Everton 0-1 West Ham United
Sunday, 17th October 2021
by Chris Wilkerson
With an autumnal sun in the air, West Ham came back from Goodison Park with another three points, an Angelo Ogbonna header the only goal and enough to earn his side victory.In what for many will always be considered a dangerous hunting ground, the recent trend has been turning in favour of the Hammers, with this hard-fought win now sitting alongside Soucek's smash and grab last season and the Payet-inspired 3-2 comeback of that famous year.
This weekend's showing certainly had a lot less zest, and certainly will be remembered for the points rather than the performance, but after a disappointing stoppage-time defeat at home to Brentford before the international break, winning ways were more important than anything else.
There was one change from that game against the Bees, Ben Johnson replacing the injured Vladimir Coufal as another academy player graced really made his mark on the first team squad.
West Ham opened full of fire, zipping the ball around and penning Everton into their own half. The hosts, shorn of Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, looked absolutely thunderstruck as every clearance and tackle just seemed to end up with the ball back with the boys in Claret and Blue. A masterful first half performance by Declan Rice was the who and the why, Rice marshalling the midfield in a return to a slightly deeper position and consistently allowing and forcing his teammates forward.
It was all West Ham from the off, with statistics like 82% possession after seven minutes, nearly five times the final third passes compared to the hosts after 20 minutes and a spectacle of domination. With one missing ingredient - a threat on goal.
For all the scintillating football played in front of the Everton back four, there was nothing to test Jordan Pickford. There were moments that could have led to much more, but Benrahma, Bowen and Cresswell were all guilty of wasting threatening positions with poor final passes.
Still, Moyes's side were purring, with only a harsh booking on Antonio to blot the copybook. The striker was accused of diving, but replays showed he fell avoiding a challenge. He looked incredulous, and rightly so, for he never appealed and can only have assumed the referee expected the forward to take the hit regardless. It was an attitude in the officiating that later saw Soucek left in a heap, bloodied across his face and of so little interest to the referee that he would not even stop the game, let alone give a foul.
Benrahma and Fornals had chances in dangerous positions, the former's wasted and the latter's blocked when seemingly beating Pickford, but still little came that will have truly scared the Benitez defence.
In fact, for all the flair on show by the away side, it was Everton who should have taken a first-half lead.
Demarai Gray, in resurgent form since arriving back in England, was delighted to square up Ogbonna down the right, beat his man and drill in a low cross. The defence went ahead of it, and the ball rolled to Alex Iwobi about eight yards out and in the centre of goal. Luckily for the Irons, his effort missed the ball entirely, his right boot flying past the ball as it rolled away to safety.
Everton started to find their footing, carrying more threat with less of the ball. There is a certain back-to-basics approach to Benitez's team, not dissimilar to his time at Newcastle, and their wide players were dangerous as they opened up the pitch and gave Doucoure the chance to bomb forward and join Rondon in the box.
With Everton getting to grips with things, West Ham conjured up their best openings of the half.
The first came to Jarrod Bowen, and was created by magic from Benrahma in midfield. A quick turn took three men out of the game, and his pass to Soucek was quickly laid into Bowen in the box. The winger, so often open to pass before shooting, kept his head down and drilled in a low effort. Pickford got down to his right well, but could only parry to Soucek as the Czech stormed in. He smashed the chance into the roof of the net, only to see the assistant referee's flag aloft.
As half-time approached, Fornals wasted a good opening. With time and space on the left of the area, and no one closing him down, the Spaniard should have done much better as his shot tamely sailed away from goal.
In a half they had dominated for at least 20 minutes, the Hammers came away with nothing to show for it, whilst Everton came back out with impetus.
A switch of Townsend to the right flank left the winger against Cresswell, and the full back failed too often to stop his man cutting inside and bending in dangerous crosses.
The forward, given little to work with and even less support, came as close as his side would all game with a lovely header from one such curling cross, beating his marker to the ball and subtly guiding it towards goal. One of only two men to score a hat-trick of headers in Premier League history, he was a little unlucky not to open the scoring with Fabianski beaten.
West Ham, on the other hand, had gone flat. It took about 20 minutes for them to offer much of anything, and when they did it was Benrahma once more. The Algerian was a frustrating figure in the game, often finding openings and wasting them with overhit crosses, misguided shots on goal or missed passes in crucial moments, but he was also the only player really capable of beating a man in a tight and laboured game.
It was another of his sudden turns that opened up Everton for Antonio to get an effort off in the area, the striker played into the box by Benrahma. With his shot struck well, it was Michael Keane who came across to make the important block and protect his goal once more.
There was little in it, but the spark had given West Ham confidence. A looping, deflected ball in the area fell towards Pickford, and the goalkeeper made a mess of things as he somehow allowed Antonio to win the aerial duel and earn his side a corner. The England goalkeeper raged to the referee, indignant a corner had been awarded, but replays showed the last touch had clearly been from his glove.
With a little red face all too evident, the goalkeeper was soon left distraught.
Bowen's delivery from the right was whipped in at goal with pace, and as Rice ran across to draw defenders out of space, Ogbonna rose at the front post and flicked the ball home from only a few yards, Pickford unable to even attempt a save and the West Ham players off celebrating raucously. In a tight game, it was not lost on anyone that one goal may well be enough for victory, especially with only fifteen minutes remaining.
