Saturday, 22nd November 2014
As with last season's visit to Goodison, Everton, in the end, just about deserved their victory. Mostly, be it noted, on the strength of the fact that they had the two best of very few good chances for either side.
The winning goal was a breakaway from a West Ham corner. Clattenburg made one of too few good decisions in the game in allowing an advantage when Collins tried and failed to do a 'professional' on Lukaku. Eto'o pulled an excellent ball back across the 6 yard box for Osman, playing his 400th Everton game, to slide comfortably past a despairing Adrian.
How Eto'o himself failed to finish things off in stoppage time, missing a sitter, was a bit of a mystery; took it on the wrong foot, I think. But in one sense, this was March 1st all over again - we earned a point but didn't deserve it; not quite.
Everton this season have our injury problems of last, and the international 'break' has helped neither side. If the game lacked fluency, 9 changes between the sides, 5 of them ours, were a prime cause. Kouyate wasn't necessarily the greatest loss - he's not found pre-injury form since his return - but take Sakho, Valencia, and Song out of our team all at once? The biggest absence, perhaps, was Downing, though.
Without all of those players, our creativity was largely torn out of the side. It's no criticism of Sam to say that, particularly starting with Cole and Carroll up front, we very definitely reverted to the style of previous seasons. Very square, practically nothing through the middle, up the flanks and cross it, certainly in the first half. The trouble is, our delivery, mostly, was rather less than good. If we missed the Everton defence, it was usually too close to Howard instead.
Whilst the general quality of the match wasn't the greatest, there was certainly no shortage of incident. In the first minute, Adrian had to be smartly off his his line to deny Mirallas after a cute ball through. That the offside flag went up takes nothing away from the save; Adrian didn't know.
The game then became somewhat cagey for 15 minutes. In that time, Carroll played a cracking cross-field pass to Jenkinson, after good work by Cole, that eventually resulted in a dangerous low ball across the Everton area that no Hammer could meet. Mostly, though, we conceded too much possession, in two senses.
Everton, although they weren't threatening much, had an awful lot of the ball. We weren't pressing them high up the pitch, as we usually have done this campaign. In that, the absence of both Song and Kouyate was noticeable. To compound that, too often when we did get the ball, we gave it away cheaply. Not that Everton, particularly with longer passes, were especially accurate in the final third either.
The first of several poor refereeing decisions came on 20 minutes. I'm sure Gordon Thrower, in his match report, will have something to to say about Barkley's blatant no-contact dive. I'll confine myself to the following.
I am not an advocate of increasing the use of video technology in-game. The goal line system has been a useful innovation, but instantaneous, importantly. I don't want to see games being constantly held up to wait for what are not always conclusive replays. There is, however, a crying need for a Rugby Union style post-match review panel to examine incidents like this and correct them. Post-match yellows for things like diving and shirt-pulling in the area would eliminate many problems within half-a-dozen games.
As it was, Nolan was wrongly booked, and Barkley got away with cheating. In fairness to Clattenburg, from his angle, it would have looked like there was contact, and justice was at least done with a truly awful free-kick the result, but 5 minutes later we fell behind, courtesy of another poor decision. Having said that, the first two goals in the match were both things of comedy, rather than beauty, but Everton's first was still poor defending on our part.
There were 5 or 6 Toffee touches around the edge of our box, none of which were hindered by a meaningful challenge. Reid slid in to block a Barkley shot, but a lucky ricochet fell to Lukaku, who buried it. Second mistake of the match from the officials - Lukaku was clearly offside, and a block by a defender is NOT a pass, and so does not play him on. The flag did not go up, and the goal stood.
Our equaliser was every bit as fortunate, mind, if legal. Five minutes into the second half, Sam made a double change. Jarvis replaced the hobbling Noble, Zarate the hard-working Cole. A bundle of energy and tricks from the moment he came on, it was a Zarate shot from the edge of the box that took a huge deflection off of Jagielka's heel to loop over the stranded Howard.
At the point we fell behind again, one-one was a fair reflection of the state of play. Sam's substitutions have often made an impact this season, and today was no diffferent. We'd started with all 3 senior centre backs, but if Sam's intention was 3-5-2, I'm not convinced.
It looked more like 5-3-2, and we were much too deep before the substitutions. Noble has energy, but only ordinary pace, Nolan doesn't have pace, and Amalfitano, although he worked, is neither the tightest nor most aggressive midfielder, so it's no surprise we were conceding possession.
Amalfitano provided the next flashpoint in the game after the opener or, rather, was the unwilling victim, when McCarthy lunged in from distance and caught him five minutes before half time. At first sight, it looked a rash and clumsy challenge, later slo-mo replays showed an ugly one. Our players, particularly Reid, reacted, their players reacted to the reaction, general handbags ensued. Only Amalfitano, still on the floor, and Adrian were not involved.
