After a quite dreadful first half, Everton grasped the opportunity to take three points from their second visit to London this season as a sweet move and excellent finish from Dominic Calvert-Lewin was enough to settle the outcome in the Blues favour.
West Ham vs Everton pitched former Blues boss David Moyes against Sean Dyche with the Irons seven places and seven points better off than the Blues but maybe (hopefully), a little bit tired after an unsuccessful Europa League trip to Greece last Thursday that saw them go down 2-1 to Olympiakos.
Moyes was keen to maintain the Irons recent record of success over his former employers and selected a strong side thus: Areola, Coufal, Zouma (c), Aguerd, Cresswell, Ward-Prowse, Alvarez, Bowen, Paqueta, Kudus and Antonio.
Looking to bounce back from the derby defeat last week, Sean Dyche selected a starting eleven, in an expected 4-4-1-1 formation that read: Jordan Pickford, Nathan Patterson, James Tarkowski (c), Jarrad Branthwaite, Vitalii Mykolenko, Jack Harrison, James Garner, Amadou Onana, Dwight McNeil, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Our referee at a damp and drizzly London Stadium was Stuart Attwell.
Prior to kick off both managers, accompanied by Sir Geoff Hurst, laid wreaths on the pitch and supporters of both sides observed a minutes applause in memory of Sir Bobby Charlton and Bill Kenwright… with Farhad Moshiri alongside prospective new owner Josh Wander watching on from the directors seating. It might seem churlish to mention it but, Moshiri has attended more matches at the London Stadium recently than at Goodison, where he hasn’t been seen since Watford won 5-2 !!!
A quiet opening five minutes saw West Ham create one opportunity that was snuffed out by Mykolenko before Areola easily gathered a low cross from the left by McNeil. Antonia got away from Patterson to cross low into the Everton area where Amadou Onana easily cleared but, an early warning sign for the Blues – playing in their grey strip – to heed.
After Bowen failed to get on the end of a ball from Paqueta, a foul by James Garner gave the home side a free kick left of the penalty area that Ward-Prowse sent to the back post where Onana put the ball to safety at the expense of a corner that was defended.
Twenty minutes gone and still no genuine threat upon either goal, both goalies having an easy afternoon so far. West Ham were having more of the ball but were finding Everton a tough nut to crack as Patterson easily dealt with a cross from the right from Bowen. Paqueta got away from Patterson to cross for Bowen coming in from the right flank and he made a complete hash of his shot that skewed wide of the near post as we reached the midway point of the first half.
Good work from Jack Harrison saw his dispossess Paqueta and with DCL and Doucoure in support he chose to shoot and to say the least his effort was weak and disappointing. Tempers threatened to flare following a challenge by Tarkowski on Kudus, referee Attwell let things calm down before showing a card to Jordan Pickford for his involvement in yelling at Kudus to get up, and Kudus for making far too much of the tackle.
Bowen inadvertently stood on the left foot of Vitalii Mykolenko as this dreary first half continued to completely underwhelm. The 33rd minute saw Everton win their first corner as Doucoure tired to work an opening for a shot, the home side defending a header from Tarkowski at the back post. The next Everton raid saw the ball fall well for Harrison but, he ballooned his shot miles wide and high.
Coufal blocked a ball from Mykolenko who reacted quickly to prevent Bowen getting away down his flank. As the drizzle at kick off strengthened into rain, Mykolenko again denied Bowen in shepherding the ball back to Pickford. A good ball from Tarkowski found DCL in space and eventually the ball was worked to the left for Mykolenko to cross and the header from DCL went well over the bar.
Into the final five minutes of the first half and play was halted as Onana took a glancing blow to the head from a boot of Kudus, and momentarily left the pitch before play recommenced, and he was eventually invited to rejoin the action… if that’s what this game could only loosely be described as.
Five added minutes were announced – really, let’s just go for a cup of tea – before Mykolenko and McNeil combined for the latter to cross with Onana getting up only to head wide of the target. The tedium continued for the remaining time before mercifully, referee Attwell called time.
