Roberto Martinez’s long honeymoon at Everton is at an end. The jeers that cascaded around the old stadium were the sound of the achievements of last season seeping away.
Logically, the next three months should be the ones for Everton to exploit. A hugely-impressive Europa League campaign could be set aside and a stuttering, stumbling league campaign could be reignited.
Instead, for the second successive game, Everton took the lead and squandered it, although unlike at Tottenham on Sunday, they did take a point - the one that Hull collected was enough to allow Steve Bruce‘s side to clamber out of the relegation zone.
They might have had more. The half-a-dozen minutes of stoppage time saw Everton pushed relentlessly backwards with no sign of the smooth dominance that characterised last season’s displays at Goodison, where teams like Hull were routinely beaten.
There were not many who had made the journey the length of the M62 from the Humber to the Mersey and, given the history between the two clubs, the empty blue seats were unsurprising. Nineteen fifty-two must have been quite a year for Hull. It marked their last victory at Old Trafford and their last win at Goodison.
On Saturday they had seen Manchester United cruise to a sweat-less 3-0 win and those who had travelled from Yorkshire for this encounter would not have journeyed in hope.
The match was 34 minutes old when those fears began to be realised. Martinez had argued that Romelu Lukaku might become the best striker in the world - a remarkable statement of faith even from your own manager.
Lukaku may not be the best centre-forward on the planet but, in the absence of any real competition from Anfield, he can certainly claim to be the best striker on Merseyside.
His seventh goal of the season was as made in Belgium as any one of the chocolates that are going to be handed out this Christmas. Kevin Mirallas had swapped flanks from the left to Everton’s right and suddenly became more than Bruce’s back-four could handle.
It was Lukaku’s header that found Mirallas in space and he responded by sprinting past and brushing through Michael Dawson before cutting the ball back for Lukaku to slide in and smash home.
The goal had been coming. Everton had begun slowly and then started to find the range. An early shot from Lukaku and Mirallas’s free-kick were aimed straight at Allan McGregor in the Hull goal.
Then, another drive down the right from Mirallas was topped off by a fierce low cross that the sides of Leon Osman’s white boot almost clipped in. Shortly after the interval, a Mirallas chip brushed to top of McGregor’s netting.
Hull were sometimes as impotent as they had been at Old Trafford. Nikica Jelavic, returning to the club where he had briefly threatened to become something of a star, threw himself into the fray early on without achieving very much.
As he lay on the turf in pain, Bruce called from the touchline for play to be halted, Ross Barkley stopped, was about to put the ball out before being howled down by his own crowd.
Even with the stadium’s big screens churning out the corniest kind of Christmas messages, Goodison was no place for charity.
There was, however, some hope for Hull as Sone Aluko, brought on by Bruce because nothing else was happening, drew his side level, confounded even his own fans’ expectations and altered the mood of the night.
Sylvain Distin had expected Aluko to cut inside but the striker kept his line and beat Tim Howard at his near post. It was Hull’s first shot on target.Reuse content