Everton secured their first victory of the new season overcoming a dogged West Ham thanks to a quality strike and maiden goal for his new side from Neal Maupay.
With events elsewhere completely dominating the headlines and saturating the nations media, Premier League fixtures were again disrupted but at least Everton got to play, with West Ham United the visitors to Goodison Park.
However, the game came too soon for Jordan Pickford to be available following the injury he sustained in the derby so Asmir Begovic donned his gloves for this televised clash.
Blues boss Frank Lampard was boosted though as he advised his pre-match press briefing that striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin was “close to full fitness”, with a late decision set to be made as to whether or not the striker would be involved. Lamps has also been buoyed by the return of Abdoulaye Doucoure, who has fully recovered from a hamstring problem sustained against Aston Villa last month.
And in further encouraging squad news, James Garner, who is yet to make his debut for the Toffees following a summer deadline day move from Manchester United, is also “available for selection” after two weeks of training with the squad.
After the near miss with relegation last season, the manager knew from the start of his tenure that improving the Blues defence was a key area to be addressed. Speaking of the task he noted, “From where we were at the end of last season, we had to add through the core of the team. We’ve deserved more points than what we’ve got – that doesn’t mean anything but it’s nice to feel the confidence of being solid and feel like we’re going in the right direction.”
He continued, “It can take time for certain elements of the team to grow but if we can keep more clean sheets – and be more tight and more difficult to beat – that’s a big starting point for us. We feel confident in ourselves, with the way we’re playing. We probably haven’t had the rub of the green here at Goodison. I feel we can see a strength within the team, but it can take time to translate the performances into results. We just have to keep working in the right direction and believe that will come.”
Still searching for a first victory of the new Premier League campaign, Lampard named his starting eleven: Begovic, Patterson, Coady (c), Tarkowski, Mykolenko, Gueye, Onana, Iwobi, Gray, Maupay and Gordon.
Our visitors, despite having had one victory, sat one place below the Blues in the table due to worse goal difference from their opening six games. Last time out though, they were denied a point at Stamford Bridge by VAR, something manager David Moyes avoided commenting on when asked about his teams performances. “Things went against us completely that day. There is not much you can do about it. From the players’ point of view, I think we are gaining in confidence, we feel as if we are beginning to get the new players integrated and used to us. So overall, we need the points. The points are always what we get judged on, but I think our performances are improving at this present time.”
The Irons are again competing in Europe this season and Moysey referred to the pluses and minuses of the additional games saying, “the difficult side is playing Thursday and Sunday and it is not really a great schedule. It has always been there for as long as I can remember, with the Europa League and now with the Conference League, it is the same situation? I would say is that we are beginning to get well used to it now. The players are more resilient with the way they go about their work. You try to improve your squad, which means that you can chop and change your players a bit more. I am hoping that through time and experience we are getting a little bit better with it.”
Returning to his former stamping ground is always an emotional experience for the craggy Scot and looking to put one over the Blues again after completing a double last season, he named his starting line-up: Fabianski, Coufal, Kehrer, Zouma, Cresswell, Fornals, Soucek, Rice (c), Bowen, Tolentino and Antonio.
Our referee on bright, Autumnal afternoon was Michael Oliver.
Conor Coady wore the captain’s armband as the sun shone brightly at kick-off time and the early exchanges seeing West Ham trying to press the Blues in their own half before Coady spread the ball wide for Patterson to cross, Fabianski claiming confidently.
A defensive slip by the visitors saw Maupay play Iwobi into the area but, Fabianski was quick to close him down and win a goal kick. At the other end, the Blues looked equally uncertain as West Ham won a corner that Begovic managed to punch clear under pressure. Onana with a fine ball found Gray and his powerful cross into the area had too much on it for Gordon the reach. West Ham failed to clear and Iwobi fed Patterson to see his cross win a corner.
A foul on Gray saw him take the free kick and find the head of Onana who couldn’t direct it on target and West Ham again struggled to clear their lines and another free kick went the Blues way but was completely wasted by Gray.
