West Ham United 0 Everton 2
Saturday, 15th December 2007
by Jacob Steinberg
Everton may well be looking into arrangements to stay holed up in East London for good. They certainly find these parts inspiring enough it seems. Just three days ago, the West Ham defence were combining to gift Yakubu a last minute winner in the Carling Cup, and the Hammers backline were just as accomodating to the Nigerian in the league too.At least West Ham managed to score on Wednesday night though. Carlton Cole got their goal then, but as has become the norm now, picked up an injury. Knocks have beset Alan Curbishley's squad, and his options were typically limited again. Cole braved the December cold to risk his injury, yet could not manage more than a half, and West Ham were never as dangerous after the big striker went off.
They certainly had their chances in a tight first half, which had the feel of two close friends spending that little bit too long together, now in need of some welcome time apart. For Everton, that will come in the form of a trip to AZ Alkmaar in the UEFA Cup on Thursday, while West Ham, happier on the road, travel to Middelsbrough next week, one of two sides they have beaten at Upton Park so far.
Indeed as long as they continue to underperform in front of their own fans, Curbishley will continue to fail to fully win over the crowd. While he has never professed to be one of the great entertainers, fans are only on the cusp of happiness if you play ugly and win. Defeat in that manner does not tend to placate the punters.
Nevertheless West Ham did play some neat stuff at times, not least when a swift passing move found one of Freddie Ljungberg's trademark runs. A goal looked inevitable but Joseph Yobo blocked well, allowing Tim Howard to save. West Ham continued though, Dean Ashton volleying inches wide and Scott Parker heading into the side netting.
All the while Everton were happy to soak up the pressure, safe in the knowledge that they could well pounce at any moment. An Everton goal was always likely to involve Mikel Arteta, and as half time approached, his cross to the far post was headed back by Tim Cahill for Yakubu, who had escaped the clutches of Matthew Upson, to nod beyond Robert Green.
Everton are a bad side to concede to. Solid, they are a strong unit, and give little away thanks to the work of midfield patroller Lee Carsley. In an attempt to reverse the midfield dominance, Curbishley withdrew width in the shape of Nobby Solano for Mark Noble, yet the change confused his charges, with few players appearing to know where they were playing. Curbishley's Wingless Wanderers? It has a catchy ring to it.
The rest of the action was tiresomely predictable, West Ham hoofing long ball after long ball for Yobo and Phil Jagielka to clear, and the visitors were capable of wrapping the game up. They should have done so on 68 minutes but Leon Osman missed badly when clear, and then Green excellently repelled Arteta's header.
In stoppage time, however, substitute Andy Johnson settled the game, lobbing the stranded Green after Upson had failed to deal with a Phil Neville's long punt. Now then, when's the return match?
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Player RatingsRobert Green
He had little to do for most of the game, but still found himself beaten twice as those in front of him floundered.
He struggled at times with the fluidity of Everton's midfield, finding himself out on position on occasion. His passing was often wayward.
He was not helped by what was in front of him as he missed the injured Matthew Etherington, but McCartney has still enjoyed better games. Beaten by Cahill during the first goal.
Yakubu got the better of him several times and he looked ring rusty and cumbersome after a long time out with injury. He would probably have hoped to return in a less taxing fixture.
Guilty too often of the long ball syndrome, but perhaps can be excused due to lack of options. However losing Yakubu in the box was inexcusable, as was his part in the second goal.
Gave away both the ball and free kicks too often.
He was willing to get stuck in for the cause and repeatedly drove the team forward as the game went on. However his distribution let him down again.
His substitution was certainly strange, especially as his contribution had led to three chances.
The run was typical of the Swede. He should have scored but it is encouraging that he got into the position. Even so, he faded as the game went on.
A conundrum. He is not fit but must play due to other injuries, and during that time, his inability to show his true form may harm true perceptions of his ability. However it would be galling to believe accusations of sulks and laziness.
He gave the team a target to aim for, but was clearly playing with an injury.
(replaced Cole, 46) Fifth choice and fifth rate.
(replaced Solano, 59) He will probably get a chance next week. Here his intentions were obvious even though he could not pick the lock.
(replaced Mullins, 79) It is sad to see a youngster go through an experience like that, but it is one which will convince Curbishley that he is either not ready or not the answer. The latter is more probable.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Robert Green, Lucas Neill, George McCartney, James Collins, Matthew Upson, Hayden Mullins, Scott Parker, Nobby Solano, Freddie Ljungberg, Dean Ashton, Carlton Cole.
Booked: Freddie Ljungberg 91 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Everton: Howard, Neville, Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott, Arteta, Osman, Carsley, Pienaar, Cahill, Yakubu..
Subs not used: Wessels, Hibbert, McFadden, Gravesen.
Goals: Yakubu (45+1), Johnson (90+3).
Booked: Yakubu (85).
Sent off: None.
Man of the Match: Scott Parker.