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.
Latest in Sport
Paul Scholes: Emirates was the easy option for Mesut Ozil. He needs a leader - and Arsenal don't have them
Ronaldinho dream XI: John Terry, Frank Lampard and Claude Makelele are in as former Barcelona superstar names ideal side
UFC champion Ronda Rousey leaves presenter with broken ribs after he claims 'she can't compete with a man'
Gareth Bale reveals the two things he hates about Real Madrid: 'Getting nutmegged and Spanish spiders'
Cristiano Ronaldo shows off his dance moves, including the moonwalk
- 1 Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
- 2 Kate Moss: Previously unpublished nude photo revealed by Mert and Marcus
- 4 World Book Day: Boy 'excluded' from school after dressing up as Fifty Shades' Christian Grey
- 5 Bad Jews poster 'censored' on London Tube
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Elif Shafak: Turkish author warns against rise of British nationalism
Most people think legal tax avoidance is just as wrong as illegal tax evasion, poll suggests
Nigel Farage promises Ukip will not 'stigmatise' would-be migrants – and says he wants 'everyone to speak the same language'