The match subbed “El Sackico” by sections of the media as the losing manager was widely expected to be the next to lose his job saw Everton fail miserably to make the most of their possession and they fell mildly to a first half brace from Jarrad Bowen.
West Ham were playing their first home Premier League game of 2023 and like the visitors were on a shocking run of recent results that has seen them slide down the table and into the bottom three. The Hammers though had boosted their striking options with the signing of Danny Ings from Aston Villa and manager David Moyes was clearly expecting him to play some part against Everton when he commented, “We needed someone who knows the league. We have been linked with a few players and had a look at a few players to try and bring in to strengthen. I wanted to bring in someone who was not a risk as far as knowing the league. Someone who knows how to score and has scored. At this time of year, it is not easy to pick up centre forwards. We are really pleased to have him.”
Asked about facing Everton, Moyes was upbeat and looking forward to getting one over his old club saying, ”You’ve got to. I have had a lot of big games but tomorrow is a big game in a different way, but I am looking forward to it and hopefully, we can come out on top. I think the last few years have been pretty good for West Ham. We have had two seasons where we have finished sixth and seventh. We have more media people here than we have had before, and that tells you about the bigger interest in West Ham, not just here but in Europe and worldwide.”
He went on to add with what could be construed as a barbed dig at the Blues, “I think one of the biggest things that need to happen at a football club is for it to come together. And that needs the supporters and needs the players and it needs the directors to all be as one and I think it’s the thing which happened here at West Ham. I don’t think you see a divided club at West Ham. I can only tell you that this football club is as one and much more together I think than it has ever been.”
The Scot duly named his startling line-up: Fabianski, Zouma, Aguerd, Ogbonna, Coufal, Rice (c), Paqueta, Emerson, Bowen, Benrahma and Antonio.
After a hugely troubled week for Everton Football Club, the team, manager Frank Lampard and another incredible following of away fans made the trek to the capital and the London Stadium for another genuine six-pointer… and hoping, praying for a better result than last weekend.
Addressing the media on Thursday Lampard said, “I came here a year ago in what was a difficult moment for the Club in terms of confidence and results. The feeling when I come up here was that we were in a relegation fight. That’s how it turned out, and we stayed up. But that’s part of the reason when you are in these situations you can call them challenging, rather than tough because this is football management. We are always striving to get the best for the next game. Everyone wants the same things; they want Everton to win games. Whether that be an Evertonian who is sitting at Goodison or sitting at home, there are so many of them around the world, I have learnt that in this last year. We all want the same thing.”
Turning to what he feels needs to done he added, “The players don’t want to be in this position, the reality is we are here. There are lots of reasons for that but, they should have a human reaction to that after games. I have had things to say, too, because from my point of view given the position we are in, we must fight, and be ready to fight.”
He added pointedly, “If the players are disappointed we lost, then that’s good. If they want to fight, be a good teammate and not think about themselves, instead think about the team, the next result and training with great intensity whether starting or not, then that’s what I want. They [the players] have to think about what they can do to get out of these difficult moments, I have been in many during my career, and the only way is to work, focus and be really unselfish about it. Pushing yourself to the limit and that’s where we are.”
In desperate need of a result Frank Lampard named his starting eleven thus: Pickford, Coleman (c), Mina, Coady, Tarkowski, Mykolenko, Iwobi, Gana Gueye, Onana, Gray, and Calvert-Lewin.
In charge of this potentially crucial fixture was Stuart Attwell.
A slight delay to the kick-off time as West Ham paid tribute to their former director David Gold before both sides got underway, desperate not to lose this vital fixture for both clubs and the managers. Paqueta with an early ball through for Benrahma that didn’t come off and a nervy move by Pickford had Evertonian hearts in mouths momentarily.
A steady opening by both sides through the opening exchanges before a decent spell of passing by the Blues, playing their all-gold kit, ended with Alex Iwobi penalised for handball. Everton employing a back three formation that saw Coleman and Mykolenko given license to get forward and hopefully provide some width and crossing opportunities for Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Approaching the quarter hour mark though, we were seeing why both sides are languishing as a lack of confidence and quality going forward was clearly evident. The Blues worked the ball forward for Mykolenko to win the games first corner off Zouma, Gray the inevitable taker and after the initial cross was cleared, the second cross saw Mina try a shot on the turn and then wait while VAR reviewed a possible handball against Ogbonna the needless to say went the Hammers way.
Everton were enjoying some good possession but, needed to find that killer pass to really pressure the home defence. Gray turned well to get away from Zouma and win a second corner on the left as his early attempted cross was put behind. Gray again sent the corner deep where it was cleared to halfway and safety from the Hammers perspective. Persistence by Dominic Calvert-Lewin saw him win the ball in midfield to release Gray who saw his surge forward smothered by the home defence, and the Blues kept the pressure on with Aguerd hurriedly hoiking the ball into touch.
