March 18 (Reuters) - Romelu Lukaku began the week questioning whether Everton could match his ambition and ended it by taking his Premier League goal tally to 21 with two added time strikes in a 4-0 rout of Hull City on Saturday.
The Belgian is now clear at the top in the race for the Premier League’s Golden Boot, with two more goals than Tottenham Hotspur’s injured Harry Kane, after extending his hot streak to finish off relegation-haunted Hull at Goodison Park.
He is the first Everton player to score more 20 or more league goals in a season since Gary Lineker banged in 30 in the 1985-86 season. He is also only the fourth player to reach 80 Premier League goals before the age of 24.
After reportedly declining to sign a new contract which would have made him Everton’s highest-paid player ever, his days at the club appear numbered despite his goals having pushed them to the fringe of the battle for Champions League football.
Manager Ronald Koeman, whose side moved up to sixth place, level on 50 points with fifth-placed Arsenal, after a sixth successive home league win, said he had not given up hope on keeping Lukaku at the Merseyside club.
“The fans love Romelu Lukaku and everyone loves Rom. Yes, you may be able to hold him back for 85 minutes but then he was focused to the last second. We killed the game perfectly,” the Dutchman said.
“You need to have hope in life! Of course we like to keep our best players and we will do the maximum to keep these players but the final decision will be with the player himself.”
Lukaku said during the week that no matter how many goals he scored, it was winning trophies that really counted -- something Everton have not managed since the 1995 FA Cup.
Whatever the Belgium striker decides, the future looks healthy for Everton with several young gems emerging.
One of them, 20-year-old Dominic Calvert-Lewin opened the scoring after eight minutes on Saturday with his first Premier League goal -- turning in a cross from teenager Tom Davies.
Everton had to wait until the 78th minute for Enner Valencia to double their lead shortly after Hull had midfielder Tom Huddlestone sent off. Lukaku added some late gloss.
“It’s great of course, you like to be confident at home. We have had a great run at home. But the final result didn’t reflect what happened on the pitch,” Koeman said.
”Calvert-Lewin has been out for six to seven weeks with his ankle injury but I took the decision (to play him) because you need to give young players a chance. Whether they are 18 or 35, the best will start and he has been great.
“He scored his first goal but it’s a whole team performance that matters.” (Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)