Everton 2 - 3 West Ham United
Keen to catch the crucial clash at the top of the table in the North London derby, Ste and I arrived at the pub early. It was just as well that we did too as it was pretty busy then and filled up more and more. Luckily by that point we had a pretty reasonable spec and were able to catch the cracker of a derby, Arsenal levelling late on to secure a point. Gary and Sue joined us a little later on.
It's with regret that we watch these games at the top of the table. The way this season has panned out it's deeply frustrating to see the talent in our squad as we sit in the bottom half (of the table). We've really missed a big opportunity this campaign.
We were all surprised to see John Stones return in place of Gareth Barry who was apparently suffering from a chest infection. Everton going three at the back, thereby adding a lot of responsibility on to the midfield duo of James McCarthy and Ross Barkley. Anthony Taylor, who's made controversial decisions in games against West Ham previously, refereed. Everton attacked the Park End in the first half.
The way we were set up in the first half, I couldn't really see how we were going to get a goal in the game as having one less man in midfield looked as though we were going to struggle to create opportunities. It wasn't long after I'd explained this to those around us that we only went and scored when Romelu Lukaku exploited bad positioning by the young Reece Oxford, raced into the penalty area and thrashed the ball accurately past Adrian. Everton ahead. Perhaps not deserved at that point, but ahead.
We really kicked on from there and produced more opportunities in and around the goal with James McCarthy and Ross Barkley both testing Adrian with speculative efforts, Barkley's volley in particular was as impressive as it was audacious.
Of course things were going too well, and things became more difficult when Kevin Mirallas was sent off for two yellow cards. His first dive was stupid, but the foul which followed when already on a yellow card was idiotic. Though Aaron Cresswell made more of it than was necessary and the West Ham players did what they could to get Kevin Mirallas sent off, it was the right call and could arguable have been a straight red card as it was dangerous. Should he have been booked for a yellow? Well yes, I hate diving and he should have been punished, though it's the lack of consistency which maddens me. You see them sort of dives all the time in games and more often than not the referee waves it away and play goes on. It's difficult to overlook how much time was spent on the floor by Emenike also.
We got to the break a goal ahead. At half time Everton played a tear-jerker of a video on the screen of a teenage musician who recently lost his battle with cancer, passing away on 31st December 2015. They then played a song he'd written in a lovely gesture. They are great at this sort of thing Everton.
Onto the second half and John Stones was sacrificed with Mohammed Basic added to the midfield as we went to something of a 4-4-1 system. We performed splendidly in the second half and put in a real effort and things were looking rosy on 56 minutes when Romelu Lukaku and Aaron Lennon combined perfectly to put Everton 2-0 ahead to the palpable delight of the crowd.
Things were looking even better a little later when Anthony Taylor awarded Everton a penalty when Besic was tripped as he burst through towards goal. Replays show it be just outside the box but we were awarded the penalty anyhow. I didn't much like the little argument between Lukaku and Barklery prior to the penalty. These things should be decided before the game and I didn't much like Adrian's gamesmanship before Lukaku struck the penalty. Actually I don't like the detestable Adrian full stop, and I now like him even less after he saved the penalty. It can't however be ignored quite how poor Lukaku's penalty was. I thought he was smart changing his run up direction as I felt that might have fooled Adrian, but the stutter before the strike is always a gamble and in the end I think Lukaku was caught in two or three minds as to where to put it.
This cost us big time. Lukaku was furious with himself and, desperate to make amends, he manufactured an opportunity well to get through on goal but was again thwarted, this time by an admittedly excellent Adrian save.
West Ham United took heart from this and then realised quite how easy it was to score against us, with all three goals effectively coming from straightforward balls into the penalty area. Michael Antonio and Diafra Sakho both headed goals into our net in the space of just three minutes, and then in the last minute Dimitri Payet made the most of more catastrophic Everton defending to win it for West Ham United.
It was all just ridiculous. Game after game Ste and I trudge off on the way home lamenting wild substitutions from Roberto and he did it again this time by taking off Aaron Lennon and experimenting with our new signing Oumar Niasse up front...essentially reverting to some sort of 4-3-2 formation. It was no surprise that West Ham's equalising goal came from a cross from the position where Lennon had been occupied on the left whilst Oviedo and Barkley did little to prevent the ball coming into the box.
Equally as crazy was his later decision to bring on Gareth Barry at the expense of Romelu Lukaku. Surely Gerard Deulofeu or even Leon Osman would have been a better bet at this point...particularly as we were still trying to win the game. This nonsense is happening far too regularly now and has to be stopped one way or the other.
When I got back home I was listening to a bit of the 606 phone in on Radio Five Live and a really intelligent Evertonian caller was on the line complaining about Roberto's "ridiculous" substitutions. When asked who should come in to replace him she said something along the lines of "Well I don't know. That's not my job. Them people at Southampton who went out and found Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman. We need to get them. There's a lot of good, highly skilled managers out there in the world and we need people to come to Everton and find them."
I couldn't put it better myself.
Robles: I'm not so sure what he could have done with the goals but I do know that if Howard was playing people would have been screaming at him for not coming for any of them crosses. His distribution however was absolutely appalling. He's far from convincing me that he is the answer. 5
Oviedo: He should have done better with stopping the cross for their winner but otherwise he worked hard and did get one assist in the game. Playing him ahead of Baines is something I'll never understrand however. 6
Funes Mori: Caught a bit flat footed I think with Sakho's goal and wasn't really dominant enough at the back when we needed to stand firm and hold our lead. 5
Jagielka: Dealt with a lot throughout the game but, like his team mates, buckled late on. 6
Stones: Got caught out a few times but also made a couple of good tackles. Substituted at the break. 5
Coleman: Not his greatest game. 5
McCarthy: My man of the match. Took responsibility and covered acres of pitch. 8
Barkley: Also took on a lot of responsibility and was one of Everton's better players on the day. Could have done more to stop the cross for the equaliser but he wasn't the only one guilty of switching off when we needed to be alert. 8
Lennon: Has been a revelation since coming back into the team and scored another fine goal. Shouldn't have been substituted. 8
Mirallas: Not a great contribution obviously. 4
Lukaku: The penalty miss aside he was a constant menace and shouldn't really have finished on the losing side. He's probably thought that more than once this season. 7
Besic: Did well on his return and was good and committed. Will likely be needed against Chelsea next weekend. 7
Niasse: Didn't contribute. 5
Barry: Did his best to try and rescue the game. 6