Everton 1 - 0 West Ham United

Everton notched their first Premier League win in a month and their first clean sheet since 11th January thanks to Romelu Lukaku's 10th goal of the season. The Belgian striker marked his return from a month out with an ankle injury with the winning goal nine 10 minutes from time to help the Blues to the double over West Ham United this season.

Lukaku had made a similarly decisive mark on the return fixture at Upton Park in September, heading home a late goal to win a thrilling contest, and he was on hand this time around to provide the killer finish that Everton have been lacking in recent weeks.

The three points were richly deserved on the balance of play – Roberto Martinez's side had almost 70% of the possession and almost four times as many efforts on goal than the Hammers over the 90 minutes – but struggled to carve out enough clear-cut opportunities, particularly in the first half.

Roared on by an increasing fervour from the stands as the contest heated up after half-time, the Blues were eventually able to break West Ham down and make their superiority count but it looked for long periods as though it was going to be another afternoon of frustration.

Lukaku's hotly-anticipated return dominated the pre-match build-up but the striker's mild chest infection tipped Martinez towards starting him on the substitutes' bench – prudent given his four-week layoff and the looming cup quarter-final at Arsenal next weekend. That meant Steven Naismith being rewarded again for his recent efforts but this time – again with the FA Cup in mind, perhaps – it was Gerard Deulofeu and not Kevin Mirallas patrolling behind and to the right of him. The Belgian midfielder was named among the substitutes alongside Ross Barkley and Aiden McGeady and didn't end up figuring, thereby ensuring he will be fresh for The Emirates next Saturday.

No doubt aware of the importance of three points given how they have fallen away from the Champions League chase in recent games, Everton began with vigour, purpose and an impressive tenacity to fight for every loose ball. Sam Allardyce was forced to mash away ferociously on his chewing gum as his players barely got a touch of the ball in the opening few minutes and escaped when Leon Osman's flick-on from Leighton Baines' cross flashed too quickly past Naismith and the Scot was unable to make a full connection on the ball in front of goal.

Barry dragged a 20-yard shot wide after being invited to shoot by the retreating Hammers defence and Steven Pienaar, all neat touches and flicks with his partner, Baines, down the left, choked an effort that dribbled wide from a similar distance.

In between, the Hammers had demonstrated the threat they could pose on the break when they raced away from a cleared corner at their end but they were denied by, of all players, Deulofeu who sped back and made a last-ditch tackle to avert the danger.

It was Everton who remained dominant, though and Naismith forced a save from Adrian with a driven shot from the angle and Deulofeu fired two shots wide of the 'keeper's right-hand post: the first lacking in conviction as he was closed down by the defender; the second the finish to a mesmerising run along the edge of the box that took him past three white shirts but he was unable to bend his shot inside the upright.

At the other end, Tim Howard had really only been called into serious action once when he got down to block at the feet of Kevin Nolan and the contest was poised for a more concerted Everton effort after half time.

They came within inches of catching West Ham cold a minute after the restart. A trademark Baines run on the overlap saw him cut the ball back to Pienaar in space in the penalty area but he could only plant his first-time shot on the face of the post. Five minutes later, the South African was presented with a virtual carbon-copy opportunity but this time his shot careened high over the crossbar.

Presumably as part of their gameplan, the visitors attempted to raise their game and pinch the goal that would have been the catalyst for serious consternation among the Goodison faithful. Andy Carroll, a surprise 28th-minute sub for Carlton Cole, hammered a shot straight at Howard following a rare error by John Stones, but the American was able to push his effort over the bar. Then, Kevin Nolan curled an effort just wide via a slight nick off Gareth Barry.

For all their dominance, though, Everton were strugging with an all-too familiar lack of numbers and genuine threat in the final third. With Barry and James McCarthy operating in lock-step in central midfield and neither player willing to push on into the area, too much of the play was going back and forth in front West Ham's defence.

It wasn't until Lukaku was introduced at Osman's expense with an hour gone that things started to open up a little more, with the striker willing to take defenders on and pull them out of position to create a few more seams for the likes of Pienaar, Baines and Deulofeu to exploit. Still they were being contained fairly well by Allardyce's defence, although Sylvain Distin probably should have done better when he met a Baines free kick in front of goal and could only hook the ball well wide when he might have just thrown himself at it with his head.

A couple more non-threatening long-range efforts from West Ham signalled that the game was there to be won by Everton if they could just make the breakthrough and, sure enough, they did in the 81st minute. Unsurprisingly it was Baines who provided the crucial assist from a patient move down the Blues' left and it was his low centre that found Lukaku hovering with intent near the penalty spot. A first-time, side-foot shot past Adrian later and it was 1-0. Welcome back, Romelu!