TV cameras clearly showed the presence of owner Farhad Moshiri and the Everton Board of Directors in the guests Directors Box as the travelling fans again raised their voices in support of the team on the pitch. It was noticeable that the majority shareholder and chairman were not sat next to one another, being separated by Graeme Sharp and CEO Denise Barret-Baxendale.
Everton were knocking the ball around well, enjoying the possession and quietening the home support to the point of frustration as the Everton defence looked calm and organised before Pickford made a decent save to deny Benrahma on a shot from just outside the area at the expense of a corner that saw JP punch clear. Antonio with a low cross from the right saw Coleman clear long downfield and West Ham came again with Paqueta seeing a shot blocked.
The home side were trying to raise their game, quickening the pace to try and stretch the Blues both in midfield and at the back. Rice with a good ball down the right channel picked out Bowen and his early ball was put behind by Tarkowski, the corner dealt with but, the follow-up ball into the area deceived the Blues defence and Bowen took advantage of a flick on by Zouma to open the scoring from very close range in the 34th minute – VAR reviewed it for offside and you guessed it, ruled in favour of West Ham.
Antonio fluffed a free header that could have doubled the lead, Mina conceding a corner on the West Ham left, that came to nothing. Everton were staying patient in possession but, the lack of a killer pass or touch of quality was again beginning to look to be the Achilles Heel. And after West Ham defended a cross from Mykolenko, they broke away down the right with Antonio getting past Tarkowski to feed Bowen, who’d begun the counter attack, for his second goal of the game in 41 minutes again from close range.
The failure by the Blues to capitalise of their possession in the first half hour had cost them very, very dearly and a late corner won by Iwobi gave them a chance to reduce the arrears but, Lady Luck saw Iwobi get on the end of a lobbed cross from Mykolenko only to see his shot on the turn be deflected onto the post and out for another corner that West Ham defended.
Two added minutes were signalled and Dominic Calvert-Lewin grafted to win a late corner on the left that Gray again took and Fabianski punched clear to bring the half to a disappointing end.
Half Time: 2-0
Two changes for the start of the second half saw Tom Davies and Dwight McNeil replace Seamus Coleman and Vitalii Mykolenko. An early cross from McNeil eluded both Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Davies and a cross from Iwobi laid back to Gana Gueye by Davies saw a poor first touch and Rice cleared.
Paqueta was booked for a foul on Amadou Onana five minutes into the half and Rice, with a heavy challenge on Onana, was lucky not to see yellow barely two minutes later. With Everton needing to chase the game, West Ham could look to counter and seemed quite happy to soak up whatever pressure Everton tried to exert.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Davies exchanged passed before Iwobi slid a great ball into the area where Dominic Calvert-Lewin wasn’t able to get on the end of, best chance of the game so far for the Blues. Another spell of possession saw Onana feed Gana Gueye to try a deflected shot that beat both Fabianski and the post with the resulting corner again failing to produce. The quick ball out from the West Ham goalie to find Bowen well defended by Coady.
Passing the hour mark, Zouma fouled Dominic Calvert-Lewin and the Gray set piece was cleared as nobody in a gold shirt could get on the end of it meaningfully. McNeil won a corner on the left that Zouma headed clear. Everton won another corner as Davies tried to set Dominic Calvert-Lewin free with a ball down the right channel, and once again, the set piece failed to beat the first man and West Ham cleared easily. Emerson played a one-two with Benrahma to drive into the Everton area and fire a shot that Pickford managed to turn onto the bar and out for a corner – terrific save. The corner thankfully saw Aguerd head wide.
James Tarkowski was booked for impeding Bowen – taking one for the team – as the Hammers goalscorer looked to get away at pace, the free kick failing to produce. Ogbonna defended well from a Gray cross from the left as we hit the 70-minute mark and West Ham prepared their first changes. Danny Ings and Tomas Soucek duly replaced Antonio and Paqueta on 71 minutes.
West Ham blunted a Blues attack and Ings first involvement saw him floored by Tom Davies with a body check an ice hockey player would have enjoyed laying on an opponent. Benrahma and Rice combined down the left, the West Ham captain choosing to take on the short range effort with Bowen screaming for the ball, the chipped shot thankfully going wide across the face of goal. Davies with a ball into the West Ham area for Gray saw him go down, VAR denied half-hearted appeals for a penalty and we closed in on now-or-never time still trailing to the first half brace from Bowen.
Bowen was spoken to by referee Attwell after a stiff challenge on McNeil, the free kick seeing a header from Mina easily gathered by Fabianski. Into the final ten minutes and Everton needed something of a miracle if they were to salvage anything from the game and West Ham made two further changes, Emerson and Benrahma replaced by Johnson and Downes.
Coady with a good tackle denied Bowen a shot, the West Ham forward then going in on Pickford who wasn’t happy with the challenge. Five minutes plus added-on time to play and Everton still hadn’t tested Fabianski seriously. Johnson got away from Iwobi to cross towards Ings who mistimed his header and the Blues went forward, Ogbonna clearing a cross from Davies. Three added minutes were announced and Everton won a corner on the right that McNeil swung it to the back post where Zouma climbed highest to head clear. And that sadly was that.