown into combat on the left in the absence of the injured Leighton Baines.

“One of the most important things is how well you defend when you have not got the ball and you have to do that an awful lot in every game,” Allardyce told evertontv.

“Cuco’s stats, both defensively, and certainly in possession, are good. He is very comfortable, he never looks flustered, he looks calm. Certainly, from our point of view – and he is not playing in his natural position – he is doing a very, very good job. 

“I do not quite know where we might have been without him.”

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