West Ham saw a raid by Antonio stifled by Coady but got forward again to win four successive corners before Everton broke and Coufal got back in time to clear into touch from Gray. Another Gray free kick was half cleared and Mykolenko mistimed his volley to send it high into the Park End. West Ham built steadily from their own half for Mykolenko to concede a corner that saw a header from Tolentino easily gathered by Begovic.
Coady was the first to be yellow carded for upending Antonio before a ridiculous decision by the referee gave West Ham a free kick for a foul by Mykolenko that only he saw. Despite energy expenditure, both sides were struggling to play with any real cohesion and through thirty minutes, the scoreboard remained blank.
Everton began to look more dangerous as good work by Iwobi and Gana Gueye led to crosses from Gray and Mykolenko that were cleared and defended for goal kicks respectively. Tarkowski began a move that saw the Blues win another right wing corner, Fabianski claiming when a second attempt from Iwobi looped up nicely for him to gather.
Into the final five minutes of the half and Gray again wasted a free kick, flighting it too long and high to the back post for anyone to get on the end of. Great defensive work by Anthony Gordon denied Fornals before a Blues attack broke down and West Ham countered to win a corner from their right that was defended. Just one added minutes was announced and that went by with no further meaningful action.
Half Time: 0-0
Neither manager made any changes for the start of the second half and the Blues first raid saw Gordon release Mykolenko and his teasing cross was deflected behind for an early corner, that he took and Bowen put behind for another. The Hammers first attack saw Cresswell cross for Bowen to see his shot from the edge of the area clear the bar. Gueye to Iwobi and a piercing ball sent Gray away only to curl a weak shot straight into the waiting arms of Fabianski.
The game was crying out for someone to really get a grip and calm things down as too many passes from both sides were being hurried and missing their intended receiver.
And it came, right on cue, as Gueye found Iwobi, he found Gray and his ball into the area was collected and turned on by Neal Maupay to lash in his first goal for the Blues on 53 minutes.
Goodison was now truly awake and the next attack saw Iwobi again feed Gray for a cross low into the area that eventually led to a corner from the right that was defended. West Ham countered to win a corner that Onana headed clear and play was halted as Tarkowski got hurt. A terrific ball from .Mykolenko to release Iwobi was spoilt by the linesman flagging Gordon for offside as he tried to reach the Nigerians cross.
Changes by West Ham on the hour mark saw Cornet and Benrahma replace Fornals and Tolentino respectively. It was Everton building steadily with Alex Iwobi at the heart of everything that nearly scored again as he again played Gray into a good area on the left and his low cross shot screamed past the far post.
Cresswell won a corner off Gordon after a patient build-up by the visitors and incredibly his corner somehow sneaked through the six yard area with a mere touch putting it behind for another that Iwobi hooked clear.
West Ham made a third change, Scamacca replacing Antonio on 68 minutes, and they won another corner that was defended well. Into the final twenty minutes and a lucky escape for the Blues as Benrahma curled a shot beyond Begovic only for it to come back off the post.
Frank Lampard withdrew Anthony Gordon for Dwight McNeil on 74 minutes ahead of a mazy run by Gray into the box leading to Alex Iwobi seeing his shot from the edge of the area go just too high. Everton made a second change on 80 minutes as Demarai Gray made way from Abdoulaye Doucoure to return to first team action.
Asmir Begovic with his first real save denied Cornet at the expense of a corner that the visitors wasted. Everton came again and the tireless Alex Iwobi crashed a shot just wide of the target. West Ham countered but Cornet ran out of room trying to get around Begovic.
Salomon Rondon came on for a late cameo appearance replacing .Neal Maupay who got a well earned standing ovation. Alex Iwobi engaged in playing keep ball much to the delight of the Gwladys Street and five added minutes were signalled.
Begovic tipped a late Bowen cross over the bar for a corner that was defended to rapturous applause before McNeil was booked for a foul on Coufal. Everton reacted to a foul by Emerson on Onana and time expired on the Blues first W.
Full Time: 1-0