Everton 1-3 West Ham

Tomas Soucek struck a hammer (pardon the pun) blow to the hearts of Everton and their supporters with an injury time winner and Alvarez added an insurance third to complete another miserable home afternoon for Everton. Kurt Zouma had seen his header cancel out the opener from Beto who’d seen a first half penalty saved by Areola, before redeeming himself with a second half header that the Blues failed to capitalise upon.

Having had the unjust ten-point deduction reduced to six on appeal, Everton went into the game against West Ham two places above the bottom three but, still needing to prepare and concentrate on gathering as many points as possible.

Inevitably questioned about the result of the appeal, Blues boss Sean Dyche didn’t deny that the uncertainty in recent weeks had played on the players minds when he commented, “The outside noise does creep in eventually, the players have done well to bat it away and stay focused on the job in hand. [The decision] has now brought clarity. Whatever points would have come back, even zero, we know that brings the finality of it – ‘right that’s it, now we crack on’. We got four back, the league table looks different, now it’s about using that wisely and stepping on. I think we have been doing that anyway. I give a lot of credit to the players. The line is drawn and now we move forward.”

Preparing for the game against West Ham, Dyche has fitness concerns over midfielders Idrissa Gana Gueye and Amadou Onana and advised that, “[Gana] is still settling down and Ama [Onana] has got a groin thing, similar to Gana’s, which is just settling down, so we’ll make more of a decision on them tomorrow [Friday].” And with Arnaut Danjuma still some way from full recovery from his ankle injury, news that Andre Gomes was back in training was welcome but, probably too late to affect team selection for this game.

Hoping for a home and away series win over the visitors and maybe for Dominic Calvert-Lewin to get back on the scoresheet, albeit from the substitutes bench, since his last Premier League goal ironically won the game at the London Stadium in later October, Dyche named his starting eleven thus: Jordan Pickford, Ben Godfrey, James Tarkowski (c), Jarrad Branthwaite, Vitalii Mykolenko, Jack Harrison, James Garner, Amadou Onana, Dwight McNeil, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Beto.

West Ham and former Blues boss David Moyes arrived at the Grand Old Lady fresh from spanking Brentford last Monday and with the manager saying of that game, “It was a huge win for us. It got us three points which keeps us hanging in there with the top teams. We had a great start to the game and I was really pleased with how we went about the game. We got the reaction we hoped we would get, so credit to the players. There’s always room for improvement, though. There were bits we were disappointed with, but overall we were happy with the performance, and ultimately with the result. We have to keep that going now.”

Never one to needlessly single out individuals, Moyes was however full of praise for striker Jarrod Bowen when he commented, “I think Jarrod was on a different level to where he’s been, with the goals he scored on Monday. His goals and his all-round performance were terrific. He was probably disappointed he didn’t score in the few games before Brentford, but we weren’t making as many chances. Jarrod took to that emphatically on Monday, got himself in the right positions and did really well.”

Looking to avenge the defeat his side suffered back in October, the manager we acclaimed as having red hair and we didn’t care selected his starting line-up thus: Areola, Coufal, Mavropanos, Zouma (c), Emerson, Soucek, Alvarez, Kudus, Ward-Prowse, Paqueta and Bowen.

And would you Adam and Eve it, the knuckleheads at the PGMOL and Premier League saw fit to appoint Craig Pawson as the referee – the official who has had a hand in no fewer than FIVE red cards against Everton, while in the same time period, quite noticeably has never shown a card of that colour to any players of Liverpool, Manchester City or Manchester United… coincidence ?

A bright but, cool afternoon saw the Blues kick off attacking the Park End and hoping to secure a first win in the calendar year of 2024 and boost their fortunes for the back end of the season. The Blues looked to play a very direct game in the opening exchanges, quite happy for Jordan Pickford to quarterback with long balls aimed toward both Doucoure and Beto. Harrison won a 50-50 to feed Onana and when the ball fell kindly for Beto, he screwed a quick shot wide of the near post.

The first save of the game came on ten minutes as a cross was headed out as far as Alvarez and Pickford went down to his right to push the ball away with England manager Gareth Southgate watching on from the directors box. The Irons won the first corner three minutes later which Everton defended at the second attempt and passing the quarter hour mark, neither side had established any real dominance, and a loose ball from McNeil earned the visitors a second corner that saw Paqueta, found by Alvarez, shoot across the area and well wide of the target.

Coufal with a cross from the right saw Godfrey take no chances and shovel the ball behind for a third West Ham corner that saw Ward-Prowse find the head of Paqueta who saw his header go wide. The Blues responded with the ball eventually crossed by Harrison only for referee Pawson to blow for a foul on the West Ham goalie pressured by Doucoure.

Everton’s best chance of the game so far came on 24 minutes as Tarkowski threaded a ball through to McNeil and onto Beto who saw his shot parried by Areola and the rebound hit him to go behind for a goal kick. A free kick moments later 25 yards out saw West Ham scramble the ball to safety at the second attempt and Harrison was then penalised for catching Emerson. Godfrey stuck to his task to foil Emerson on the next West Ham raid before Emerson went down needing treatment to his right knee, and passing the half hour mark, the game was still a rather drab affair, hardly a glowing advert for the alleged ‘best league in the world.’

