Mercurial Blues Produce Explosive Finale

Romelu Lukaku's 20th goal of the season earned a dramatic late win for the second season running at Upton Park.

Lyndon Lloyd 17/05/2015 17comments  |  Jump to last
(Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

West Ham United 1 - 2 Everton

In a half-serious tweet that crossed my timeline in the build-up to this match, someone announced that they were on their way to Upton Park for the Blues' final away game of the season but they didn't really know why. Given the two awful results that preceded this jaunt to East London, you could understand the sentiment.

By full time, basking in the elation that only a last-minute winner can give you, I'm sure the Evertonian in question had their answer. Even in this most disappointing of seasons, when our travelling fans have masochistically travelled the country and the Continent in their numbers with little to show for it in the grand scheme of things, the team can still produce these isolated moments of joy.

The deliverer of the reward for that unwavering support this time was Romelu Lukaku, in tandem with the oft-maligned Aiden McGeady, who stepped off the substitute's bench to replace the perhaps-departing Aaron Lennon to take advantage of some tiring legs on the left side of West Ham's defence, engineer space and then cross superbly for the Belgian to head home in the third minute of injury time.

Sam Allardyce in the opposition dugout probably felt sick to his stomach. He had joked in the week about the need to shackle Lukaku and prevent him from scoring against his side for a sixth time in succession and must have thought, as the game ticked into stoppage time, that his men had done the job. Instead, the 22-year-old added to this three other goals against the Hammers this term to become the first Everton player to score against the same team in four domestic games in the same season.

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The result may not have been quite as important although the win did lift Everton above their hosts on goal difference with one more match to play but the timing of his goal was just as dramatic as his debut strike for the Blues in this fixture last season. And it ensured that the Blues walked away from the game with a spring in their step and just a bit more optimism about next season.

There is grounds for such optimism if Roberto Martinez can bring in the right kinds of players in the summer and please let that include another striker as cover should, God forbid, the big man get injured and instill some zip and purpose about his team's play across a full 90 minutes next season. Because, fundamentally, this remains a good team, but once again, just like the FA Cup tie against this same opposition in January, it took the concession of the opening goal to ignite the intensity in them that spurs them on and leads to goals.

Prior to Stewart Downing's 62-minute opener, Everton had, predictably, enjoyed the greater share of possession and created the better chances but Adrian in the home goal hadn't really been tested beyond Leon Osman's fourth-minute shot which the 'keeper had to push behind for a corner. Lukaku air-kicked the resulting set-piece and John Stones dragged the loose ball wide while the Belgian blazed his best chance of the first half over the bar just before the half-hour mark.

At the other end, Seamus Coleman had survived robust penalty appeals from the home team and fans for one of those ball-to-hand indicents that referees rarely give, Tim Howard beat away a powerful Downing drive and Stones blocked Enner Valencia's shot through a goalmouth melee to ensure that the score was goalless at the break.

This was ostensibly a battle to see who will finish 10th this season, but the game had two other sub-plots: firstly, the potential for one of these two clubs to be awarded a place in the Europa League next season via the Fair Play League and, secondly, the decision by Martinez to blood 19-year-old Brendan Galloway at left back.

On the former count, with Everton behind the Hammers in Uefa's complicated ranking, first-half bookings for Seamus Coleman and Gareth Barry had largely rendered the issue moot by the halfway stage, and both James McCarthy and Galloway would follow them into Kevin Friend's notebook in the second period.

Galloway's debut, meanwhile, appeared to put paid to the question of Luke Garbutt's future at Everton. Unless, of course, the manager felt he had seen enough of the 21-year-old by this stage and decided he would learn more by handing another Academy graduate their bow. Quite understandably, Galloway hadn't provided the kind of attacking presence associated with Baines or Garbutt but the youngster demonstrated remarkable Stones-esque composure on the ball and made a couple of key tackles that suggest the club may have unearthed another gem.

After the game had restarted following the interval and Lukaku had briefly excited the away supporters when he swept a direct free kick agonisingly wide and hit the stanchion behind the goal, it was West Ham who finally succeeded where Everton had failed in picking the lock of the opposition defence. Alex Song's neat pass caught Galloway flat-footed as Downing ghosted in behind him and the ex-Liverpool midfielder tucked a shot inside the far post to give West Ham a lead they hadn't really merited on the balance of play.

It lit a fire under Everton, though, and they were level within six minutes. Lukaku's step-over routine on the right flank was followed by a well-placed cross to the edge of the six-yard box where Osman took one touch and then swivelled on the proverbial six-pence of football cliches past to steer the ball home in superb fashion.

A minute later, Ross Barkley, who had made an enterprising start to the contest but faded badly as it wore on, found himself on the end an almost carbon copy move but, from about twice the distance from goal, he ballooned his shot into the stands.

Nevertheless, the Blues were more energised now and took on a more potent feel when Kevin Mirallas replaced Barkley with 20 minutes to go and the game really opened up into more of an end-to-end affair. Song headed a great chance over at one end and Lukaku planted one header wide and saw another decent left-foot shot palmed behind by Adrian at the other. But it looked as though the spoils would be shared until McGeady and Lukaku combined for the second time in the game with thrilling results.

Lukaku peeled off his marker to meet the Irishman's inviting cross and threw himself forward to power it past the hapless goalkeeper and send the away end into rapture. The striker's own reaction at notching what was only his second from open play and reaching the 20 mark for the season told the story of how much it meant to him and it completed a memorable debut for Galloway.

Victory at home against Tottenham next weekend will guarantee that 10th-place finish; beyond that lies a vital summer that will be key to what will be a very telling third season under Martinez.

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Reader Comments (17)

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Paul Andrews
1 Posted 17/05/2015 at 07:10:48
Great report Lyndon.

Your reports are always spot on. I took the opportunity to read back on several of your previous reports. They are very accurate tactically, and you do have a knowledgeable insight to what manner the opponents and us are setting their respective teams up tactically. Long may you continue.

I fully agree we gave reasons to be positive for next season. With the addition of a couple of players to go straight into the team I think we have the makings of a good side. The key to it for me is the tempo we play at, when we lift that we look a good side.

Young Galloway is potentially top class. I have watched him on a couple of occasions this season, and I immediately realised why the club was in no rush to give Garbutt the contract terms he will probably be looking for.

Galloway will be the player that takes over from Baines, not Garbutt.

Colin Glassar
2 Posted 17/05/2015 at 07:58:16
I could only watch the 15 seconds we were given on MotD and the extended highlights on Sky but I thought we looked really good and controlled the game. I was particularly impressed with Lukaku who appeared to be a threat all game.
Tom Magill
3 Posted 17/05/2015 at 09:19:07
Totally agree with you, Lyndon, about this team being fundamentally good; that’s why so many of us are pissed off this year.

Martinez talks too much bullshit and I can’t even listen to him now; I’m sure the players are the same.

My big problem with RM is he can’t motivate the players, most likely because of this tippy tappy rubbish we now play.

John Keating
4 Posted 17/05/2015 at 10:00:36
I fully agree we already have basis of a good squad. We have to get rid of a few asap and bring in 2 or 3 quality players, a playmaker and striker a priority.

The thing is whether we risk sticking with Martinez? I think this will be the most important decision in the next few weeks.
Personally I do not trust him to bring in quality players and get the best out the squad. In my opinion, I think he is a Championship standard manager and not good enough for our Club.

Trevor Lynes
5 Posted 17/05/2015 at 10:09:41
Fine report and for my money this game illustrated Osman’s worth at the club. If only Barkley could add some of Osman’s creativity to his game he could yet become a top player. Unfortunately he also seems to have limited stamina and generally fades when picked to start.

Galloway and Garbutt are stand outs from the Under-21s but we just do not seem able to develop attacking midfielders or strikers. Maybe our coaches should be given that target rather than just develop defenders. It would be a big money saver as these players are the most expensive.

Watching Crystal Palace made me covet both Puncheon and Bolasie who destroyed Liverpool. They are absolute stand out players who must be worth trying for. I have been saying this all season.

