Everton 2 - 1 West Ham United
As three points go, these were among the more gratifying Everton will earn this season; you only needed to see Leon Osman's clenched-fist, vein-bulging reaction to his 73rd-minute winner for confirmation of that. A match that felt more like an ordeal than entertainment ended with a narrow
Thankfully, it was Everton who won out with a satisfying blend of both qualities but it was not without a debt to fortune or due to many of the finer aspects of the Roberto Martinez regime that Evertonians have come to appreciate. Deprived of two vital defensive components in the form of Gareth Barry and Leighton Baines, ruled out with ankle and hamstring injuries respectively and an understandably off-the-pace Kevin Mirallas returning to the forward line, this was not a good performance from the Blues by any stretch of the imagination.Sam Allardyce, meanwhile, was shorn of Stewart Downing, his most creative outlet, and his two bamboozling summer signings, Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho – arguably Everton's three biggest worries struck off at the outset.
It meant that, with Carlton Cole and Andy Carroll deputising up front, the Blues' back four, with Tony Hibbert as an awkward emergency left back, were facing a more orthodox, less potent English strike pairing. Neither striker unduly troubled Tim Howard – although much of was down to poor service and impressive shackling by Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin – even when the Londoners had resorted in the last 10 minutes to simply lumping the ball forward from defence at almost every opportunity, desperately hoping that the percentages would break their way. They didn't, and the home side stood strong under the barrage before carving out one more gilt-edged chance to put the icing on a fairly ugly cake that substitute Samuel Eto'o somehow contrived to miss in injury time.
The Cameroonian had to be content with the assist for the winner, though, and satisfaction from the experience and calming influence he was able to bring to his team after replacing Mirallas with 25 minutes to go. His intelligent use of the ball and assuredness with it at his feet was a welcome antidote to the profligacy in possession that had characterised Everton's performance for unsettlingly long periods of the contest.
It had started out in reasonable enough fashion; Martinez's side dominated the early part of the match and Mirallas almost sprung the offside trap in the first minute but there was a general lack of tempo and fluidity in Everton's play. The somewhat Moyesian decision to deploy the right-footed Hibbert at left back instead of Luke Garbutt, a natural in that position, meant that the left flank was almost completely cut off as a supply line to the forwards. Hibbert acquitted himself very well in his defensive duties – which was probably entirely the point – often sitting tucked in alongside Distin as an auxiliary centre half, and kept things simple by mostly handing the ball off to Osman in midfield but it meant that there was a reliance on playing things through the middle or down the right.
No surprise then that the first real chance was carved out by the otherwise subdued Seamus Coleman who made one of his customary runs to the byline and cut an inviting ball back for Naismith that the striker lashed a first-time shot high over the bar when he had the whole goal to aim at. The Scot found himself in a similar position to the fullback a few minutes later and chose to fire the ball across the face hoping for a lucky ricochet but while the ball did hit Adrian's ankle, it skidded out to momentary safety from West Ham's point of view to the far side. Hibbert would end the move by skying a wholly characteristic shot high into the stands from 30 yards out.
With 25 minutes gone, though, Everton made the breakthrough. Ross Barkley's initial shot at the end of a neat passing move was blocked but when Naismith won a header when the ball was played back in, it fell nicely to the 20 year-old on the edge of the box. Flicking it into his right foot with the inside of his left, he opened up enough space for another shot that was also charged down but this time it fell straight to Romelu Lukaku who brought it down off his chest and hammered it into the net to make it 1-0.
The quality of the Blues' performance and then that of the content itself started to go downhill very quickly after the goal, though. A dreadful giveaway by Distin gifted the ball to Morgan Amalfitano but he passed it up by firing wide before Carl Jenkinson stole through the gap between Hibbert and Osman but Carroll could only slice the resulting chance over the bar. Then, after Naismith had esdcaped censure for a foul from behind on Mark Noble, a heavy, borderline legal challenge by James McCarthy on Amalfitano had the Hammers players incensed, with players from both sides squaring up to each other and tempers flaring. The Everton man was booked, not for the challenge – he got the ball first and referee Mark Clattenburg did not blow for a foul – but apparently merely for being the instigator of the furore by making the tackle in the first place, an apparent act of appeasement to West Ham's players by the officials.
On either side of those incidents, Lukaku put the ball in the net but the effort was chalked off an obvious offside and Carroll ended the half with a wayward shot from distance that arced away harmlessly into the Gwladys Street stand.
Allardyce addressed his own side's lack of incisiveness with two changes at half time, throwing on Matt Jarvis and Mauro Zarate and with the introduction of some more direct running and inventiveness, coupled with Everton's growing inability to keep hold of the ball, an all-too familiar feeling of the inevitable began to set in.
