Martinez backs misfiring Lukaku to shine

Everton manager Roberto Martinez is unperturbed about star striker Romelu Lukaku's form, after watching his No.10 struggle in front of goal in their Barclays Asia Trophy opener against Stoke City.

Time seemed to stand still when Lukaku waltzed through the whole Stoke backline just a minute before full time, with the headlines about to be written.

However with just goalkeeper Jakob Haugaard to beat, the Belgian forward somehow dragged his shot wide of the left-hand post.

Everton eventually sealed their passage into the final via a 5-4 win on penalties, with Lukaku slotting home the Toffees’ first penalty. 

Speaking at the post-match press conference, Martinez admitted Lukaku was still a level or two below his best but has faith that he will peak at the right time.

“Wrong, I thought he was very active,” the Spaniard rebutted in regards to a reporter’s suggestion that the 22-year-old played a poor game. 

“For a player of his frame and physicality, he needs to play 90 minutes. Last year on the back of a World Cup, we obviously found it very difficult to get him fully fit for the start of the season.

“I felt today he knew how to play in the last 10 to 15 minutes and he will get the real benefit of playing that amount of minutes.”

“I believe his sharpness is going to come although his usual clinical finishing wasn’t there today. He got into great positions and always provided a focal point for our attack.

“He worked extremely hard, and in terms of pre-season, he is well ahead of where he was for the last campaign already.”

On a side note, Martinez was also pleased to see his side coming through unscathed after a tough run-out against a physical Stoke side as they look forward to Saturday’s final against Arsenal.

“The fact that nobody got injured was probably the most satisfying aspect of this game,” the 42-year-old said.

“This was a really competitive game where both sides gave each other the opportunities to push many aspects of pre-season.

“To win on the penalty shootout is a great feeling and the difference was just Tim Howard being able to save that penalty.

“All in all, it’s been a terrific exercise and we look forward to getting another good opportunity on Saturday and hopefully we can enjoy (lifting) the trophy.”

Photo: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo