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Venue: Goodison Park, Liverpool
Premier League
 Saturday 22 November 2014; 3:00pm
2 1
 West Ham
 Lukaku (26')
 Osman (73')
Half Time: 1 - 0
Zarate (56') 
Attendance: 39,182
Fixture 12
Referee: Mark Clattenburg

Match Report

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 2-1 win akin to graduation from the School of Hard Knocks and Perseverence. It wasn't the most physical or bruising encounter Goodison has seen – although were a couple of meaty challenges and a few bouts of "handbags" – but it at times recalled days gone by where two committed teams slugged it out for 90 minutes and either the tougher or the more artful prevailed.

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 it had been fed to Mauro Zarate, 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 who, on another day, might have already been off 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 to bundle it behind for a corner. 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.

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Summary

Kevin Mirallas returned after recovering from a torn hamstring he sustained against Liverpool back in September but no sign of any youngsters filling in for the injured Leighton Baines or Gareth Barry as Roberto Martinez sticks with his tried and trusted core of players, both Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy declared fit in a fitting postscript to Roy Keane's nonsense comments earlier this week.

Changes from the last Premier League game included recalls for Hibbert, Naismith and Osman, who was making his 400th senior appearance for the club. Aiden McGeady was out sick.

Everton kicked off and Everton began with plenty of sideways and backwards passing until Barkley played a scything pass for Mirallas to run onto but he was flagged offside. Barkley tried to put in a dangerous cross but slipped on the freshly soaked grass and West Ham made their first attack, a cross from deep that Howard picked out nonchalantly with Carroll powering himself intro the net.

In their next attack, Jenkinson fired in a wicked low cross through Hibbert playing left back that Jagielka did well to deflect away as Everton started to get pressed on the ball as they tried to walk their way forward, while the Hammers were getting more and more confident, denying Everton space.

The pressing play began as Everton tried to cross the half-way line, but Naismith finally found Lukaku with space to turn only for the striker to greedily chose a weak shot rather than a return ball for the well-placed Scot. Barkley went on a nice long run only to run the ball disappointingly out of play as he struggled to get the team moving forward better.

The pattern continued until Osman finally played a decisive ball for Coleman to run onto and the layback for Naismith was perfect only for Everton's leading scorer to balloon his shot high over the Park End goal, and absolutely dreadful execution on a perfectly played set-up ball. Nolan went mad when Barkley faked a poor stumble as he expected a foul that never was, and got called for it, although Mirallas totally overhit the free-kick.

Everton upped the tempo finally, Osman doing brilliantly to create space for himself, playing in Naismith at the byeline for a low cross but no-one there for the tap-in and the move ended with a dreadful shot from Hibbert that was miles off target. But the pressure was on and Lukaku finally converted when Barkley tried to crewate some magic but the inevitable block by Reid fell nicely for the big man and he lashed it past Adrian in the West Ham goal.

But, having got the go-ahead goal, the Blues were pushed back by some very adventurous Hammers play, with a number of dangerous crosses but when Everton did get the ball, they farted about at the back until it was given away, Amalfitano failing to get his shot on target. Amalfitano and Jenkinson were cutting in almost at will, giving Hibbert a torrid time on the left, but he was not being helped buy some dreadful giveways by his colleagues at the back.

Naismith did power forward but both Lukaku and Barkely were offside as Lukaku finished the move nicely. Naismith gave away a professional foul but Howard handled the free-kick very well. Then it all got rather silly, everyone pushing and shoving, handbags at ten paces as Amalfitano went down under a challenge from McCarthy. Reid was shown a yellow card for his reaction. But only a yellow for the offender, McCarthy, who had lunged in a little too competitively, and just caught the West Ham player's foot. It certainly spiced things up at a packed Goodison Park, but the over-reaction from the West Ham players was uncalled for; the challenge was not that malicious.

Things got a little scrappy as Clattenburg seemed to lose control a little, allowing Carroll to power forward after some physical play with Osman and McCarthy but his shot was thankfully woeful.

No changes at the break as Everton continued to struggle, trying to play their soporific passing game against some aggressive old-style Allardyce-inspired closing and pressing. Big Sam made a couple of changes after 5 mins and his team came close to scoring from their first corner, Barkley taking a hard shot in the chest.

It looked innocuous as Zarate skipped through and fired in a low shot that clipped up off Jagielka's foot and flew over Howard into the net. The Argentine substitute had scored within 2 minutes of coming on. West Ham were well boosted by the goal and the competitive nature of the fixture heated up even more.

Mirallas was looking very rusty and showed far too much of the ball to Collins on an otherwise very promising opportunity, that he followed up with a poor challenge on Amalfitano who seems expert at getting his teammates all riled up on his behalf, James Tompkins getting involved with Mirallas and getting a yellow.

McCarthy picked out Naismith well and the Scott played in Lukaku a little wide, and Rom could not pull his shot back on target. West Ham were very much up for it, and started to get their dangerous crosses in again as the game became more open. Eto'o replaced Mirallas at least 20 mins late; he had been very poor.

Barkley fouled Zarate wide left, and Amalfitano almost scored, his shot slightly deflected. Jarvis was next to run around the Blues defence, firing into the side-netting. Eto'o was trying to create some magic but his clever balls weren't coming off. West Hams's corners were causing massive havoc but from one, Everton finally broke at pace Lukaku fouled by Collins as he powered forward and picked out Eto'o who played an absolutely brilliant low cross on a plate for Leon Osman to slam into the back of the Gwladys Street net. A fantastic goal off a brilliant move, with Clattenburg playing a very sensible advantage that allowed the move to finish so superbly for Everton. Collins was booked for his blatant attempt to stop the play, but probably not a straight red with defenders between him and the goal.

Some fantastic stuff ensued, West Ham coming so close to equalizing in a tremendously competitive response, Collins advanced and placing his shot too close to Howard. Besic replaced Barkley, who had struggled to impose himself on the game, but West Ham kept coming at the home side with some classic old-style enthusiasm in what was a rip-roaring encounter for a packed Goodison Park under the floodlights.

But this wouldn't be a real game without yet another injury... Naismith getting stretchered off near thee end, as the play continued to flow from end to end and the Hammers gave the Blues defence a real challenge. Atsu came on for the last few minutes of this pulsating encounter, with Fat Sam scowling on the sideline as his spirited side were given 5 minutes of added time. They had pummeled Everton with a variety of crosses and to be fair to Howard, he had handled nearly all of them very well.

Osman, who had played very well for the full 90-odd minutes, did everything he could to return the earlier favour, with a tremendous give-and-go that laid the ball on for Eto'o to convert but it seemed to hit off his leg and screw wide of the post when it seemed easier to score a classic winner.

Everton resisted the onslaught, Howard with another excellent catch of a high cross in the dying seconds. This has to go down as a vital win for Everton, who were put under tremendous pressure by a very sparky West Ham side that provided some really tough opposition who could easily have gone away with a draw or even a win. At times, this was like a good Premier League game of old, and the amplified tempo forced Everton to come out of their shell a little and secure three very important points against an in-form side above them in the table.

Michael Kenrick


Match Preview

With the last international break of the year out of the way, Everton return to Premier League action once more this weekend as West Ham, one of the surprise packages of the first quarter of the season, come to Goodison Park.

The Blues did not come through the last fortnight unscathed, though. In addition to seeing Gareth Barry and James McCarthy pick up injuries in the draw at Sunderland, Darron Everton received Leighton Baines and Darron Gibson back early from their respective countries' training camps with minor complaints that threaten both players' involvement against the Hammers.

Baines suffered a grade one hamstring strain in training for England, while Gibson complained of pain behind his knee after playing an hour of the Republic of Ireland's narrow Euro2016 defeat against Scotland. McCarthy, meanwhile, didn't train at all with his country and although he has had a week longer to recover from a similar problem to Baines' injury, he is a doubt for Saturday, if only because it's a recurrence of the hamstring issue that sidelined him at the end of September and early October.

