Everton climb into the top four after Ross Barkley's winner at Swansea

Roberto Martínez admitted that he is running out of superlatives with which to describe Ross Barkley. The Everton manager stood with one arm aloft and a wide grin on his face after the 20-year-old capped another hugely impressive performance with an exquisite free-kick, six minutes from time, to seal victory and lift the Merseyside club into the top four.

On a cold afternoon in South Wales it was a moment to warm the hearts of England fans as well as Everton supporters. Outstanding against Arsenal a fortnight earlier, Barkley enhanced his burgeoning reputation with another fine display that showcased his prodigious talent. Composed in possession, powerful running with the ball and comfortable shooting with either foot, he was a joy to watch, in the second half in particular.

The only blemish was when he struggled to get the ball out from under his feet in the 55th minute, after being put clean through by Steven Pienaar, but that will not have been the moment that Everton fans headed back to Merseyside talking about. After taking the lead through a superb shot from Seamus Coleman, Everton looked like they would have to settle for a point when Bryan Oviedo deflected Dwight Tiendalli's shot into his own net four minutes later, but Barkley had other ideas.

Having cracked a left-foot shot against the crossbar prior to Coleman's breakthrough Barkley, sporting a new military haircut, stepped forward using his right foot and swept a curling free-kick that seemed to beat Gerhard Tremmel for pace as much as anything as the ball crashed in off the underside of the bar.

"The winning goal is technically as good as it gets," Martínez, the Everton manager, said. "Ross Barkley, whatever you want to say about him, you will always end up with an understatement. He's an incredible listener, he is a young man with incredible potential, every game he comes up with something different, every game he shows you that he can develop. I'm extremely proud to see him grow and enjoy his football."

Martínez smiled when it was put to him that Barkley had revealed on television that he does not practise free-kicks. "He doesn't. You could see that Rom [Romelu Lukaku] and Ross were fighting, because Rom really practises. I think Ross is the sort of player that gets fed by feeling and he felt he had to take the free-kick. It's a real natural talent that he has – right, left, great balance. We didn't know he could take free-kicks – but it's good to know from now on."

Martínez was thrilled with a result that lifts Everton to within two points of Liverpool, the Premier League leaders, and stretches their unbeaten run to 10 matches. With two home games to come, against Sunderland on Boxing Day and Southampton three days later, optimism abounds. "We're gonna win the league," chanted the travelling supporters at the final whistle.

Michael Laudrup, in contrast, was unable to conceal his disappointment. The Swansea manager felt that his side were worthy of a point and believed that Everton had settled for one when Martínez withdrew Kevin Mirallas and Pienaar 12 minutes from time. There was admiration, though, for the goal that Barkley produced to win the game. "He's definitely a big talent and he already has a lot of things even if he is so young," Laudrup said.

It is difficult to see the festive period providing much cheer for Swansea. They travel to Chelsea on Boxing Day and face Manchester City and Manchester United in two of their next three league matches. To compound matters, Laudrup is facing the prospect of being without Michu for some time. Last season's leading scorer was absent here with an ankle injury and Laudrup expects to learn within the next 24 hours whether the Spaniard has a chance of playing at Chelsea or if he requires surgery.

Swansea badly missed Michu's presence on a day when Everton always looked more threatening. The game came to life in the second period, when Barkley's influence started to grow, although he will not want to review footage of the breakaway that should have led to him opening the scoring. Oviedo linked with Pienaar and the goal opened up only for Barkley to end up on his backside with the ball rolling harmlessly into the hands of Tremmel.

Barkley, though, showed his class moments later. After skipping away from Jonathan de Guzmán with a lovely piece of skill, Barkley drove at the heart of the Swansea defence, shifted the ball on to his left foot and drilled a shot from the edge of the area that Tremmel pushed on to the bar and over. It was a fine save by the Swansea goalkeeper but he was beaten in spectacular style two minutes later when Coleman, who was keen to get forward from right-back at every opportunity, thumped a swerving 30-yard shot inside the near post.

At that point Everton were in control but through a combination of poor defending and bad luck, the visitors conceded an equaliser in the 70th minute. Ben Davies's deep cross from the left seemed fairly harmless but Pienaar allowed Tiendalli to get in front of him and the full-back's volley, which was heading wide, took a deflection off Oviedo and beat Howard. That was the cue for Barkley to take centre stage once again.

Man of the match Ross Barkley (Everton)

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