It was consummated 10 minutes after the interval when Zarate capitalised on what was the latest cheap giveaway by the home side in the middle of the park. Faced with an opponent who put men behind the ball when they weren't in possession, the Blues spent a lot of time just playing the ball around the defence, only to then give it away once it got into midfield. Naismith was the guilty party this time and once Mauro Zarate had collected a one-two exchange with Jarvis, he bore down on the Blues' defence, fired goalwards and the ball took a wicked deflection off Jagielka's ankle and looped over Howard into the goal behind him.
1-1, it was now anybody's game and you were left to wonder if Everton would be able to recover from that body blow and find the guile to refind the lead. The answer would come from Eto'o, but not before McCarthy had tried his luck from 25 yards but couldn't curl his shot on target and Lukaku had smashed a shot past the goal from a narrow angle. There was also another flare-up that prompted some ridiculous play-acting by James Tomkins (an incident now immortalised in a photograph of Naismith pointing and laughing at him) and more card-waving by Clattenburg after Mirallas had scythed down Amalfitano in a fit of retribution for the referee's inaction.
Initially, it the visitors who looked like they might turn the game on its head after Eto'o's introduction when Amalfitano's shot deflected narrowly wide of Howard'd far post and Jarvis had raced away on the counter-attack before shooting into the side-netting under pressure from Jagielka. But with 17 minutes to go, it was a breakaway at the other end than produced the winner. Lukaku was taken out cynically by James Collins as he tried to skip past him on his way to goal but Clattenburg played the advantage and Eto'o advanced before picking out Osman's run at the far post with a fizzed centre that the midfielder slid home. The goal marked his 400th Everton appearance in the best way possible and the relief was tangible.
Still, West Ham could have ruined the party when Collins – on another day, might have already been of for denying Lukaku a gaolscoring opportunity – found himself with the ball at his feet in front of goal but Howard made a terrific point-blank save. It was mostly route-one stuff from Allardyce's yard dogs from then out but while Carroll was winning most of the aerial duels with Distin, it was blue-shirted players who were mopping up the second ball.
A late injury to Naismith saw Christian Atsu come on for the last seven minutes of play and there was almost a brilliantly-worked third goal to celebrate but, having threaded a beautifully-weighted pass through the defence to Osman and collected the return ball at the near post, Eto'o inexplicably went with his left foot instead of his right and shot a couple of yards wide from close range.
The three points gloss over what was a patchy performance, albeit one perhaps dictated by the nature of the opposition and the importance of Martinez's injured players. Certainly, the loss of Barry's water-carrying ability from defence through the midfield was glaringly conspicious by its absence and Hibbert's lack of offensive threat was painfully evident
For many reasons, though, this was a vital win for Everton: West Ham were above us in the table and in very good form, we're now just two points off the top four despite a patchy first quarter of the Premier League campaign, and this match itself was one that could easily have either got away from us or at least represented another frustrating home point. That the Blues came through a physical test despite two key absentees, found a way to retake the lead and then withstand a late Allardyce bombardment is enormously satisfying.
The Blues are on the heels of the top four and, yet, are still searching for their rhythm when it comes to their Premier League campaign. If they can settle into a groove and start turning recent draws into a run of wins, then they could really mount a serious challenge for Champions League qualification once their short-term destiny in the Europa League is decided.
Reader Comments (13)
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1 Posted 23/11/2014 at 08:21:53
Incidentally, a lot was made by the media of West Ham's injured missing players but no mention of ours! We were without Stones, Barry, Baines, Gibson, Oviedo, McGeady, Pienaar and Brady the invisible man (Kone). Now Naismith is yet another casualty. The curse of the hamstring seems rife amongst modern players throughout the Premier League this season.
I don't remember this injury so much in the past. I wonder if it is caused by the flimsy footwear they use. I had a double fracture during my playing days but never a hamstring injury.
Good report though and Osman had a fine, influential part in the win.
2 Posted 23/11/2014 at 10:48:28
I continue to worry about our 㿈M investment, who strayed offside for our first goal and again later, both he and Ross ran offside, when we advanced in a 3-on-2 situation. Possibly just lacking patience on his part and on my part, but I expect better. In fairness, he did well for 2nd goal.
Have to give a mention to Eto'o, class and Ossie, my MotM.
3 Posted 23/11/2014 at 12:38:02
Before I get jumped on for being an ingrate, don't get me wrong, I am pleased with the three points, but am concerned that we still do not have that 'killer instinct' despite the superior possession, and at times some brilliant interchanges, which should be catapulting us up the League Table.
