The last time West Ham kept a clean sheet at home was in beating Liverpool in January. Until eight minutes from time it seemed as if the visit of the other team from Merseyside was going to bring equally glad tidings, before the hosts collapsed in the most dramatic fashion. Gianfranco Zola's side conceded three goals in little more than four minutes, with Louis Saha scoring twice, on an afternoon when it initially looked as if Everton could play forever without troubling Rob Green.
Instead it is Zola's team who are now wracked with strife after their fifth defeat in six games. But that is what is likely to happen when you go 23 – now 24 – League games without being able to prevent the opposition from scoring. Having taken the lead after 63 minutes, they were only able to keep Everton at bay for 20 minutes.
Strangely, up to the 83rd minute, the visitors had shown little interest or inclination to score, but once Joleon Lescott – unmarked and eight yards out, which tells you much about the state of the Hammers' defence – headed them level, they could smell blood. More defensive slackness followed, as Victor Anichebe went unchallenged as he crossed two minutes later, with Saha scoring via a slight deflection off Julian Faubert.
Two minutes after that, West Ham's misery was complete. The jitters had set in and Saha tried his luck, after Tim Cahill had intercepted Faubert's poor clearance. From 25 yards, the France international, who joined the Toffees in the summer from Manchester United on a two-year deal, beat Green with a shot that was accurate if not the hardest struck effort and the boos heard around Upton Park did not make easy listening for Zola.
"We got a result and it didn't look like we would for long periods," Everton manager David Moyes confessed afterwards. "But second half we played better, were more resilient and stuck at it." He was equally surprised by the identity of the player who inspired the comeback. "For an hour or so Saha didn't look like doing much. But I kept him on because I wanted as many scorers on the pitch as possible." Not the most original of tactics but useful as things turned out. "He is a top talent," added Moyes. "He has not missed a day's training since we signed him."
The turnaround would have been less surprising had Everton not been so feeble prior to their equaliser. Indeed, Moyes' men conceding a goal seemed much more likely and it duly came to pass after 63 minutes, with Zola's first-half choice of substitution paying off.
Matthew Etherington chipped a pass into the area, the advanced Scott Parker delivered an exquisite back-heel and first-half substitute Jack Collison took a couple of seconds before finding Tim Howard's top corner. It was his first goal, in his third appearance, for the Hammers and one to remember also for its build-up and execution.
The substitution of Matthew Upson after 18 minutes, with a dead leg, was the incident which saw Collison introduced to good effect. But it also meant a defensive reshuffle that ultimately cost the hosts as, crucially, Faubert dropped to right-back and he was at fault for the last two goals.
"We spoiled a good job in the last 10 minutes," said a subdued Zola, "and this is not the first time. This is something that concerns me very much and we have to look in a very deep way. We have to find a solution. The Premier League is punishing and we can't afford to slip up for a minute. But we can't let panic or bad thoughts in."
On this evidence, they are already firmly there.Reuse content