Half Time: 0-0
No changes by either manager for the start of the second half – maybe they’d lost interest in the game? Branthwaite with an early headed clearance from a cross by Paqueta and then a block on a shot from Bowen as West Ham looked to start with a bit more intent to their game. A deep cross from a free kick by Cresswell found Bowen but, his header flew well over the bar. A foul by Ward-Prowse on DCL gave the Blues a chance to get men into the West Ham area but, the home side smuggled the ball away and the second wave from Everton saw Zouma clear to touch. A great challenge by Branthwaite on Antonio saw him play the ball forward to Dominic Calvert-Lewin who played a one-two with Harrison before sending a smashing low shot into the bottom corner for his 50th PL goal in the 51st minute.
The travelling fans were now wide awake and making all the noise as Bowen volleyed a shot miles over from close range after a misplaced header fell nicely for him. Another good challenge by Branthwaite left Antonio in a heap, the young centre half smiling wryly at the decision to award West Ham a free kick. Ward-Prowse found Paqueta for a comical attempt at an overhead kick and the Blues cleared their lines easily.
A change on 57 minutes by West Ham saw Benrahma replace Antonio to try and inject some life into their attack. Alvarez blasted high from distance as the home crowd began to voice their frustration, and a long ball from Branthwaite saw DCL head on for Doucoure in oceans of space and his low shot was saved low to his left by Areola for a corner that came to nothing.
With West Ham needing now to chase the game, could more counter attacking chances fall the Blues way? Passing the hour mark, Coufal sent a hopeless cross miles high and behind the Everton goal. Once again, tempers threatened to flare as Tarkowski and Alvarez exchanged unpleasantries with the home side being awarded a free kick that Ward-Prowse flighted to the back post where a combination of Branthwaite and McNeil got the ball away to safety.
Nice play involving DCL, Doucoure and McNeil saw Areola palm a shot from McNeil over the bar for a corner that failed to produce. Bowen won a corner for West Ham off Branthwaite that was defended by Onana and hoicked to safety by Patterson with ambitious howls for handball by the crowd ignored by the inevitable VAR check. Paqueta fell over when bumped into by Patterson and was rightly booked for behaving like a jessie with his squealing for a free kick.
Into the final twenty minutes and a second goal for the Blues would be a most welcome occurrence please.
A second change by David Moyes saw Soucek replace Ward-Prowse in the 73rd minute and Bowen, working hard, won a corner off McNeil that was cleared by Garner. Pickford gathered a low cross from Benrahma and a great ball through the middle from Onana set DCL free and his shot cannoned back off the crossbar with the offside flag raised anyway.
A good tackle by Garner saw the Blues set to break, Benrahma getting back to foul him and pick up a yellow card for his trouble. A superb save by Jordan Pickford from close range showed his concentration levels to be absolutely spot-on, even though the effort from Bowen wouldn’t have counted as he was ruled to have been offside.
Into the final ten minutes and the Blues were still looking calm and resolute in defending their lead and another good clearance by Mykolenko prevented Paqueta getting a cross in from the right. Super calm defending by Amadou Onana as Paqueta finally found Kudus and he got a cross into the area before Alvarez was booked for I know not what.
Everton were sitting deep now almost inviting West Ham to attack them and when they did, Alvarez fired over from outside the area. A third change by West Ham saw Ings replace Cresswell for the final five minutes plus any added-on time, as empty seats in the home sections began to appear as Hammers fans made for the early exit, such was their lack of anticipation of a late equalizer.
Pickford took no chances in pushing a speculative effort over the bar and the Blues defended the resulting corner. Patterson blocked and cleared a shot by Alvarez and getting down the other end, DCL held the ball up before crossing toward Harrison and West Ham cleared to touch. DCL then got a warm reception from the travelling Blues support as he was replaced by Youssef Chermiti in th 89th minute.
Pickford with another decent save denied Benrahma on the volley as the home side strained for a late strike and six added minutes were announced. David Moyes cut a forlorn figure on the touchline as his former red hair has decidedly turned grey in recent years and his former employers looked like imposing a third straight loss on his side.
Everton got forward again with McNeil seeing a shot blocked and he went down under a challenge on the touchline much to the annoyance of the home side. Harrison worked hard to stay with Benrahma and concede a throw-in, and another clearance by Branthwaite sent the ball past halfway. McNeil, Mykolenko and Onana worked the ball free and when West Ham came again, the impressive Jarrad Branthwaite stymied Ings. Pickford held onto a deflected Bowen shot and that was that and it was the travelling Blues support who celebrated long and loud.