STOKE CITY’S hopes of prolonging a four-match unbeaten run came to a crashing halt at Goodison Park on Saturday as the Toffees extended an incredible run of form that has now seen them beaten just once on home turf in 30 outings.
On-loan Barcelona star Gerard Deulofeu proved to be the star of the show as he scored the first and played a significant role in each of Everton’s second, third and fourth strikes during a routine second half for the hosts.
The 19-year-old rounded off a composed passage of play with an unstoppable effort just before the break to open the scoring for Roberto Martinez’s side, before featuring prominently in each of Seamus Coleman’s, Bryan Oviedo’s and Romelu Lukaku’s well taken efforts.
The margin of victory could have been even greater, but for the performance of Potters man-of-the-match Asmir Begovic, who produced a string of fine saves to thwart the likes of Deulofeu, Gareth Barry and Nikica Jelavic.
Mark Hughes made two enforced changes to his starting line-up ahead of kick-off.
Marko Arnautovic and Robert Huth were both unavailable through injury, meaning that Marc Muniesa was handed his Premier League debut whilst Oussama Assaidi was also recalled into the starting eleven.
The rest of the side remained unchanged from the one that recorded a deserved 2-0 triumph over Sunderland seven days earlier.
Hughes’ decision to hand Muniesa his maiden league start at Goodison Park was a bold move, especially given the fact that in-form Chelsea loanee Lukaku was spearheading the Toffees frontline.
That said, the Spanish starlet produced an incredibly composed start to life in the top-flight of English football, using his undoubted talents to help the visitors dominate the opening stages of the encounter.
Moroccan ace Assaidi, making only his second league start for the Potters, was proving to be a nuisance down the left flank, causing the Everton rearguard numerous problems with his pace and trickery.
It was another on loan winger who was at the heart of every Everton surge forward however, as Spanish star Deulofeu was showing just why he is so highly thought of at parent club Barcelona.
The former team-mate and under 21 compatriot of Muniesa was a menace to the City rearguard for the majority of the clash, though it was during the latter stages of the first half and early parts of the second that his talents were most noticeable.
The youngster had already gone close with a number of ambitious efforts by the time that he opened his account for the Toffees shortly before the interval.
Begovic twice had to be alert to thwart him with superb saves at his near post, whilst the Bosnian ace produced an even more impressive stop to deny Leon Osman, whose deflected effort looked destined for the back of the net.
Several decent deliveries into the box from Assaidi caused brief moments of panic for the hosts, whilst they could count themselves fortunate not to have fallen behind when Walters was given time to fire an effort goalwards from 10-yards.
In truth the hosts were enjoying the lion’s share of possession as the half drew to a climax, and they were rewarded just a minute before the break as Deulofeu latched onto a clever through ball and drilled the ball into the back of the net from a tight angle.
The second goal was always going to be a defining factor to the outcome of the game, and unfortunately for the visitors it was the hosts who netted that crucial strike just minutes after the interval.
Deulofeu again proved to be the instigator as his clever ball across goal was miss-controlled by Barry, and fell beautifully into the path of Coleman, who displayed incredible composure to guide the ball into the far corner of the net to double the Toffees advantage.
Two soon became three as Costa Rican Oviedo capped off his recall to the team with a thunderous effort that found its way into the back of the net via the post, with Begovic well beaten by his 30-yard thumping effort.
Hughes thrust Brek Shea and Kenwyne Jones into the equation in a bid to forge an avenue back into the game, and despite both players going agonisingly close to netting, there never really in truth looked to be what would have been a famous comeback.
Crouch skewed an effort into the arms of Tim Howard following a fluid move forward from Stoke, but it was at the other end of the pitch that a fourth goal of the afternoon was scored, and it came courtesy of Lukaku, who tapped home from close range.