Premier League
West Ham United 2 Everton 0

Saturday, 21st January 2023
by Chris Wilkerson

West Ham United came out on top in their relegation six-pointer against Everton this afternoon, two first-half Jarrod Bowen goals enough to secure the victory in the game dubbed 'El Sackico'.

With his job on the line and going into their biggest game of the season, David Moyes backed himself, sticking with the approach he knew best and the ideals that took him to the heights he's reached. It earned his side a 2-0 win.


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There was rage and bafflement from the loudest on social media after the manager chose Michail Antonio over new signing Danny Ings, as well as changing to a back three with wing backs. For some, it was too cautious, too defensive, but the manager's decisions were justified as his side handled Everton with ease, and put them to the sword when the chances came.

It was everything you remember about the best of Moyes's West Ham; the Hammers playing in a compact shape and pouncing on the loose play of their embattled visitors.

It wasn't always pretty, but then it rarely was. It was efficient, smart and made on the foundations of a quite fantastic display by the three central defenders, with new boy Aguerd standing out. Ogbonna has been written off by many, but grew into the game as West Ham defended deeper, whilst the importance of Aguerd and Zoumawas shown in their first start together.

The game was not built on attractive football and you could see a lack of confidence and form in both sides. The first half can be best described with that wonderful clich?(C): like a chess match. In truth, that has always meant a game low on quality but with an interesting tension. You could see both teams desperation not to concede, rather than a desire to score.

Whilst the play was tentative, the signs of the wing back system working were there, at least on the left where Emerson was protected by the immense Aguerd and offered a threat down the wing that is quite unmatched within our full backs. Whether the lapses of concentration defensively are just one risk too far for Moyes remains to be seen, but there can be little doubt that he's earned a chance to be trusted at full back, rather than just at wing back.

Pickford did get West Ham fans off their seats after a dummy under pressure from Antonio in his own box looked perilous, but after that opening minute wobble, the first moment of drama was not for 15 minutes.

It came when Iwobi was given as much time and space as he could want on the right side of the box, with Benrahma tracking a runner and Emerson not on the scene.

His cross was poor, but Ogbonna lost it as it came in, and then the ball appeared to strike his arm as he leaned down to clear.

Everton players surrounded the referee, but VAR showed the defender heading it down against his upper arm.

What was beginning to shine through was the importance of Nayef Aguerd. Many of the kinder views on West Ham's season so far have pinned high importance to the Moroccan, and any doubters may be starting to see why.

It's not just that he's a good defender, it's that he brings huge strengths in areas of massive weakness for this team. He is composed on the ball, able to pass through the lines, short or long. He's dominant in the air, like Moyes would always demand, but exceptionally quick for a centre back. Emerson's pace in defence was welcome, but he was covered by Aguerd on multiple occasions even when both were in the same foot race, with Aguerd bounding beyond him.

Sometimes, when there is little goalmouth action to go on, you find yourself enjoying these things more. Kept fit, Aguerd will be West Ham's most important player for the second half of the season. He will be closely followed by Kurt Zouma, who was a little less assured, and fell over a comical amount, but is just a very good defender.

It was just before the half-hour mark that West Ham really tested Pickford. A bouncing ball came to Antonio on the edge of the box, who positioned himself in front of his centre back and laid off to Benrahma. After a touch for control, the Algerian hit a fierce shot that stretched Pickford, although he will be disappointed not to have got it closer to either corner, rather than down the ?EUR~keeper's throat.

There, though, was a sign of Antonio looking sharper than he has in recent months. It seemed that the striker was enjoying the challenge up against Everton's three big centre backs. There has been a lot of talk around the forward in January, and whether he stays or goes, this was a return to an Antonio people recognise.

As his touch got closer, he started to search space in the channels and make a nuisance of himself. Not one of Mina, Coady or Tarkowski wants to be stretched the width of the pitch to do their defending, whilst Antonio is happier running into space there than most strikers in the league.

Another subject of discussion has been West Ham's lack of goals from crosses and counter attacks this season, with neither having provided one yet.

So when an atrociously worked short corner was cleared to Emerson, most would have wanted the wing-back to drive down the line and open up space. Instead, the Italian international looped in a cross. It came down from heady heights and found Zouma, the defender flicking it goalwards right into the path of Jarrod Bowen, who stabbed the bouncing ball into the back of the net with his studs, giving Pickford no chance from inside the six-yard box.

One from a cross.

Now The Hammers had momentum and confidence, the two things Everton lack more than any other.

There was soon another chance from a cross, again from Emerson, who was proving that any risk-reward balance about his inclusion was worth it, providing more drive and verve than seen from any full back or wing back this season. His cross to the far post found Antonio in space, but his header was poor. It was by no means an easy chance, but eight yards out and not too wide of goal, he could have been expected to do better.

