Everton boss Ronald Koeman is hoping striker Romelu Lukaku has played himself back into top form after seeing him plunder a hat-trick at Sunderland.
The Belgium international scored all his side’s goals inside 11 second-half minutes as the Toffees ran riot at the Stadium of Light following a frustrating opening 45 minutes to claim a 3-0 victory.
I think I could have had five really, I need to be more of a serial killer if I want to help the team achieve its objectiveRomelu Lukaku
They were his first Premier League goals in 12 games and could hardly have come at a better time as Koeman’s men extended their unbeaten start.
The manager said: “He’s a fantastic striker and of course sometimes it’s difficult. When you are a long time not scoring for your club, everybody is talking about that.
“You need to support the player, the players needs to be comfortable and confident in himself, and he showed tonight again that he is one of the best strikers you can have.
“I am pleased with the hat-trick because that gives the player, but also the rest of the team, a really big boost for this Saturday.
“I wasn’t a striker, so I don’t know that feeling if you don’t score for a long time, but it’s important because strikers are looking to score goals and if they don’t score, the team can be winning, but they are more satisfied if they win and score a goal.”
Lukaku opened his account with a 60th-minute header from Idrissa Gueye’s cross and then doubled his tally in similar fashion eight minutes later with the impressive Yannick Bolasie this time the provider.
Sunderland were undone once again within three minutes as Lukaku ran on to Kevin Mirallas’ defence-splitting pass to beat keeper Jordan Pickford for the third time.
Koeman, who had been less than happy with his side’s first-half display, was delighted with the response to his half-time instructions, and challenged them to aim for European qualification this season.
He said: “The target for this season is European football - that, in my opinion, is realistic. It’s also part of our ambition, where we’d like to be and what we’d like to fight for.
“The start in the Premier League is good - 10 points from four games - but we need to continue and we need to prepare for the next game on Saturday against Middlesbrough because maybe that will be more tough and more difficult than it was in the second half tonight.”
The three-goal hero echoed his manager’s words that the first-half performance was not good enough for the visitors.
Lukaku said: “I think we could have done better, especially in the first half.
“Up front we didn’t keep the ball and create enough. But the second half we performed way better and it was deserved win.”
Speaking about breaking his Premier League goal duck for the season, he added: “It was all about my fitness levels, they weren’t as good as I wanted them to be.
“But in the Premier League you have to be focused until the end and I got good service from Yannick (Bolasie) and Kevin (Mirallas) at the end and managed to finish the chances.
“I think I could have had five really, I need to be more of a serial killer if I want to help the team achieve its objective. We are in a good position in the league and we have to keep going.”
Leighton Baines hailed his Everton team-mate’s performance, saying: “I’m delighted for Rom and for us because we know he’s got goals in him and his goalscoring record is phenomenal.
“We all know the goals are going to come, he’s been a prolific goalscorer throughout his career and he’s shown it tonight.”