Premier League
Everton 0 West Ham United 1

Friday, 1st January 2021
by Chris Wilkerson

West Ham United took all three points from Goodison Park as a late Tomas Soucek goal secured a 1-0 win from a drab opening game of 2021.

The 90 minutes showed the clear signs of players adapting to make their way through game after game in this busy period, with intensity coming from neither side and passing kept simple and safe. A third game in six days makes that excusable for West Ham, whilst Everton should wonder why they were so tentative having had the rest from their cancelled game against Manchester City.


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Goodison Park and Liverpool itself are places no West Ham fan will allow themselves to expect points from, and this ingrained pessimism would have only felt heavier as news filtered out about a Fabianski injury in the warm-up.

Randolph's first start in the Premier League of the season was one of four changes, Bowen, Benrahma and Coufal the other three, with Ryan Fredericks notably missing out due to Covid.

The Hammers started brightly, full of energy and movement. That was about the most positive thing that can be said about a half of football that made the Brighton and Southampton games look like The Sopranos and The Wire by comparison.

It was just dull. Passing was safe - sideways and backwards each team went - and neither goalkeeper will have appreciated the idle time on a cold New Year's Day. Randolph's kicking, both weak and inaccurate, made you wonder if his full-body, bright orange get-up might not be as warm as his thawing body needed.

Arguably the most notable incident came from Craig Dawson, starting his second game in a row, volleying a ball poorly, catching his foot in the ground before spending nearly three minutes on the deck in what looked like real agony, only to carry on without interference from then onwards.

And not to call that padding in a match report, but the sides only mustered one moment hinting at danger each for the whole first half.

West Ham's came from Cresswell after a good move. Haller laid a cross off to the edge of the area to Benrahma, who stalled before passing left to the marauding full back. It was a poor pass, not in front of where his teammate was running, but Cresswell gathered before firing a shot to the far post that ended comfortably wide.

For Everton, a Bernard volley from outside the area stung the palms of Randolph, travelling through bodies after a corner was cleared to the diminutive Brazilian. It was well stopped, but a comfortable height and pace for the goalkeeper.


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The half-time whistle blew, much to the relief of anyone watching, 45 minutes of plain, simple and dull football behind us all. The old adage after a half like that would let you believe things must get better. They didn't really, not until the very end.

If anything, Moyes's side came out and played poorer, passing without accuracy or any edge to really move the ball on. They were sloppy, and only left unpunished because Everton were equally as poor. There were two players on the pitch playing to anything like their usual level, Ogbonna and Soucek commanding and strong to repel any Everton attacks. The Czech midfielder led the attacks too and had the kind of all-action display that tired legs should not have allowed.

There were moments of hope, sudden signs of quality, and they came from West Ham. A clever freekick routine got Rice down the left side of the area and his ball across the face of goal was venomous and in the perfect channel, but had too much power for anyone to get a foot to.

It was the little positive that gave the side some belief, only furthered by the appearance of Michail Antonio, his manager giving him just over half an hour to get more running in his legs and make an impact on the game.

He again looked far from sharp, wary of bursting to sprint after the ball. But his mere presence forced the Everton defence to change their positioning and their approach, allowing more room for Fornals and Benrahma in dangerous pockets of space.

Soon the Spaniard had the closest to a clear chance all game, rising to meet a header from the middle of the area after a delicate Bowen cross. It was clear he focused all his efforts on the power he needed to generate an effective effort on goal, but his connection was poor and accuracy off as it dropped harmlessly wide.

It was a sign if the improved performance and confidence with their leading striker on the pitch. Even limited by his return to fitness, Antonio offered such a stark contrast in threat compared to how Haller had ambled around for the 55 minutes previous.


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At the back, Everton found crosses into the box almost magnetically pulled to the towering presence of Ogbonna. The defender went another game without putting a foot wrong.

Bowen and Fornals were replaced by Lanzini and Yarmolenko as Moyes put fresh legs and a little more guile into his side. It may not have changed the flow of the game all too much, but it was a welcome sign of attacking intent, of no added caution being sent on just to protect a point.

So the late goal was a reward for the manager, the reward for the effort this side put in, and a reward for being the better of the two sides, even in a tight affair.

It came from the man who deserved it most. Yarmolenko approached a packed area and found only a chipped pass could make it through to Soucek in the box. The midfielder fired in a volley that was parried away powerfully by Pickford out to the edge of the area.

Cresswell had the time and space to line up a drive at goal. It was on target, likely to be saved, until an Everton defender flung out a leg and diverted the ball into the path of Soucek, the midfielder slotting into an empty net for his fifth goal of the season and the winner to cap off a performance of real leadership.

There was still time for Antonio to barrel through the Everton defence before a nudge knocked him off balance and will be his excuse for the complete air-shot that followed, Lanzini recovering the ball only to chip over from an angle.