But only seven minutes after they had taken the lead, West Ham had a second. On the break, West Ham had Bowen driving to the right as he entered the Everton half. His pass down the line found Antonio, who waited, and then burst away as Tarkowski was suckered in and flew into the sliding tackle.

Antonio rushed away, pushing to the byline and stepping into the area. He looked up and played a ball across goal to Bowen, who reacted fantastically to the deflection on the cross and steered it home from close range to give his side a two-goal cushion and score two goals, fitting after his partner announced the pair were expecting twins.

One from a counter.

There was jubilation, but relief was really the emotion that came pouring over the West Ham fans. Confidence? No, but there is a breathing room that comes with seeing a team that has one point from 21 now taking a 2-0 lead. That anxious sickness could go away for a little bit.

Of course, with West Ham, no ride is ever that smooth. Iwobi was as close as he could get to giving his side something to hold onto, after crosses were not cleared twice. The ball dropped down into the middle of the area, where Iwobi stood in space. His shot was driven to the bottom corner, and Fabianski was beaten, however the outside of Rice's boot flicked at the shot as it went by and diverted it onto the outside of the post. That anxiety was back again.

If you wanted a sign of these players accepting where they are, how important this game was and how much the season needs to improve, it came in the celebrations of not just the goals, but vital interventions like this. Not only were Bowen and Rice geeing up the fans after the goals, but Rice celebrated this block like a goal, roaring as it rolled wide.

Going in at 2-0 up felt alien, but it was a sign of the difference in real quality between the two teams. Aside from former West Ham target Onana, who controlled their midfield, the Everton side just looked far from good enough to have an impact on the Premier League.

As fans returned to their seats, West Ham decided to give them a quick reminder that they could not relax. The away side should have been back in it almost immediately. After a cross from the left made it to the other side, it was pulled back to Gana Gueye in space in the box. Unfortunately for him, his touch was poor and Rice needed no second opportunity to clear.

Whether that moment of fear forced The Hammers back or the plan was to counter as the visitors got desperate, West Ham settled back into their shape and invited Everton on.

It did leave space for the counter, and West Ham should have taken better advantage of that, but whilst Everton stacked up their possession stats, Fabianski stood untested.

They had their moments, Iwobi often at the heart of them, one cute little pass around the back of the defence saw Calvert-Lewin lunge at the ball from six yards out, but the striker couldn't stretch to make contact. Anything meaningful surely would have ended in the back of the net.

It became a half where West Ham's discipline was the highlight, and the defensive performance was better than the anxiety around the ground gave it credit for. Give us time, it's been a while!

Emerson produced one of the better moments of the half, storming down the left wing and driving to the box. As Antonio made the wrong run, it convinced the wing-back to try his luck, and his powerful shot was flicked onto the bar as it almost went through the fingers of Pickford in the Everton goal.

It could have been all over from the resulting corner, Aguerd rising well to meet the looping cross, but having had to take a step back to meet it, the defender couldn't get above the header and keep it down.

There were more excellent interventions at the back, Ogbonna stopping a chance for Calvert-Lewin a highlight, but the game was fading away. Sat on the bench, Lampard seemed to have nothing to offer. His two half-time substitutions hadn't worked, and it appeared he was out of ideas. After this performance, he looks to be out of a job. After all those years celebrating, all those Chelsea goals, there was something delicious about seeing his managerial career burning to the ground on a visit to West Ham, the club he made his first steps into the game with.

With 20 minutes remaining, on came Soucek for Paqueta, a smart decision with the Brazilian on a booking and tasked with putting in a defensive shift, let alone all the crosses Everton were desperately throwing in. It was also the moment the new signing made his West Ham debut, Ings playing a deeper role when replacing Antonio, with Bowen now leading the line. He worked hard, showed good touches and reminded some that he is more than just a poacher.

But it was Declan Rice with the last chance of the game. He burst forward, and as Ings ran offside, the captain pushed on into the box and was unlucky to see his left-footed effort dragged wide from an angle.

Downes and Johnson came on for Benrahma and Emerson, really shoring things up, but Everton were done. This game, advertised as high tension, with high stakes, was dead and buried in the first half. Lampard will be lucky if his Everton tenure doesn't join it, and the Merseyside club may find this the season that they finally drop.

For West Ham, there's a fourth round tie in the FA Cup to come, followed by Newcastle, Chelsea and Tottenham. Strap in.


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Manager's Rating

David Moyes: 9/10
In a season where his methods have been questioned, he put out a team that was labelled as cowardly by detractors, but was not only brave, but also the right call. Antonio was excellent, Ogbonna brilliant, Emerson good and the wing-backs a useful system. The subs were smart and secured the game. Very well managed.