The instructions were clear, whether from the bench or just from those on the pitch, and West Ham sat back deep to contain Everton and protect their lead.
Soucek, in arguably his most eye-catching game this season, had battled manfully in midfield throughout, supporting and complementing the grace of the captain Rice beside him.
But he was soon forced off, thrown to the ground by Rondon before the striker's stray boot planted onto his opponent's face and left him writhing on the floor. The midfielder was left with stitches near his eye, his head and his mouth, so one can only question what specific definition of head injury referee Stuart Attwell was following.
Dawson came on and any pretence of searching for a second goal was cast aside. The aerial prowess of Soucek is hard to match and could have been a real problem as rudimentary Everton piled pressure on and searched for the equaliser, so it was undeniably the right call from the manager.
Rondon puts his foot down on Soucek?EUR(TM)s face but the ref doesn?EUR(TM)t stop it. Head injuries don?EUR(TM)t matter.
It did invite Everton on, but it also afforded the attack space to break. Were Antonio to have had any real energy left, those breaks would have carried much more threat, but the striker was spent and appeared to lead some attacks at near walking pace. To his credit, one such break nearly produced that second goal, the striker setting up Bowen who dug out a fantastic effort, only to be stopped by a spectacular Pickford save. The much-maligned goalkeeper again feeding his critics and his supporters in this game, and England fans can only be happy that the Jekyll and Hyde approach is left with Everton rather than his national team.
There was still time for a late Everton chance in stoppage time. Cresswell tried to usher a ball out over the touchline, but was left red-faced as the forward poked it back into the area. An effort flew at goal, and Kurt Zouma saved the three points with a fantastic block that stopped a shot flying into the far corner,
Instead it was all smiles for West Ham as Moyes took the three points from his old side and pushed his current one above the Toffees in the Premier League table. When they were needed, last season's old friend came to the fore and the set piece magic returned once more. No side has scored more than the 29 of West Ham since the manager's first game back at the club and sometimes a tight game takes that single moment to settle it.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Left with very little to do, his one important intervention in the first half also had a slice of luck. He parried away a cross that would have been bundled in, but padding it down into the centre of the area was not ideal, and cost his side two weeks before.
A solid if unspectacular appearance, he proved there is more to his game than his very strong defensive work. He dribbled forward with ambition, but his crossing was reasonably poor. However, he managed to take all life out of Demarai Gray in the second half, no mean feat considering the form of the winger. And one cross-field ball with his weaker left foot was quite exquisite.
Delivery not quite perfect, but his passing from the back was strong. Involved in play an awful lot, having the most touches and making the most passes. Could have done more to stop Townsend crossing so often early in the second half.
The busier of the two centre backs defensively, that late block saved the day. Handled Rondon well.
Reasonably quiet in defence, doing his job without fuss, the goal was obviously crucial and taken well.
What a performance. Arguably faultless, probably only not a perfect game because he?EUR(TM)s got levels none of the rest have. I would not argue anyone who gave him a 10, such was his control in the middle and his intelligent football, but he has been better and let the game slip a little in the middle 30 minutes.
Absolutely battled in the middle, and had the forward players been better, he and Rice's early dominance would have been key to a comfortable win. Had more freedom in this, Rice staying deeper in midfield than he has most of the season, and it worked for him.
Much to the chagrin of some of my KUMB colleagues, I won't slate Benrahma here. He was inconsistent and infuriating, but there were moments from him that no other player in the team could have produced and created chances with that. Some work on his shooting and final ball wouldn't go amiss, it appears to be entirely about composure rather than technical skill.
The most threatening of the front four and the most reliable. Forced Pickford into his best moments of the game and needs to learn from that. When he dallies, he often wastes chances but if he can force himself to be a little more greedy, he has the ability to score more.
Aside from the fast opening, where Pablo excelled with clever intricate and fast passing, he was probably at his best when Soucek was removed and a wise head was needed in the middle to pass out from deep and not panic in possession. Needs to do better in front of goal.
He wasn't at his best by any means, but it was in his good moments that the team were most threatening. He earned that corner for the goal, probably as much on reputation impeding Pickford's judgement as anything else, whilst he did create chances for his teammates. Should be banned from shooting outside the box, he's never scored for us out there and not only did he shoot woefully, he wasted opportunities to play teammates through. But the big contributions weigh heavy.
(Replaced Soucek, 79) Didn't have a lot to do, but did his work solidly and in a way that showed he would impose himself physically on his opponents. He came on and played in a way that told Everton he was up for the battle.
(Replaced Benrahma, 87) Not on long enough to really make an impression, but passed well in central midfield when others were panicking.
(Replaced Bowen, 90) Barely on the pitch for long.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Ben Johnson, Aaron Cresswell, Kurt Zouma, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Said Benrahma, Jarrod Bowen, Pablo Fornals, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Angelo Ogbonna 74 .
Booked: Michail Antonio 9 Pablo Fornals 31 .
Sent off: None.
Everton: Pickford, Coleman (c), Godfrey, Keane, Digne, Allan, Doucoure, Gray, Townsend, Iwobi (Gordon 79), Rondon.
Subs not used: Begovic, Tyrer, Kenny, Holgate, Mina, Gbamin, Davies, Dobbin.
Sent off: None.
Referee: Kevin Friend.
Man of the Match: Declan Rice.