A week ago, after seeing his team beaten at Newcastle, Tony Pulis warned that West Bromwich Albion were at risk of sliding into a relegation battle after a run of five League games without a win. Fortunately, he had a trip to Goodison Park looming.
Pulis had won at the old ground with Stoke and Crystal Palace in the last five years and he completed a hat-trick thanks to a classic smash-and-grab raid.
Saido Berahino might have made his first League start since October but it was Albion’s defenders who shone with a dogged rearguard action once they snatched an early goal. Albion, for the fourth League game in five, had just one shot on target, but it was enough. Jonas Olsson met Stéphane Sessègnon’s corner with a header to the back post where Salomon Rondon was unchallenged to bundle the ball over the line after 14 minutes.
It was a goal that highlighted Everton’s season-long goalkeeping problem. With the fit-again yet fading Tim Howard kept on the bench, it was Joel Robles’s turn to err as he got caught in two minds and simply did nothing as the ball looped across to Rondon.
Everton responded by besieging Albion’s goal until the break. Ramiro Funes Mori had a header blocked. Ben Foster turned over Aaron Lennon’s strike. Ross Barkley, with a curled shot, and Tom Cleverley, with an overhit cross, struck the post.
“We were resilient, we defended for our lives, which we had to,” said Pulis, who had a plastic bottle thrown at him by a fan in the closing minutes as frustrations at a sixth Everton home defeat of the campaign spilled over. There were boos as Martinez took off Lennon and howls of derision for the unconvincing efforts of substitute Arouna Koné, perceived as a Martinez favourite.
The Spaniard thought Everton deserved to win, let alone draw, and was critical of referee Michael Oliver for waiting until the 75th minute to book Foster for persistent time-wasting.
“For the good of football you don’t want to see the ball out of play for such a long period and stopping and starting,” he said. Maybe so, but it was Pulis leaving Goodison with three points once more.
Everton: (4-2-3-1) Robles; Coleman, Jagielka, Funes Mori, Oviedo; McCarthy (Osman, 82), Barry; Lennon (Deulofeu, 74), Barkley, Cleverley (Kone, 58); Lukaku.
West Bromwich Albion: (4-4-1-1) Foster; Dawson, Evans, Olsson, Chester; Sessegnon, Fletcher, Yacob, McClean (Brunt, 57); Berahino (Sandro, 90); Rondon (Anichebe, 72).
Referee: Michael Oliver
Man of the match: Olsson (West Bromwich Albion)
Match rating: 5/10