Marco Silva paid tribute to “quality” Gylfi Sigurdsson after the Icelander’s strike settled Everton’s Premier League contest with Cardiff City.
Sigurdsson pounced on the rebound after Neil Etheridge had saved Theo Walcott’s 59th-minute strike to finally shatter stubborn Cardiff’s resistance.
The midfielder had seen an effort cleared off the line by visiting defender Sol Bamba minutes before his breakthrough – but Sigurdsson banished his frustration by stroking into an empty net for his seventh goal of the campaign.
Everton have won four home matches in succession and claimed 16 points from the past 21 available to jump to sixth in the Premier League table.
“Gylfi is performing well and being helped by the fantastic work the other two – Andre Gomes and Idrissa Gana Gueye – are doing behind him," said Silva.
“He is understanding better what I want, the moves I want him to make and the space and positions on the pitch where I want him to receive the ball.
“He is a very good player with a lot of quality and can arrive in the box when it matters, which is what I want from the player in his position.
“He is a fantastic professional and gives 100 per cent every day on the training ground.”
Everton dominated possession against a Cardiff side intent on disrupting the rhythm of their in-form hosts.
Clear chances were at a premium before half-time, with Portugal international Gomes’s run and shot into the side netting and a Richarlison header saved by goalkeeper Etheridge the best of it for Everton.
Silva’s team cranked it up a notch after the break, though, with Sigurdsson latching onto a brilliant pass from Bernard before having his low effort swiped away by Bamba.
The midfielder quickly found a way through following Walcott’s driving run and Everton could have added to their tally, with Etheridge saving well from both Richarlison and substitute Ademola Lookman.
Cardiff posed a threat of their own after falling behind, Jordan Pickford repelling a long-range strike from Victor Camarasa. And in the final minutes Callum Paterson headed over from inside the six-yard box and Lucas Digne blocked Josh Murphy’s goalbound strike.
“The game was nothing different from what we expected,” said Silva.
“We have had some players working with us only on Thursday and Friday – it is not an excuse but we expected a tough game.
“We didn’t score the second goal to kill the game off so it is always open to the end.
“Cardiff are strong at set pieces and from long throws and were getting lots of balls in our box.
“We worked well in those moments and were very mature.
“In the first half we showed emotional balance and patience but in some moments we played too slow.
“After half-time, we were faster and had more mobility from our attacking players.
“And we stared to create more chances and problems for them. We scored our goal and had a chance to score the second.
“I am really happy because we won the match… and deserved to win.”