Piquionne celebrates too soon

Everton 2 West Ham United 2: French striker's dismissal after scoring lets Everton back in as West Ham throw away two points
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The Independent Football

There is stupidity and then there is football. There were five minutes remaining when Frédéric Piqui-onne's header looped over Tim Howard to restore West Ham's lead. The Frenchman, who already been booked, then rushed into the seething mass of supporters in the Bullens Road end, for which he was inevitably shown a second yellow card. West Ham had to see out the final few minutes with 10 men, and Marouane Fellaini's turn and shot in stoppage time ensured they remained bottom of the Premier League.

It is impossible to say whether West Ham would have held on had their centre-forward remained on the pitch, but Piquionne's absence did not help and he will miss the second leg of West Ham's Carling Cup semi-final with a Birmingham side who have issues of its own after yesterday's disembowelling by Dimitar Berbatov at Old Trafford. Avram Grant confirmed there was little chance of Piquionne's potential replacement, Carlton Cole, recovering from injury in time. So the choice of leading West Ham's attackis down to Freddie Sears, who was replaced after nine minutes yesterday, and the underperforming, overweight Benni McCarthy.

When in 2008 Grant came to Goodison while his future as Chelsea manager looked as black as the shirts he favours, he chose to answer virtually every question with a simple "Yes" or "No". This time, after a performance that was unrecognisable from the sleepwalk his players produced against Arsenal on the day it seemed clear that he was to be sacked and replaced by Martin O'Neill, he was rather more animated.

"For me it's a joke, this red card," he said of Piquionne's dismissal."He scored a goal and went to celebrate with the supporters, and the supporters deserve to have a player celebrate like that with them. Maybe people should shake hands and say 'Thank you'?"

After the board's botched attempt to remove him, the West Ham co-owner David Sullivan, who watched this game in a bearskin hat and Russian military greatcoat, issued the kind of statement beloved by Pravda at its most Stalinist: "The entire board is 100 per cent behind Avram. West Ham United is a club that does the right thing and at this time that is to support the manager."

However true this was, West Ham so completely outplayed Evertonthat the home side were jeered offat the interval. The visitors' football was everything it had not beenagainst Arsenal, epitomised by the opening goal.

Mark Noble's wonderfully judged pass let Luis Boa Morte loose down the left flank. He outpaced Leighton Baines and pulled the ball deepinto the area where, with Howardstranded, Jonathan Spector, the centre-back turned midfielder whose goals had inflicted Manchester United's only defeat of the season, thundered the ball home with a swing of hisright foot.

But for the post that met a diving header from Piquionne, West Ham might have won the game by half-time. Goodison was, as it has been for much of this season, anxious and angry. "David, they are getting lazy, start shouting at them," came one voice from depths of the Main Stand.

Everton are not lazy, but none of their strikers has functioned properlyin this fractured campaign and of their midfield, Steven Pienaar has been sold before he walked out on the club and Tim Cahill is in Qatar, playing for the Asian Cup with Australia.

Moyes may well have shouted at his footballers in the home dressing-room at half-time. Certainly, they were a different, more aggressiveside afterwards, and when Diniyar Bilyaletdinov lashed home his shot from the edge of the area into the depths of Robert Green's net, the Everton manager thought his team would go on to win.

Instead, when Wayne Bridge, who had a rather better game than his catastrophic debut at Upton Park last Saturday, delivered a perfectly measured cross to Piquionne's head it seemed Moyes would suffer a defeat as embarrassing as the 4-1 humbling by West Bromwich Albion in November. But then the celebrations began.

Attendance: 34,179

Referee: Peter Walton

Man of the match: Spector