The Blues smelled blood and pushed on for a second, Lukaku smashing a half-volley narrowly over from a tight angle and Barkley, a late change for Naismith, also went close with a left-footer from 20 yards but the single goal proved enough as Everton ran the clock down with their passing game.

The win moves Everton back into sixth place above Manchester United, still some nine points off fourth place, and establishes some momentum ahead of the Arsenal tie. Though hopes of the top four remain a little wild at this point, anything can happen over the last 11 games and Martinez knows his team just need to keeping putting wins on the board and see how things shake out.

Edging their way past a West Ham team who came to Goodison on the back of a four-game winning streak was important and it sets things up nicely for the visit of Cardiff City in the next League game in two weeks' time.

Keeping Lukaku fit and hungry will be key, as will more playing time for Deulofeu who had a hit-and-miss afternoon but showed plenty of the lovely touches and inventiveness that made him so effective before he was injured in December. With room still for Barkley to recapture his form and Mirallas gradually maturing into a more consistent player, there is every reason to believe Martinez when he says that the final quarter of the campaign could be his team's best period of the season.

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Christopher Timmins
313 Posted 02/03/2014 at 09:53:59
Lyndon

Next Saturday morning at 12.45 is crunch time. Yes, we have 5th place to play for but we are a club who has a history of winning things. If we are still in the FA Cup this day week we will go on to win it!

Gavin Ramejkis
326 Posted 02/03/2014 at 10:39:10
Chris watching Arsenal yesterday there's no reason to show them any fear, they are there for the taking.
Paul Thompson
329 Posted 02/03/2014 at 10:45:07
Good, balanced report Lyndon. The first half was poor - just not enough threat despite willing running from Naismith. As you indicated, Lukaku made a massive difference with his pace and aggression. A refreshed, injury free Lukaku could make a significant improvement to our prospects for the to the rest of the season. The other most positive thing for me has been the improved energy and form from Baines, which has been important as Coleman has been more subdued in the last few games.

West Ham parked the bus and hoped for goals from set plays, particularly from the ever-dangerous Nolan. It almost worked a few times, but the defence (and defensive midfield players) generally did a good job. Stones made a few mistakes (as he tends to), but he's learning and it's a sign of the confidence the manager has in him to start ahead of other alternatives.

Brian Harrison
330 Posted 02/03/2014 at 10:47:00
The problem is there for all to see, yes we dominate possession but the lack of goals is becoming a recurring thread. We had plenty of possession against Spurs and Chelsea but it didn't result in a goal, and despite having the lions share of possession yesterday again only 1 goal to show for it.

So is it the players or the style of play that is to blame, despite camping out for large parts of the game we created very few chances and 2 fell to Pienaar and 1 to Naismith and apart from the goal I think that was it. We seem to be great up to the penalty area then seem to run out of ideas, our main threat is Baines and Pienaar combing on the left for Baines to try and slide in a pass for someone to score which he did brilliantly for the goal. But we seem to lack players who want to get in the box and score they all seem to want to play outside the box for some reason.

Raymond Fox
336 Posted 02/03/2014 at 11:11:52
I agree, it was very poor 1st half, we hardly got within shooting range.

I think you have to give credit though to opposing managers in games. Put yourselves in their shoes, nowadays they can watch tapes of our past performances all day long if they want to.

If they get everyone behind the ball + specifically target your playmakers, you're going to struggle!

Iain Johnston
340 Posted 02/03/2014 at 11:23:00
We are too slow and too indirect. Clubs playing 4231 are beginning to struggle now especially when the three behind the striker are not goal scorers..

The only club ahead of us that has kept this formation is Arsenal who are now beginning to struggle with it too...

there is too much emphasise on possession and over passing and not enough on direct attacking.

I would like to see them play 4312.

Darren Hind
374 Posted 02/03/2014 at 13:43:35
The old lady was like a morgue again yesterday. Another soul destroyingly predictable performance. I cant even remember their goalie making a difficult save.

My theory, is that Martinez was badly stung by suggestions that he was a cavalry charge merchant whose teams couldn't defend after his Wigan side were relegated and he is now resolutely determined to prove otherwise. But at what cost? Nobody leaves their post, we don't get players into advanced positions – not in numbers anyway... we are losing sight of the objective of the game. It's about trying to score goals, entertaining the crowd.

Martinez needs to rediscover the adventurous spirit which landed him the job in the first place. This negative possession may please the statos, but it's no substitute for entertainment.