With Barry surely the least likely of the four to be available, it leaves Roberto Martinez facing the uncomfortable prospect of being without both of his defensive midfield anchors in what promises to be a difficult match-up with Sam Allardyce's much-improved side. Muhamed Besic would be an automatic replacement for one of them but with Gibson doubtful, the manager will be short-handed for natural defensively-minded midfielders.

Even Baines, whom Martinez earmarked as a potential central midfielder in the mould of Philip Lamm, could miss out, creating a void at left back. With Bryan Oviedo ruled out again, Luke Garbutt is the most likely candidate to deputise there, although, curiously, there has been talk in the past week of Tony Hibbert filling in as an emergency replacement.

In the forward areas, Steven Pienaar will undergo a late fitness test on a knee complaint while there is a chance that Kevin Mirallas could make his much-anticipated return from a hamstring tear of his own. He resumed full training last week but it remains to be seen if he would be risked from the start. Thankfully, Martinez has options in the attacking third, with Samuel Eto'o, Steven Naismith, Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley, Aiden McGeady and Christian Atsu all available.

Hammers boss Allardyce survived calls for his resignation last season as his team's form slumped but, on the back of renewed support from chairman David Gold and some astute business in the transfer market, he has overseen a renaissance in his side's fortunes. They start the day in fourth place, four points better off than the Toffees, thanks to home wins over the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City and a five-match unbeaten run since they lost at Old Trafford at the tail end of September.

They key to their success has been the rebirth as a creative force of Stewart Downing and the twin strike threat posed by Enner Valencia and top scorer, Diafra Sakho. Their robust presence up front will make stopping the cross an absolute must for the Blues this weekend. Crosses from deep areas were an Achilles heel for Everton early in the season so keeping Downing quiet and ensuring that Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin shackle the front two will be vital.

At the other end, Martinez will be hoping for a repeat from Romelu Lukaku of the performance he put in in the last home game. The Belgian was excellent against Lille but appeared to lapse into more erratic form at the Stadium of Light two weeks ago and his manager will no doubt be counting on him being fresh seeing as he was unused Belgium in their qualifier against Wales.

The question of whom to play with him is, of course, another dimension for Martinez to consider. Barkley is gaining match sharpness but Eto'o has been superb when played in the number 10 role and Naismith remains top scorer so there are no automatic choices.

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Match Preview
Match Summary
Match Report
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EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Barkley (Besic 80')
  Mirallas (Eto'o 65')
  Naismith (Atsu 89')
  Subs not used
  Alcaraz (injured)
  Baines (injured)
  Barry (injured)
  Gibson (injured)
  Kone (injured)
  Oviedo (injured)
  Pienaar (injured)
  Stones (injured)
  Hope (loan)
  Kennedy (loan)
  Lundstram (loan)
WEST HAM (4-4-2)
  Noble (Jarvis 52')
  Amalfitano (Vaz Te 82')
  Cole (Zarate 52')
  Subs not used

  • Possession
  • Shots on target
  • Shots off target
  • Corners

Premier League Scores
Arsenal 1-2 Man United
Chelsea 2-0 West Brom
Everton 2-1 West Ham
Leicester 0-0 Sunderland
Man City 2-1 Swansea
Newcastle 1-0 QPR
Stoke 1-2 Burnley
C Palace 3-1 Liverpool
Hull City 1-2 Tottenham
Aston Villa 1-1 Southampton

Team Pts
1 Chelsea 32
2 Southampton 26
3 Manchester City 24
4 Manchester United 19
5 Newcastle United 19
6 West Ham United 18
7 Swansea City 18
8 Arsenal 17
9 Everton 17
10 Tottenham Hotspur 17
11 Stoke City 15
12 Liverpool 14
13 West Bromwich Albion 13
14 Sunderland 13
15 Crystal Palace 12
16 Aston Villa 12
17 Hull City 11
18 Leicester City 10
19 Burnley 10
20 Queens Park Rangers 8

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