Good passing between Branthwaite, Garner and McNeil saw Mykolenko charge away down the left to force a throw-in that led to the Blues first corner, Zouma climbing to head the Garner set piece away, and the West Ham counter attack came to nothing. Ten minutes to half time and the rain that had threatened earlier finally arrived and a push by Doucoure gave West Ham a free kick that was easily dealt with and the Blues countered to win another corner as Coufal deflected an intended cross by McNeil behind, but, the visitors cleared it easily.

Good defending by Mykolenko prevented Coufal from getting a cross in from the right and he then got forward to collect a ball from McNeil and cross low into the West Ham area where Mavropanos hooked it clear. A quick ball out from Pickford was relayed onto Beto by Doucoure to win a throw-in that led to loud appeals for handball against Zouma. VAR reviewed it and referee Pawson went over to the pitchside screen before awarding the Blues their first penalty of the season. Beto took the responsibility and after a short, stuttering run-up, put his shot low to the keepers left with Areola going full length to push the ball to safety. The kick was reviewed and VAR judged the goalie hadn’t moved early and a minimum of four added minutes were announced. West Ham looked to try and take advantage of the penalty miss with Kudus crossing for Zouma to see his header go wide and at the break, we were still locked at nil-nil.

Half Time: 0-0

Neither manager made changes for the start of the second half despite the lack of genuine goal threat and all-round quality from both sides in the first half.

An early ball in from Harrison saw Garner go down claiming he’s been fouled by Coufal, the referee choosing to ignore the claims and West Ham cleared their lines. Kudus took a tumble over Mykolenko before Godfrey was found by Pickford and his cross came out to McNeil who saw his shot on the turn from distance turned away by Areola. Mavropanos cleared a cross from the overlapping Mykolenko as the Blues started the second half the brighter.

Sean Dyche had clearly told his players to increase their intensity and work rate but, it was Bowen with a very positive run that needed three blue shirts to crowd him out and enable Pickford to gather the ball. Ad the bright start to the half was rewarded ten minutes in as Garner found space of the right to send in the perfect cross for Beto to rise like a stag in the mating season six yards out, dead centre, to give Areola no chance with his header into the bottom corner and the Portuguese had redeemed himself.

The crowd were baying for the Blues to put the game beyond West Ham and a great ball from McNeil found Harrison who momentarily delayed his cross for McNeil and Areola made a crucial point-blank save to prevent the Blues from doubling their lead. An hour gone and we now had a proper game to watch and after Kudus saw a shot from just outside the Everton area deflected behind for a corner off Tarkowski, Ward-Prowse swung in the corner to find the head of Zouma to bring the Irons level in the 62nd minute with a glancing header inside the far post.

Everton responded with Doucoure finding McNeil and his long-range shot had direction and power but, not enough to beat Areola who pushed the ball away, West Ham countered and Paqueta saw a header flash wide across the face of goal and West Ham made their first change on 66 minutes, Calvin Philips replacing Ward-Prowse.

On 69 minutes, Beto made a chance for himself with his shot looping up off a defenders leg and Areola in the West Ham goal making another excellent save high to his right at the expense of a corner that Soucek cleared off the line from Doucoure. Pickford did well to prevent Kudus from making the most of a rare error by Tarkowski, West Ham failing to make the most of the resulting corner.

On 74 minutes, Dominic Calvert-Lewin replaced the tiring Beto. Garner found Doucoure with a great ball and his early cross from the left saw Areola quick off his line to prevent DCL from having a tap-in, Godfrey blasting the loose ball into the Gwladys Street from the edge of the area. Into the final quarter of an hour and the game was still there for the winning – which team wanted it the most was the question.

Both managers prepared further changes as a West Ham raid saw Godfrey do enough to prevent Kudus getting onto a wall pass from Bowen. Everton responded with McNeil threading a short ball to DCL and his scuffed shot was saved by Areola.

Mikael Antonio and Andre Gomes came on for Paqueta and Jack Harrison respectively on 79 minutes before Branthwaite denied Bowen from getting to a through ball from Bowen. Gomes tried his luck from outside the area, Areola seeing the ball all the way and holding the shot at the second attempt.

The second half had been far more entertaining than the first and both sides were still looking to find a winner as we hit the 85 minute mark and Antonio saw a fierce cross from a tight angle hit the stomach of Pickford who reacted quickly to smother the ball and launch a counter that saw Areola parry a shot from Gomes and Onana thrash a shot wide. The Blues kept pushing forward without success and a minimum of a further five added minutes were announced and incredibly, it was West Ham who struck as a deep cross from the left by Kudus was controlled by Soucek before smiting a fine shot with the outside of his right foot that gave Pickford no chance.

Chermiti and Dobbin made cameo appearances but, it was West Ham who secured the points as Alvarez chipped a third marker over Jordan Pickford to complete anther thoroughly miserable afternoon in cold, bone-chilling rain… and much as it pains me to say so, we couldn’t blame Craig Pawson for anything, having arguably his best day officiating an Everton game.

Full Time: 1-3

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