Harold Matthews
6 Posted 17/05/2015 at 11:14:15
Tom. The tippy-tappy rubbish disappeared quite some time ago. Your dislike of Martinez is obviously steaming up your specs.
Rahman Talib
7 Posted 17/05/2015 at 14:51:49
We need someone like Osman or Arteta ASAP.
Rahman Talib
8 Posted 17/05/2015 at 16:34:42
Alcaraz, Barry, Pienaar, Howard, Distin is over. It’s time we put them down and get Lennon and a replacement for Osman should Osman get injured. We also need cover for Stones/Jagielka. We also need a natural left winger. An antithesis to Lennon/McGeady.
Mick Wrende
9 Posted 17/05/2015 at 17:55:31
Quite right, Rahman, though you know that will not happen. We all know what replacements we need but we also realise that, as usual, this will be the usual frustrating summer as we trawl around for loan players as we have so few funds available even though the TV money has sky-rocketed.

My major worry is the striker situation as Kone is nowhere near Premier League standard and Lukaku is a MotD player. For those who just saw snippets on tele, he looked brilliant; for those of us at the game he was his useless lazy self putting in the minimum effort and missing several good chances. He can have no complaints about the service and 6 Premier League goals from open play is nowhere near good enough from any striker – let alone one we have played £28 million for.

We have finished 10th or 11th which is where we deserve to be with the paucity of our investment and the exorbitant amount of money so far wasted on Lukaku.

Liam Reilly
11 Posted 17/05/2015 at 21:29:52
Fair dues to you going to the away games but am I missing something here?

The guys got 20 goals this season when he’s been playing with an injury for a lot of it; our top goal scorer EVER in Europe and how many is that in the last 3 seasons; 52 in total if I’m correct - which is not too bad.

Also; he’s been bought in instalments; which is good business when you buy him but bad if you sell on quickly as you’ve not gained much.

Rahman Talib
12 Posted 18/05/2015 at 03:57:33
Mick, I somehow like Kone.

True he is not capable of playing as a lone striker but when he plays along side Lukaku they are magic.

We are the only team in the league that can play the traditional two striker up front without any glitch

Mark Andersson
13 Posted 18/05/2015 at 05:21:05
Good report I’ve yet to see the whole recorded game.

Reasons to be cheerful 1,2,3
Another win 3 more points and a man of the match performance from my favourite player Ossi.

Mick Wrende
14 Posted 18/05/2015 at 06:59:15
I take your point Liam but it still doesn’t mean that 6 goals from open play in the Premier League is a good return on investment. This so called injury doesn’t seem to have affected him in Europe or is it just that he was playing against less skilled defenders? We also know that Baines has said that Lukaku takes penalties now to boost his goal tally.

My main grouse as with many Evertonians is his lack of effort and total inability to control the ball. If he put in a decent shift, fans would be far more tolerant.

Jay Harris
15 Posted 18/05/2015 at 15:29:25
Totally agree with you MIck.

Even though he is capable of getting goals he puts the rest of the team under pressure because he cant head, control or pass a ball.

To me he is an 8 million player not a 28 million player.

Martinez has not got the ability of Moyes never mind Mourhino to see a top quality player.

Kone, Alcaraz, Atsu, McGeady, Robles (who is not deemed good enough to replace a mistake ridden Howard)

I cannot name a single player who has improved under Martinez but there are plenty whose game has deteriorated.

James Marshall
16 Posted 18/05/2015 at 22:57:50
I was at the game at the weekend, and I thought Lukaku’s touch was a little bit better than I’ve seen it in the past - the thing that strikes me about him more than anything, is the way he jumps under high balls all the time. He won one flick-on the whole game and jumped underneath every other high ball that came his way.

He really is awful in the air.

Mike Childs
17 Posted 18/05/2015 at 23:33:20
Excellent report Lyndon. I agree we have the makings of a top 5 to 8 team but I’m not sure we have the gaffer to do it? It sure feels like this year he slide back to his status quo.

Players deserve some blame as certainly last season they were full on for World Cup spots and played fully engaged. Still for me a real gaffer should bring them to that level each and every game.

Last note the gaffer put way to much in the Europa tournament.

David Israel
18 Posted 19/05/2015 at 16:00:38
Thank God for those bookings. The Europa League was probably the main reason for our poor season. If only it were played on Tuesdays or Wednesdays...

Irony of ironies, a team managed by Big Sam is about to win the Fair Play Prize, or whatever it’s called! ;-)

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