The final whistle confirmed West Ham's three points, a first win for David Moyes returning to Goodison Park, three points coming back from Liverpool and 10th place in the table, the lowest on goal difference of six teams on 26 points.

What will be most pleasing is the discipline and organisation this team showed, with a tough schedule and the four at the back system which has seen us look fragile in the recent past. Five points from three games in six days is a solid return, and keeps the team only three points behind an Everton side some are trying to squeeze into the title race.


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Player Ratings

Darren Randolph
His kicking in the first half put the team at risk at times, almost directionless and not getting the distance needed either. Improved in the second half, and he did well with the first half Bernard effort in a game he was otherwise likely very bored during.


Vladimir Coufal
Solid if unspectacular, he dealt with the threat of Bernard well and then had no problems with Richarlison when the forward swapped wings. His defensive work is very, very good, and he gets up and down the flank to support Bowen very well too. Consistent.


Aaron Cresswell
Looked a little bit wary early on with Richarlison and Coleman flying forward, but settled into his defensive work in the second half and got forward to support Fornals well. Had the most shots of any player in the game, and that last one eventually gave the side the win. He's not perfect as a left back, but he did the job today.


Craig Dawson
Did his job comfortably, wasn't as actively involved as the defenders around him. His forward passing is quite poor, which is an issue, but when we defend deep, it suits him.


Angelo Ogbonna
An absolute magnet to Everton crosses. Calm with his work, as he often is, but enjoying the scrap of it too.


Declan Rice
On the ball a lot less today, less driving runs through the middle too, but he seemed to comfortably slot in behind Soucek and let his midfield partner press forward. His defensive work came to the fore, excellent one-vs-one and a great shield in front of the defence.


Tomas Soucek
He gets credit for pushing himself and keeping his levels up as others seemed to dip in their forward play. More passes than anyone in the team, defended strongly, especially in the air, but still found the energy to influence the attack. Those late driving runs are what won the game. They don't always get the reward, but he kept going and this time he got it.


Pablo Fornals
As ever, a great defensive display. He does that work unquestionably. Looked to have an understanding with Benrahma, which is important, and passes cleverly. His awareness of what's around him in an attacking and defensive extent is fantastic. Does need to improve his goalscoring, even if today's chance was very difficult.


Jarrod Bowen
The odd flicker of a dangerous moment, the cross for Fornals most notably, but otherwise he was more defensive than attacking, and didn't seem to get into the game at all in the second half. Was rightly replaced.


Said Benrahma
An interesting one. He is capable of dribbling out of pressure in a way none of the others can, and turning out of spaces with the ball that others couldn't. It gets forgotten that he starts moves in positions that are very difficult, and he then looked up to find a static Haller, and two wide players who are bursting forward from wing back rather than higher up the pitch. He played the ball through for Antonio's late chance and looked better when the side's key player came in and changed how we attacked.


Sebastien Haller
Isolated at times, but had that habit of giving the ball away in really simple moments. There were also instances where he dropped deep and then barely broke out of a jog to join attacks. With Antonio coming back, it's hard to see how he gets given more opportunities as a solo striker. He will hope to partner Antonio more.



Substitutes

Michail Antonio
(Replaced Haller, 59) Is still very clearly playing within himself, but being on the pitch for that length of time is a huge bonus and edges him a lot closer to starting. His introduction again forced defenders to fear the threat in behind and gave space for others to play. Should have scored late on too, running through a lot more like his usual self before fluffing his lines under pressure.


Manuel Lanzini
(Replaced Fornals, 73) The fresh legs were almost as important as anything else, and you could see it in his defensive work, whilst he was the one who got forward when Antonio came close.


Andriy Yarmolenko
(Replaced Bowen, 73) Like Lanzini, he came on and did his job. Sometimes his risky passes are frustrating, one flick allowed Everton a counter attack when he had time to do much more, but then others would have played the safer pass than the one he flicked through for Soucek.


David Martin
Did not play.


Ben Johnson
Did not play.


Fabian Balbuena
Did not play.


Issa Diop
Did not play. Other unused subs: Noble, Snodgrass.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Darren Randolph, Vladimir Coufal, Aaron Cresswell, Craig Dawson, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Pablo Fornals, Jarrod Bowen, Said Benrahma, Sebastien Haller.

Goals: Tomas Soucek 86                  .

Booked: None.

Sent off: None.

Everton: Pickford, Coleman, Holgate, Mina, Godfrey, Doucoure, Davies, Bernard (Rodriguez 64), Sigurdsson (Gomes 64), Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin (Tosun 79).

Subs not used: Olsen, Lossl, Nkounkou, Keane, Branthwaite, Gordon.

Goals: .

Booked: Godfrey (60), Davies (78).

Sent off: None.

Referee: Kevin Friend.

Attendance: 0.

Man of the Match: Angelo Ogbonna.