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Player Ratings

Lukasz Fabianski
Not really tested, although one cross he should have claimed was let bounce loose. Luckily, the flag was up.


Vladimir Coufal
Calm and assured, whilst not the perfect wing back, Coufal doesn?EUR(TM)t really let you down. Those defensive wobbles that had come into his game seem more the outlier than the rule, and he has looked closer to the real Coufal since the return after the World Cup. A diligent and disciplined defender, he may not have the pace to make a perfect wing-back, but he does commit to attacks and support Bowen.


Emerson Palmieri
Given the wing-role, with that little extra layer of protection, he came into the side and made a compelling case that he shouldn?EUR(TM)t leave it. The crossing was better, the overlapping opened up the flanks more and offered a threat, whilst his pace made him useful in transition going either way.


Kurt Zouma
Other than the amount of times he fell over, Zouma was brilliant. Not quite as imperious as Aguerd, but the standard of defending was vastly improved by Zouma and Aguerd returning. Things Dawson does that look last ditch are not going to happen as often with that pair, they are better on the front foot and less exposed by runners.


Angelo Ogbonna
Maybe a little too kind, but this was a level of performance that seemed beyond Ogbonna after such a long and troublesome injury. He was just back at his old school, Italian centre back best. No fuss, no frills, just defending. 15 clearances. He?EUR(TM)s gone from a spare part to a genuine asset.


Nayef Aguerd
The boy is an absolute thoroughbred of a defender. The best player on the pitch, he made up for any deficiencies in Emerson?EUR(TM)s defensive game, had pace to cover the rest of his defence, played progressive passes into midfield or beyond, and still flies into the air for booming headers. His fitness will make (or break) this season.


Declan Rice
The partnership with Paquet?? is improving with each game, and the Brazilian has taken a little bit of responsibility off the captain?EUR(TM)s shoulders. Rice looked better as the pressure lifted, and he has shown in recent interviews that the pressure has affected him. The celebrations for both goals, and his goal-saving deflection, were of huge relief.


Lucas Paqueta
It is great to see Paquet?? making this midfield work. His passing has helped the team, and taken a burden off Rice, but he digs in and seems to enjoy the defensive work, too. He needs a game where he just runs the show to really settle his reputation with the fans, but they really should be enjoying the beauty and the graft that combine in his work.


Said Benrahma
Some poor choices on the ball, some good ones that went without reward. He didn?EUR(TM)t have a great influence on things, but did seem to enjoy having Emerson with him.


Jarrod Bowen
News of twins has hopefully given him a lift, and it looked that way as he smashed in two. Great goalscoring instincts and work rate to get into the positions, follow the balls in, and make Everton pay for failing to track him.


Michail Antonio
Even in moments where he made bad decisions today, he looked sharper. The touch was closer, to turns were quicker. Leaving Tarkowski on the deck like that was calling back to last season. His movement made Bowen?EUR(TM)s life so much easier, and his ability to drag defenders into areas they don?EUR(TM)t want to be should not be underestimated. He is not a winger. Whether it was a swansong, a fired up Antonio or just a good performance, more of that is needed in a West Ham shirt. If it was goodbye, we can all be glad he went out playing well. He deserves adulation from this fanbase.



Substitutes

Tomas Soucek
(Replaced Paqueta 71) Came on and defended well.


Danny Ings
(Replaced Antonio 71) Not a lot to get excited about, but nice touches and good work in deeper areas are a reminder of his ability as a footballer, not just a goalscorer.


Flynn Downes
(Replaced Benrahma 81) Worked hard in his cameo.


Ben Johnson
(Replaced Emerson 81) Johnson on the left means overlapping runs and darting dribbles. But only on the left, his weaker side.


Alphonse Areola
Did not play.


Aaron Cresswell
Did not play.


Thilo Kehrer
Did not play.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Emerson Palmieri, Kurt Zouma, Angelo Ogbonna, Nayef Aguerd, Declan Rice, Lucas Paqueta, Said Benrahma, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.

Goals: Jarrod Bowen 34 Jarrod Bowen 41                .

Booked: Lucas Paqueta 56          .

Sent off: None.

Everton: Pickford, Coleman (Davies 46), Coady, Mina, Tarkowski, Mykolenko (McNeil 46), Onana, Gueye, Iwobi, Gray, Calvert-Lewin.

Subs not used: Begovic, Holgate, Vinagre, Price, Gordon, Maupay, Simms.

Goals:  .

Booked: Tarkowski (67).

Sent off: None.

Referee: Stuart Attwell.

Attendance: 62,470.

Man of the Match: Jarrod Bowen.