By the time it had calmed down, Reid was booked, McCarthy was booked, and we, errr, had a throw in, not a free kick, didn't we? So what was McCarthy booked for then? As with the Nolan incident, I think the action took place directly away from the ref, with the player's body in the way, which is just as well for McCarthy. Seen from a different angle, challenges like that are not infrequently given red cards.
From thereon, it seemed to me that Clattenburg had rather lost control of the players. Although it was not a particularly dirty game, it all seemed to get a bit feisty after that, with regular verbals and minor bits of argy-bargy occuring for the remaining 50 minutes or so.
The worst incident was on the hour, and I can't find anything to say to mitigate this one for any of the offending parties. With Zarate and Jarvis on, Tomkins was pushed into midfield as we went 4-4-2. We looked much the better for it, equalised 5 minutes after the change, and went on to have much the better of the second half, only to be caught with a sucker punch on the break on 72.
On the hour, though... Tomkins clearly fouled Mirallas in the midfield. When Clattenburg didn't give it, a miffed Mirallas steamed after the ball, only to chop Amalfitano down from behind on the touchline. Tomkins rushed over to shove Mirallas on the shoulder, the latter turned and shoved Jimmy back, in the chest... And Mr Tomkins then, disgracefully, embarassingly, bent over clutching his face, a far worse piece of play-acting than Barkley in the first half.
Quite honestly, Tomkins could have had two immediate yellows for pushing and for play-acting, Mirallas should have had two yellows for fouling from behind and for pushing back. Raising your hands is risky, and can get you a red no matter what. For a simple shove, a yellow is sufficient in my opinion.
What the ref can't do, however, is give one player a yellow for that offence, but not another. He bottled it. He has either failed to give both players a yellow for the pushing, or he has failed to give a clear yellow for the foul from behind. Mirallas should have gone, Tomkins possibly, too.
You could add that McCarthy might have gone for the first half foul, and that Collins could have gone for the very blatant attempt to foul Lukaku in the run-up to the second Toffees' goal, rather than merely being booked in the aftermath. There, however, I think Jenkinson haring back beyond Collins persuaded the ref that Collins wasn't the last man.
But that booking, the decision to play advantage, and the ruling out of a second Everton goal in the first half (both Lukaku and Barkley were offside) were about the only things that mattered that the officials got right today. I've not even mentioned the first half Naismith foul from behind on Noble, that eventually led to Mark being subbed. Maybe Clattenburg doesn't think fouls from behind are automatic bookings any more, but that would be news to everyone else. A game to forget for them.
From there, you can play "What if...", if you like. What if McCarthy had been red-carded? Would we have changed formation? The 3 centre backs gave us great solidity. For all of Everton's first half possession, it took a ricochet and a missed offside to beat Adrian who, after the first minute, had no meangiful save to make, given that he had no chance for either goal.
The trade-off, though, was that we were struggling to get hold of the ball in midfield, and our delivery from wide wasn't great today, even after the changes. Too often, we didn't even get the ball fully down the flanks, preferring instead to try long diagonals into the box from further back.
Sam's first instinct, particularly with awkward away games, is to set up not to lose. He recognised that it wasn't working, in an attacking sense, and changed it. But had Everton's opener been correctly chalked off, had it been 0-0 and Everton a man short at half time, would he have done so?
It wasn't, they weren't, and he did change things. We looked far more potent with Zarate buzzing around as a result. Perhaps we might have done better had we started that way? Certainly, if Mirallas had been sent off, as he should have been, I could only have seen one team winning it from that point. What if Ginger had gone? We might have conceded again; we very nearly did; but we lost anyway.
"What if", whilst sometimes fun to indulge in, is always a bit futile. What we got was what we got. That was a fully committed performance from everyone. That it was a bit disjointed cannot be complained about in the injury-hit cirumstances. If the officials ultimately cost us more, they were poor for everyone.
Man of the Match was nearly an awkward one. As the game, so most of our team were also curate's egg - something good, something bad. Adrian made that one good save in the first minute, but his kicking off the ground was poor throughout.
One bad backpass aside, Jenkinson defended well, but was wasteful going forwards. Cresswell was caught in possession or out of position several times, although he made excellent challenges at other times.
The centre three were all solid, but all blotted their copybooks. Reid stupidly got himself involved in something he didn't need to, got booked, and is now suspended. Collins, well, you could see that all he was going to do was foul Lukaku about two seconds before he failed to do a proper job of it! And Tomkins? I might have given it to him, but not after that pathetic, cringe-inducing moment on the hour.
