Everton 1 West Ham 0 match report: Returning Romelu Lukaku rides to Everton’s rescue
On-loan striker came off the bench after a month injured to land the killer blow and earn Everton the three points
Sunday 02 March 2014
This was a story of two big men. Each began on the bench, each had a chance to win a game that hid under a cloak of mediocrity. Romelu Lukaku took his, Andy Carroll did not.
Statistically, this was a dead cert. Everton had taken more points from West Ham than from any other Premier League club but these had to be dragged from the pitch. Since Lukaku had suffered an ankle injury in the Merseyside derby, the thinness of the resources available to Roberto Martinez had been exposed game by game.
That Everton had been challenging for a Champions League place was a remarkable story, that they were attempting to do so without a specialist centre-forward was quite another.
Had Martinez possessed greater depth in attack, the games at Tottenham and Chelsea that have probably put an end to those Champions League dreams would probably not have been lost. Instead, Everton had to rely on Lacina Traoré, an on-loan forward who had not started a game since October, arrived injured, and broke down again almost immediately.
Lukaku could not have returned quickly enough. This fixture was David Moyes’ last after a dozen years at Goodison and, for the first time since what was an independence day of sorts, his successor’s progress was being questioned.
But for the after-effects of a chest infection, he would have started against a West Ham side that had won their last four games while conceding a single goal. Mostly, marshalled by James Collins, the kind of no-nonsense central defender that Sam Allardyce adores, they had kept Everton at bay. This was despite first-half statistics that showed West Ham completed a bare 54 passes before the interval – just over one a minute – and had 25 per cent of the ball.
However, aside from one dazzling dance through the West Ham defence from Gerard Deulofeu that spawned a shot the whole Main Stand at Goodison thought had gone in – and which still produced gasps when it was replayed on the big screens – Adrian’s goal was not seriously threatened.
Everton attacked more intently after the interval with some lovely interplay between Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar that finished with Adrian at full stretch pushing the ball on to his post.
Carroll, who had come on after 28 minutes when Allardyce’s patience with Carlton Cole’s inability to push West Ham out of their own half snapped, unleashed a vicious drive that sent Tim Howard reeling back as he pushed it over the bar.
That, as their manager acknowledged, was the sum total of West Ham’s threat, although Allardyce who can sense injustice as keenly as Hercule Poirot could sense a clue, thought Gareth Barry should have been sent off for bringing down Kevin Nolan just outside the area.
“We didn’t even get a free-kick,” he shrugged. “Everton had their chance, Lukaku put it away and it’s a shame. It’s cruel this league. Everton didn’t really trouble us but they did enough to win this game and at this stage of the season that is all that you want.”
Allardyce had just taken off his full-back Guy Demel who, recovering from tonsillitis, was not quite able to last out the afternoon. He had been off the field for a minute when Everton broke through with Lukaku, almost on the penalty spot, meeting Baines’s cross fractionally before James Tomkins could block it. Relief exploded around Goodison.
“What pleased me was that we never got emotional, we never got frustrated and we never allowed ourselves to be exposed,” said Martinez, who remarked that Lukaku’s injury during the 4-0 defeat at Anfield in January was “the best thing that could have happened to him”.
That would have caused a severe arching of Lukaku’s eyebrows but what his manager meant is that it allowed a man who is still only 20 to take stock of his situation. “He was leading the line for the first time in his career,” said Martinez. “He was suffering from the demands of the league and we will see the best of Romelu now that he is fully refreshed.”
Everton (4-3-2-1): Howard; Coleman, Stones, Distin, Baines; McCarthy, Barry; Deulofeu (McGeady 73), Osman (Lukaku 59), Pienaar; Naismith (Barkley 85).
West Ham United (4-2-3-1): Adrian; Demel (Reid, 81), Tomkins, Collins, McCartney; Noble, Taylor; Downing, Nolan, Jarvis (Diame 66); C.Cole (Carroll, 28).
Referee: Jon Moss.
Man of the match: Leighton Baines (Everton)
Match rating: 5/10
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