I know it takes 'Two to Tango' and a decent referee helps too, but we have blown so many points already this season. We seem to have this mentality at times that, we are one goal to the good, take the foot off the gas for a while, and then seem to invite counter-attack, and before you know it we are level or playing catch up.
4 Posted 23/11/2014 at 12:44:58
I agree with you that theyÃ‚re the points that give as much satisfaction than a stylish win (eg, Lille or Wolfsburg Ã‚â€“sadly weÃ‚ve only seen it in Europe this season) but what would you prefer Ã‚â€” the eye-catching display vs Arsenal for a point, or what we witnessed yesterday?
ItÃ‚s good that when the free-flowing football isnÃ‚t working, we can do the Moyesesque sleeves-rolled-up, get-stuck-in football.
In addition, the second goal shows that we can break quickly and kill a team with 3 passes as opposed to a 103.
5 Posted 23/11/2014 at 16:51:29
I see it as a great win for where we are and the players that are missing. I'm also really pleased for Leon Osman and hope that people will at last see what a good player and great club servant that he is.
6 Posted 23/11/2014 at 17:56:54
You're right there, Derek. I remember thinking after Zarate's goal that sometimes just being direct can produce goals rather than trying to score the perfect goal as it sometimes feels like we do.
The thing about yesterday was that we generally struggled with our usual possession-based game. In the end, we didn't need to rely on it but it was a hard game to watch.
The important thing for me was that we didn't fold and concede another like we did against Palace and that we found a way to score the winner, much like in the same game last season when Rom came off the bench to score.
7 Posted 23/11/2014 at 20:50:48
Well, I like RM, love his decency and community approach and think we've a winner if he's better supported financially. But boy he does some strange stuff and yesterday was no exception.
Hibbo at left back? Really? Because WHU were going to be "physical"? Nope, it was wrong, wrong, wrong.
Hibbo is a cracking lad and I actually thought he had a fair game against that narky Hammers bunch. But from the get-go it was unbalanced and fragile, he couldn't really run at them and once or twice his natural desire to shift onto his right peg cost us possession and allowed crosses into the box that were always going to be hard to defend. Garbutt has to have been worth the risk... surely?
Overall, I thought we were flaky. A good sequence of passes with relatively little ground gained, followed by some dire stuff giving the ball away in front of our box. McCarthy was superb, Osman even better. But actually we created little and I thought our spirits got us through.
We lose the ball too much. Ross had a poor game but again, he's being played out of position and it shows, a lot. He's a centre-mid Ã‚â€” not a winger. He's effective in that strange thing called the "hole" but lost wide left. However he needs to grow up and fast... he's starting to look a bit like a petulant superstar and all this diving drives me mad...he's so much better than that, so much better.
But the weekend's results have made the win look even better and you know what, it feels like we keep trying to "catch" that spark and set the fire well and truly alight. There's still a fair bit missing like Lukaku really finding form, like Baines back next week at Spurs, and our best 11 all starting together in their best positions Ã‚â€“ maybe that's not that far off bar Stones returning in January?
8 Posted 23/11/2014 at 22:28:10
The first paragraph was devastatingly on point with every point observation. Thanks for a great read.
9 Posted 24/11/2014 at 09:09:17
We are going to need all this in abundance on Thursday.
10 Posted 24/11/2014 at 09:28:24
Right then, as we expected, this was a hard one, physical and we had some jammy luck with that first goal. Man of the match was once again McCarthy but Ossie was close behind, proving once again what he still has to offer us. Naismith looked tired, I'm told, probably from his international exertions, and Hibbert tried his best but looked under the cosh.
In my opinion, it was a mistake to leave Eto'o out of the starting line. His wonderful pass to Ossie has to be one of the highlights of our year so far. All who played got reasonable marks in the Sundays but, as has been said, this was Ossie's game and now let's buy the bewk!!
11 Posted 24/11/2014 at 10:44:30
I have to disagree, Mike. It's the new ruling introduced a few years back. When Barkley takes the shot, Lukaku was 2 yards offside. In the old days, the ball hitting the defender would have 'played onside' the person in the offside position, but not now. If you look at the wiki here on offside, you will agree that he was 'guilty' of gaining an advantage by being in an offside position.
12 Posted 24/11/2014 at 12:02:58
I find it unbelievable that Hibbert and Bobby are getting stick... after a win. Yes, it wasn't pretty going down the left but the gamble worked and we managed three points.
Can't see how the outcome could have been better had Garbutt been playing? Especially as Eto'o should have made it 3-1 near the end.
Good hard game, enjoyed watching it and I particularly enjoyed our players eventually getting wound up and getting stuck in like we know they can.
It's a man's game after all... so I am told.
13 Posted 24/11/2014 at 19:24:02
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