Patrick Murphy
377 Posted 02/03/2014 at 14:55:29
Funny but the team leading the league at the moment are Chelsea, hardly an entertaining side are they? We have only adopted this style this season and with 11 games to go are still in with a chance of qualifying for Europe and still in with a chance of landing the FA Cup. Our squad is miles behind the teams we are trying to challenge and yet we are giving it a good go.

Previously we just wanted to win now we want to win in style, however, that was hardly the case in the recent past when winning was all that mattered. I want Everton to win with style but first and foremost win, as it by winning matches that confidence is built and then the players can express themselves fully. Ever thought that the reason that the team is a little apprehensive is due to the over-reaction by some fans to the derby debacle and they have gone into their shell a little like they were in the early part of the season?

Patience was needed at the beginning of the season and it is even more important now; fans have to find a way of supporting the team in every game rather than sitting tight-lipped waiting for something to happen out on the pitch. It's really easy to support the team when they are winning 2 and 3 goals without reply, even easier to do so when they are scoring 4 and 5, but the real supporters get behind the team when the game is tight and the players need a lift. We used to have that sort of fan in abundance at Goodison, we seem to have a few less this season.

Ray Said
378 Posted 02/03/2014 at 15:00:36
4-2-3-1 only works if the one of the 3 who is central behind the striker get beyond the striker at times and at least one of the 3 gives width. We have 3 who receive the ball, spin and play it backwards or back to central midfield when they get it. Mirallas at least tries to get beyond the striker when he is played central but too often he is stuck out wide. Pienaar almost always goes out left but then plays the ball back into central mid – he very, very rarely tried to beat his man and cross.
Dave Williams
415 Posted 02/03/2014 at 19:59:55
Bravo Patrick Murphy- best post I have read all week!!!!!!!
Harold Matthews
451 Posted 02/03/2014 at 21:50:07
Personally, I'm not too worried about things. We have a new manager who, with eleven individuals of his choice, would play the game in a certain successful manner. Unfortunately, he does not have eleven individuals of his choice.

Of the fine squad he inherited, some will suit him, some will not. They each play the game in their own particular way and he has been forced to utilise their talents as best he can. Some areas are strong, some need improvement. Gradually, with much coaching and one or two more windows, he will strengthen weak areas and eventually field a side which will challenge for honours.

That has always been my belief and, despite the lack of funds, I'm sticking with it.

Darren Hind
478 Posted 03/03/2014 at 07:19:50
Patrick

Chelsea may not play entertaining football but, despite their manager clearly not fancying some of the expensive strikers he has inherited, they have still scored considerably more goals than we have. That's because they would rather win games than boast about their possession stats; they create more chances than we do and when they do attack they get forward in far greater numbers than we do.

The atmosphere at a football stadium is a two-way responsibility, The Goodison faithful will always make the first move by turning up but, if the players want a noisey crowd, they have to give them something to shout about. For a large part of the season, Everton have simply failed to do that and that is the reason why The Old Lady has been about as intimidating as a trip to the library.

In my time, I have seen Goodison react angrily to many things – Catterick selling Bally, Bingham and Lee getting rained upon by cushions for serving up uninspiring shite, The leaflets telling Kendall 30,000 stay-away fans can't be all wrong... THAT night when Moyes sent defenders on against Spurs. Evertonians simply don't do happy clapping and when it's wrong they will say so.

Goodison can be the most intimidating ground in the country, It doesn't take much to rouse it's inhabitants, a driving run into the box, a well crafted attack which leads to a great chance, Hell even a big tackle... but the sight of Jagielka, Distin and Howard racking up stats by nervously sending bobbling passes to each other will not do it, nor will the knowledge that two of our midfield players are unlikely to venture into the opponents final third for most of the match.

It costs an arm and a leg to follow a Premier League team these days... Expecting a little risk and excitement in return does not make any of Saturday's crowd bad supporters. Nor does making the players aware that their performance against our closest rivals was totally unacceptable. The team and the manager are not the victims here.

Phil Walling
479 Posted 03/03/2014 at 08:51:14
Darren, I couldn't have put it better. A trip to Goodison these days has all the excitement generated at an evening of chamber music at the Phil! It may be aesthetically pleasing but somehow lacks the sheer stimulation and excitement of a Springsteen concert.

But, as we've been saying for the past 30 years.... "There's always next season.....''

James Lauwervine
487 Posted 03/03/2014 at 09:28:24
Unfortunately I don't get to Goodison as regularly as I'd like but when I do I'm always amazed at the negativity and level of criticism from the terraces. Every misplaced pass or miscontrolled ball is greeted with howls of derision, particularly if it's one of a certain group of players.

