1 Mar 2014 17:18
Striker returned from injury lay-off to come off the bench and grab late winner
Everton’s Romelu Lukaku celebrates after scoring the winner against West Ham
Romelu Luaku’s second-half goal on his return from injury got Everton back to winning ways after a tense encounter with West Ham.
The Blues responded to consecutive Premier League defeats with a dominant display, although the well-drilled Londoners had their moments on the counter attack at Goodison Park and limited the hosts to few clear-cut chances.
Victory, however, meant Roberto Martinez’s side edged back up into sixth place in the Premier League table, ahead of Manchester United who do not play this weekend.
Everton FC 1 West Ham United 0
Barely three minutes had passed when Steven Naismith, who kept his place in the starting line-up ahead of Lukaku, got his first sniff at goal. Stand-in skipper Leon Osman flicked on Leighton Baines’ cross and the Scot flashed a header just past the far post.
The Blues typically dominated the early possession, with some slick passing and found pockets of space behind West Ham’s midfield.
Gareth Barry, fresh from his latest England snub, unleashed a fierce 25 yard strike after one such fluid move.
So far so good. But West Ham showed their danger on the counter when one such move broke down, and Stewart Downing blazed upfield and almost created a chance for Kevin Nolan with a low cross that had to be deflected out for a corner.
Everton’s Steven Pienaar (left) in action
Nolan is a player in form and might have had a free kick on the edge of the area when Barry appeared to shove him over as he lurked with intent.
Fortunately Jon Moss waved play on, and at the other end Naismith again went close, this time forcing a save from Adrian at the near post.
Then it was Gerard Deulofeu’s turn, as the youngster confidently glided past five challenges into the area, ignored the better placed James McCarthy, and still managed to curl a delicious strike inches wide.
The persistent problem for Martinez’s men in recent weeks has been their inability to turn their dominance into goals. So it went, as half time arrived with the game still finely poised.
* Everton 1 West Ham 0 – rate each Blue in our online poll
Everton were playing all the eye-catching football though, and they looked to step it up a gear at the re-start. A wonderful move down the left involving Sylvain Distin led to a sharp one-two between Baines and Pienaar, and the South African’s first time shot had Adrian beaten but came back off the post.
In fitting with the see-saw pattern of the contest, undeterred West Ham went up the other end and forced Tim Howard into action, as he tipped Carroll’s vicious 20-yard snap-shot over the bar.
Martinez wasted little time getting Lukaku on for Leon Osman, and the big Belgian began to lead the line as Naismith dropped into the hole behind him.
Then Aiden McGeady was charged with trying to find a way past Allardyce’s supremely well-marshalled defensive unit.
With 12 minutes left time was running out, but Lukaku took his chance with aplomb when it arrived.
Everton’s Romelu Lukaku slots home
More fine work from Baines and Pienaar resulted in a low ball across the six yard box that West Ham failed to clear, and the 20-year-old pounced to ram it home.
Galvanised, he lashed another attempt over the bar from close range as the Blues remained on the front foot.
A few hearts were in mouths when the Hammers won a late free kick in a dangerous area. Allardyce furiously urged his men forward and the resulting set-piece was fired at Carroll, but the Blues – led flawlessly by Distin – dealt with it.
They had earned their victory and the ground they clawed back on fifth-placed Spurs, and departed with a spring in their steps ahead of a trip to the Emirates in the FA Cup quarter final which may yet see their season re-ignited on both fronts.
* Re-read Everton 1 West Ham 0 as it happened in our live blog
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