Victor Anichebe has came off the bench on his return for Everton to net a late winner at the Hawthorns, as Everton scrambled to a 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion in a dull affair on New Years Day.
It was a diabolical game in many senses. The atmosphere was subdued throughout at the Hawthorns with many in the crowd probably nursing hangovers, and they werenÂ´t helped by the tepid performance of both sides in the first half. Shane Long had the only chance of the half for the hosts, when he ghosted in at the back post to latch on to a curling cross, but his header went sailing over Tim Howards crossbar.
Everton only had two chances of note themselves. Louis Saha deflected his own shot off his other leg when a goalscoring opportunity presented itself, whilst Jack Rodwell glanced wide a free-header from eight yards after an inviting Leighton Baines corner.
The second half was a more of an open affair but lacked the cutting edge to provide an exciting game. Peter Odemwingie found himself in the clear as the half started, breaking the Everton offside trap, but he blazed his shot over.
That was to be the last of West Brom as a potent attacking force, as Everton looked a better threat on the counter despite surrendering possession in deep areas on several occasions. As the second half entered itÂ´s latter stages, Everton camped inside the West Brom half yet, as has often the case over recent months, could not find the incisive last through ball.
The introduction of Victor Anichebe and Denis Stracqualursi for Phil Neville and the desperately disappointing Louis Saha changed matters.
The Argentinian loanee looked hungry and full of desire as he chased down lost causes and battled away in possession, whilst Anichebe – his first game back after a lengthy layoff – used much needed movement both centrally and down the right flank to pull West Brom apart.
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The winner came just as everybody had settled for the seemingly inevitable 0-0 draw. Osman unleashed a beautiful reverse pass down the right wing for Hibbert, who was left unmarked. His cross the back post wasnÂ´t dealt with by the home side, and the ball eventually dropped to Anichebe who showed that bit of fight needed to swivel and slash home the shot from about four yards out.
West Brom will claim they were deserving of a point, but rarely have I seen a home team lack ambition to win to such a degree. Everton, whilst by no means brilliant, kept things tight and increasingly came into the game, helped by key substitutions at a critical time in the game.
Reinforcements are still badly needed, but three points today reduces the anxiety around Goodison and keeps us going towards the right end of the table.
West Brom 0 Everton 1 Man of the Match: Denis Stracqualursi