People seem to forget how incredibly hard it is being a Premier League footballer. The OTT salaries they get justify continuous insult it seems. They don't deserve our pity and they are not "victims" but if we want our team to be successful then they need our encouragement, support and tolerance.

This is our club, they are our players and we are their supporters and fans. Working together for a mutual 'goal' is the only way we will succeed. Negative criticism will only ever achieve a negative outcome.

Thomas Lennon
492 Posted 03/03/2014 at 10:06:18
Good point James L. I think we were set this as a 'transition season' as the squad learned to keep the ball. We mastered some of this very quickly and that was enough to take the majority of the points off teams not in the top 6, but there is still much to do. I don't think we are taking pleasure from possession stats other than to see how well are consistently achieving point 1, even against the top 6 sides.

Trusting the achievements of point 1 and getting men forward was going well but as injuries took hold (not unlucky – inevitable) that has dropped off. Then the derby showed is a great hole in our defences that the Chelsea match may have hinted have been improved, and that is going to be important next week.

Now, teams that sit back and just defend is always going to be a problem with our current squad. We have three players back who will improve that but if we want to improve on suffering the last 2 months over again we need more creative goalscorers. I don't get why we can't reach the byeline/corner and cross for headers when nothing else is working but I understand that one problem with that approach is that there is a high chance we will lose possession, knacker our players chasing back, catch players out of position and concede goals (a regular event last season).

Perhaps, when we have the players to cope, that will change... but perhaps not. Working out how to do it is probably as important as getting exceptional players who can shoot from 20-30 yards. Some (most?) of our competitors (despite their enormously expensive squads) resort to getting fouls within shooting distance by fair means or foul – we need to get better at that!

Phil Walling
493 Posted 03/03/2014 at 10:14:43
Aghh, the poor dears! We should pity them their lot. What seems to have been forgotten is that the only objective of the game is to put the ball in the bloody net. Most of the rest of it is bullshit propagated by managers and their armies of jobsworths!
Aman Kanji
497 Posted 03/03/2014 at 11:18:31
I second that... Well done "Patrick Murphy".

If we don't win, people scream that we need to win... and when we do grab a result other critics come out and give us 4-3-1-2 formations and compare us to other clubs. Go back to coaching the under fives and leave the game to the professionals, ie, the manager and backroom staff.

WE WON. Get on with it.. You can't have it all every week.. WIN WITH STYLE or nothing!

ps: Ref / Linesmen were useless and ruined the game.

Come on you blues... Beat the Goooners!!!

Bob Skelton
499 Posted 03/03/2014 at 11:30:27
Having been part of the crowd that Bobby M is educating with our new brand of possession football I have a few observations
  • I enjoy watching us pass it about, it's pleasing on the eye and we are have achieved some good results playing that way;
  • We struggle without having someone like Lukaku who can dominate the box;
  • I could easily stop the way we play by pushing up on our two centre halves and the central midfielder, normally Barry, to stop Howard rolling the ball out. When he kicks it out it is easy for the opposition to win the header and reduce our threat. Even Allardyce spotted that.

So, although I am pleased with the aesthetic appeal of our tiki-taki approach, it doesn't lend itself to raising the passions of the crowd and in my opinion can be easily countered. Still I enjoyed the sleep in the sun in Gwladys in the first half.........

COYB

Mike Allison
500 Posted 03/03/2014 at 11:48:49
I'm all for keeping the ball, but I'd prefer to lose it into the back of the opposition's net a bit more often.

We hear references to Martinez saying he doesn't want to rely on set pieces as they risk losing possession, but this seems to be a statement of wanting to play 'no risk' football, something no fans want.

You have to take risks, and you have to risk losing possession in order to create things on a regular basis, otherwise football would be really easy.

We've become a team that is fairly one dimensional and easy to prepare for, Martinez needs to evolve his style so that our team can react to different situations. For example, if the opposition push up on our centre backs and Barry, they must have left space in behind them, so we have to go more direct (even though it means playing a higher risk pass - that's where the skill and technique of the players comes in). In general we should try to score more 'transition' goals (ie in two or three passes from winning possession) so that the opposition have to think more about how to play against us.

We're quite good at winning the ball back, and most teams give it away fairly cheaply still in the Premiership, so I don't see why we are so negative and risk-averse.

Phil Walling
501 Posted 03/03/2014 at 11:57:44
Just remember, this is the manager who 'passed' his team to relegation.

Our players are better than that lot – different class, some of them – but failure to adapt one's principles on how the game should be played so as to allow for the shortcomings of your own players and the strengths/ style of the opposition can only lead to disappointment.

