WEST HAM UNITED 1 [Hibbert (og) 65] – EVERTON 2 [Saha 27, Gosling 64]
Gate: 32,466. Ref: Alan Wiley.
As expected, David Moyes started with a 4-5-1 formation. Louis Saha and Johnny Heitinga came in for Yakubu and the suspended Bilyaletdinov. A big surprise for anyone who saw Hibbert’s poor performance against Benfica was that he retained his place. We assume Lucas Neill is not fully fit or David Moyes is trying to preserve Hibbert’s shaky confidence, rather like a driver encouraged to get back behind the wheel after a nasty car crash. Robert Green made his 100th consecutive appearance for the Hammers while Spector and Zavon Hines – who netted a dramatic last-minute winner against Villa on Wednesday – came in for the injured Ilunga and Cole. Surprisingly, Noble was dropped in favour of Jiminez as Zola started with an attacking 4-4-2.
West Ham dominated the opening exchanges, playing some sweet football that will have pleased Gianfranco Zola, with Faubert and Hines looking lively. Then on 27 minutes Everton scored, completely against the run of play. Tim Cahill held the ball up on the edge of the West Ham area before laying it back to Saha who drilled a beauty into the bottom right corner, giving Green no chance from about 20 yards. The goal silenced the Boleyn Ground and visibly lifted Everton’s confidence; Saha almost added a second, heading narrowly wide from a corner.
West Ham started the second half more strongly with Junior Stanislas replacing Jack Collison. Saha appeared to be troubled by his calf again and came off in favour of Yakubu after 57 minutes. On 64 minutes the Toffees doubled their lead. Cahill and Yakubu fought for possession on the edge of the penalty area before the Yak played the ball to Gosling on the overlap; his first shot was blocked by Green but only back into his path and he hammered gleefully into the net. Game over? Not quite. Diamenti played a long ball over the Everton defence into the path of Stanislas who chipped Howard but the ball lacked pace and Hibbert looked set to hook clear but could only hoof the ball into the roof of the net. The Hammers sensed an equalizer but Everton’s battling qualities are not to be underestimated and they held firm to take a valuable three points and timely confidence boost ahead of the international break and the visit to Old Trafford in two weeks’ time.