In the freezing weather at the bet365 Stadium, Cenk Tosun once again proved he’s warmed to life in the Premier League as his double sealed an away win for Everton against 10-man Stoke.
Coming into the clash with two goals from as many games after finding the back of the net against Burnley and Brighton, the Turkey international took his tally to four for the Blues with a double to cap a hardworking and impressive display.
As Sam Allardyce’s side pushed for a winner after Charlie Adam had been sent off in the first half for a challenge on Wayne Rooney, Tosun broke the deadlock on 68 minutes when he followed up his saved header from Yannick Bolasie’s cross to fire home from close range.
Stoke thought they had nicked a point when substitute Maxim Choupo-Moting finished Joe Allen’s whipped free-kick with 13 minutes to go.
But that man Tosun had the final say on 84 minutes, getting down low to scoop Theo Walcott’s right-wing cross past Jack Butland with a pinpoint header.
Following the accomplished 2-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion a week earlier, the only change that Allardyce made was an enforced one. Gylfi Sigurdsson is set to miss the next month or two of action with a knee problem, so in stepped Idrissa Gana Gueye as the Icelander’s replacement. The midfielder had fully recovered from the illness which kept him out of the victory against the Seagulls.
There was a record attendance at the bet365 stadium, including 3,216 Everton supporters who had braved the snow, ice and wind to make the short trek across the M62 and down M6. In preparation for the bitter winter weather, the line markings on the pitch had been painted blue instead of the customary white.
And shortly after Adam unleashed the game’s first effort, which sailed comfortably over bar, a swirling blizzard hit the stadium to make playing conditions even tougher.
Tom Davies appeared to jar his leg in a tackle in the opening minutes but, luckily, he was able to continue. In fact, just moments after receiving medical treatment, the midfield spurned a glorious chance to open the scoring when he ghosted in unmarked and headed Wayne Rooney’s free-kick over the target from eight yards out.
Despite the adverse weather, it proved to be a lively start, with veteran Peter Crouch and Kurt Zouma also bringing low saves out of Jordan Pickford which the England keeper clutched both at the second attempt.
Twenty minutes, in Toffees saw a legitimate shout for a penalty waved away when a dangerous cross from Seamus Coleman struck the hand of Potters defender Kostas Stafylidis inside the box. Referee Martin Atkinson had none of it.
As the first half progressed, the conditions got worse, to a point where visibility became reduced and the pitch had received more than a dusting of snow.
Then, exactly on the half-hour mark, Stoke were reduced to 10 men when Adam was brandished with a red card for a late lunge on Rooney. Adam caught the Blues number 10, studs up, and off he trudged for an early shower; referee Atkinson having wasted no time reaching for his pocket to dismiss the Scot.
Everton bossed possession for the remainder of the half but were unable to create a clear-cut opening, leaving the contest still deadlocked at the break.
The same 21 players reappeared after the interval but Everton were soon forced into a change just minutes after play restarted when Davies again needed treatment, this time following a collision with Stoke goalkeeper Butland. The England youth international received a knock to the head and he was replaced by Dominic Calvert-Lewin in an attacking switch by boss Allardyce.
With their numerical advantage, Everton were the the team most likely as the second half unfolded. An inviting centre from Theo Walcott lacked a finishing touch, Yannick Bolasie wasn’t far away with an acrobatic volley and Rooney’s 25-yard free-kick was held by Butland.
Openings for the Potters were rare as the Blues. Pickford was needed though to get his body in the way of a Glen Johnson effort after initially reaching out to punch the ball away from the giant frame of Crouch.
Tosun was then inches away from connecting on a left-winged cross. Sliding in, any contact would have surely resulted in a goal.
The Turk remained unperturbed and deservedly made it three goals in three games when he fired Everton ahead on 68 minutes.
Bolasie crossed from the left and Tosun swooped to head the ball towards the target. Butland made a scrambled save and then, somehow, Stafylidis cleared Calvert-Lewin’s follow-up from off the line. Everton were not to be denied, however, and as the ball rebounded out again, Cenk thundered in a crisp left-footed finish.
Bolasie headed over the bar as Everton pushed for a second.
With 13 minutes remaining, Stoke equalised against the run of play when substitute Choupo-Moting stuck out a leg to divert Allen’s free-kick past Pickford.
There was no denying Tosun, however, as he sent Evertonians home happy, scooping to nod the busy and industrious Walcott's cross from the right past Butland and into the bottom right-hand corner.