We play pretty but are no more effective than in previous seasons and the end result will be no better. SEVENTHISH!

Tony J Williams
504 Posted 03/03/2014 at 12:11:32
God! We're a miserable bunch aren't we?

We beat the current form team of the Premier League and yet we're still bleating on how predictable we are.

Enjoy the win and hopefully it will give us a lift for Arsenal, especially as we didn't have to use Mirallas.

One point that annoyed me on Saturday was when Carroll went down and the ref stopped the game just as we were near their box... for a leg injury. Everyone knew it wasn't a leg injury but he still pulled it back. I did like the fact that Osman had a go at him about it.

Peter Warren
507 Posted 03/03/2014 at 13:38:56
Phil 501 thanks for the reminder. I also recollect our players are far better than Wigan's and that they played us off the park at home and passed their way to an FA Cup win against Manchester City.
James Martin
508 Posted 03/03/2014 at 13:39:08
Tony the ref was Jon Moss, he would have blown for a pen if Carroll started to tie his laces in our box, we've been screwed by that kopite loads of times. It didn't help him though that West Ham didn't have the ball for him to make any beneficial calls for them.
Phil Walling
509 Posted 03/03/2014 at 14:39:08
Agreed, Peter. Just shows you can pass it or hoof it......and it still get's you to seventhish.........and no better !
Ray Robinson
521 Posted 03/03/2014 at 16:38:42
In my fifty odd years of watching football, I've come to the conclusion that there has only been one successful team based solely on passing - Barcelona of a few seasons ago. Of course, possession football is key but every now and then, you have to take a risk, Where would the RS be without Gerrard playing the occasional (targeted) long ball? Glen Hoddle, Johnny Giles and David Beckham were excellent exponents of the accurate long ball but I doubt whether their possession statistics measured up to a James McCarthy, Ray Wilkins or a Scott Parker.

Football is and always will be a mixture and compromise of styles that best suit the individuals in the team - there's no one right way of playing it. But I do agree that patient build-ups are not always conducive to a vibrant atmosphere and that that is one of the reasons why Goodison can be oh so quiet these days. On it's day though, there is no more intimidating ground in the country. We probably just need a slight tweak in the playing style to see that re-appear regularly.

Dave Williams
531 Posted 03/03/2014 at 18:10:45
Roberto is in his first season of building his team and as Harold # 451 says Roberto has inherited some players who will fit the bill and others who won't. It will take a couple of seasons to get to something close to what he wants- he has Howard,Jags,Sylv,Gareth,Leon,Peanuts,Hibbo and Alcarez who won't be part of the future he has in mind due to age but he does have the nucleus plus a couple of good ones to come through.

Darren # 478 you make some valid points but for me,a real fan will turn up and encourage his team for the whole game and not sit in his seat as though he were at the theatre waiting to be entertained. I too have come through the Catterick era onwards and have seen some rubbish in my time but I guess it's the chicken and egg thing again- do the players have to inspire the crowd to be noisy or vice versa? Bearing in mind that the players will inevitably struggle to play well in a number of games whilst the crowd has a completely free choice every game and aid say its down to the crowd to get behind our great club and support the team regardless.

Tony Abrahams
581 Posted 03/03/2014 at 22:53:47
Some good points, Darren (#478) but, having watched most games this season, I can't honestly remember one in which Everton have either played for or settled for a draw. I do agree that we don't need two defensive midfielders but most definitely disagree that the fans would need to tell the players that the result at Anfield was unacceptable?

Funny game Saturday for me in that we struggled in parts through a lack of craft in the final third but, once we went in front, the team started playing like they knew they would win, so maybe for Everton, scoring the first goal is crucial?

Mick Davies
212 Posted 08/03/2014 at 01:35:41
Martinez said early on that he wants his team to control the game; he doesn't want to win games and then wonder how we won it, and this is the foundation of every successful side. Ferguson didn't get the greatest managerial career off to a blinding start. You can't expect RM to undo 25 years of cluelessness in one season, but we can be happy that we're hanging on to mega-rich sides despite a shocking catalogue of injuries lately.

How many games have we won over the years where we've been battered but clung on for dear life and seen out the onslaught? And, how many times this season have we dominated games but not crafted a winner? I know which system I prefer: the one in which we win because we deserve to, and we know why we won. That's the only way a club can become successful – by design rather than luck – and these first tentative steps with players who Roberto would want to replace, have shown me the future of our beloved club.

The correct way is the Everton way, not sitting back and hoping to nick it and, given time and a bit more readies, I'm convinced the club is on the cusp of a new golden era.

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