Saha keeps Everton's foot down on road to final
West Ham United 1 Everton 3
Monday 18 May 2009
Hand in hand with the consistency underlined by what is now certain to be their third successive top-six finish, Everton are acquiring a ruthlessness that further distinguishes them from the Premier League mainstream.
Here was an afternoon on which more easily distracted teams might have squandered points. Their response to the shock of falling behind against the run of play, though, was to regroup and deliver a convincing performance that carried them to the 60-point mark. Far from easing up in preparation for the FA Cup final, Everton used the League's penultimate weekend to climb to fifth for the first time. Their manager, David Moyes, called for single-mindedness and got it amid any number of personal contributions that will give Chelsea food for thought.
Somewhat less convincingly, Moyes still hinted after Louis Saha's two-goal comeback to the starting line-up that the Frenchman's best impact might be from the bench. But he confirmed that Jack Rodwell will feature in his Wembley deliberations and praised Steven Pienaar, who made the last two goals as Everton hit back for the second time in 2008-09 to beat West Ham 3-1.
"I have a clear idea what my side will be," Moyes said. "Louis gives us another option, whether or not we decide to start with him, Steven has really kicked on by taking Mikel Arteta's mantle and I would have no qualms about putting Jack Rodwell in. He may play in the final."
True, after Radoslav Kovac's stunning goal, Everton benefited from a West Ham double whammy – the sending-off of James Tomkins for a trip on Tim Cahill, following which Saha (left) equalised from a penalty. A performance that was already hitting heights then brought Joseph Yobo's first goal of the season and Saha's tap-in for the killer blow put an accurate reflection on the scoreline. At the end of a season of injury misery, the striker said: "At least I'll be fresh for Wembley."
Pleasing though some of West Ham's own cameos were in an invigorating game, they fell short of their targets. European qualification is now beyond them, although their manager Gianfranco Zola proclaimed boldly: "I'm absolutely positive we will be much better next season."
Everton's next step is a trophy or top-four finish. The table exposes the gap they still have to bridge but their results bear out the fact they can now land a glove on any side.
They have drawn with Manchester United and beaten them in an FA Cup semi-final shoot-out, drawn twice with Chelsea, knocked Liverpool out of the FA Cup as well as taken a point there and seen Arsenal escape from Goodison with a point only via a last-gasp equaliser. They will expect to worry Chelsea on Saturday week.
Everton (4-4-2): Howard; Jacobsen, Yobo, Lescott, Baines; Osman, Neville, Cahill (Jo, 80), Pienaar; Fellaini (Rodwell, 69), Saha (Vaughan, 80). Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Hibbert, Castillo, Gosling.
West Ham United (4-2-3-1): Green; Neill, Tomkins, Upson, Ilonga; Kovac (Stanislas, 68), Noble; Boa Morte, Di Michele (Spector, h-t), Collison; Tristan (Cole, h-t). Substitutes not used: Lopez, Nsereko, Kurucz (gk), Payne.
Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).
Booked: Everton Baines; West Ham Spector, Boa Morte.
Sent off: Tomkins (37).
Man of the match: Pienaar.
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
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