Noble worked hard, but lacked the support he needs around him, picked up a knock, went off. Nolan was too often forced to come deep, and lacks the pace these days to get fully back and fully forward in quick time. Consequently, there was often too much of a gap between midfield and forwards.
Amalfitano tried his best but was often hardly in the game, and had a couple of decent chances to get the ball on target but missed both completely. Big Andy showed a few good touches, but unsurprisingly looked rather rusty. Carlton worked as hard as always, but his best work was done in our midfield area, both forwards suffering from a lack of good service.
In what is a first for me, I think, it's a sub that gets the award this time. Zarate, for the zip and zing and creativity that he displayed, is my Man of the Match. From the moment he came on, he was trying to make something happen. It would be unfair to the rest to say he single-handedly got us back into it, but the change of formation combined with his energy meant that we had the better of the second half, equalised, and were a bit unfortunate to lose.
That's Everton vs West Ham for you - it always seems to happen! Still, with all due respect to our forthcoming opponents, we now embark on a run of games in the approach to Yule, all of which are winnable. There are no easy games in the Premier, and I'm not suggesting that we will win all of them. The way we've played this season, for the most part, though, means there's no reason for us to fear any of the next five fixtures.
The toughest of them comes first. After all the media hoo-ha, Pardew has turned Newcastle into the form team of the division over the last few games and himself into a, well, hero is probably too strong a word. Five straight wins in the league, plus a victory over City in the League Cup, is impressive from any team, all the same, never mind one that was in disarray not so very long ago.
The key question will be how many of those five injured players can we get back to fitness in the next week? If we can get only three or four of them back, it ought to be a rare old game at the Boleyn next Saturday...
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Adrian San Miguel del Castillo
No chance with either goal, one good save in the first minute, comfortable with everything else except clearing backpasses.
It's a very borderline 6 / 7. Defended well, and pressed forward well. The majority of attacks were up the right, but his delivery was nothing like as good as it might have been. A shame - we might well have won, otherwise!
Nearly cost us several times with poor play, but stopped what might have become good Everton chances at others.
Solid in defence, but had no need to dash 25 yards to get involved with McCarthy.
Had a very solid game as well, but should be thoroughly ashamed of himself for his awful acting!
Worked hard, but looks much better with Song or Kouyate alongside to take some of the load off his shoulders. Never recovered from being clobbered by Naismith on 37; off on 50.
A bit in and out of the game today. Hasn't convinced me yet that he deserves to be starting when we've a fully fit squad.
Was one of only a couple that weren't curate's egg today. No blots, but not much in the way of standouts either. Often too deep to link with the forwards, through no fault of his own.
Defended solidly for the most part, but it was perfectly obvious what he intended to do to Lukaku and he didn't do it right, which opened the door for their winner.
Did his best off little service. As always, showed a few good touches and a willingness to fight for possession. Above all else, lasted 90 minutes, and that will, hopefully, have done him a power of good!
Battled hard, also showed some nice touches, but often had to work deep to see anything of the ball. Sacrificed to change the formation.
(replaced Cole) From the moment he came on, was causing trouble for the Everton defence, winning corners, making space. Goal was fortuitous, but if you don't shoot, you don't score!
(replaced Noble) Also looked lively, as you would expect, and did OK, though he wasn't able to make the same impact as Zarate.
Ricardo Vaz Te
(replaced Amalfitano) Had about 15 minutes, all told. With 3 of his first 4 touches, he failed to find a team-mate, improved a bit from there, but rounded things off with a truly horrible attempt at a cross in stoppage time. Just not good enough.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg.
Man of the Match: tbc.
West Ham United
Adrian San Miguel del Castillo, Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Cresswell, Winston Reid, James Tomkins, Mark Noble, Morgan Amalfitano, Kevin Nolan, James Collins, Andy Carroll, Carlton Cole.
Goals: Mauro Zarate 56 .
Booked: Winston Reid 0 James Collins 0 James Tomkins 0 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Tim Howard, Seamus Coleman, Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin, Tony Hibbert, James McCarthy, Leon Osman, Kevin Mirallas, Steven Naismith, Ross Barkley, Romelu Lukaku .
Substitutes: Samuel Eto'o (Kevin Mirallas 66), Muhamed Besic (Ross Barkley 80), Christian Atsu (Steven Naismith 89).
Subs not used: Joel Robles, Tyias Browning, Luke Garbutt, Ryan Ledson .
Goals: Romelu Lukaku (26), Leon Osman (73).
Booked: Kevin Mirallas, James McCarthy.
Sent Off: None sent off..
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