|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
Evertonís Romelu Lukaku strikes at the last to edge past West Ham
Jacob Steinberg at Upton Park
Published Saturday 16 May 2015 17.17 BST
If this really was Sam Allardyceís Upton Park farewell, then how fitting that it ended with the sound of boos ringing in his ears and the sight of a few West Ham fans unfurling a banner calling for his removal at the end where Romelu Lukaku had just scored the winner for Everton.
The message was succinct and to the point: ďBig Sam OutĒ. Allardyce has been at West Ham for four years and although he can point to plenty of positives during his time in east London, the bald truth is that the majority of the locals simply do not like him.
When West Hamís board weighs up the pros and cons of offering Allardyce a new deal at the end of the season, this defeat will surely go down as another tick in the negative column. West Ham were in the top four at Christmas but they have deteriorated since the turn of the year, injuries weighing them down, and there will be a sense of disappointment if they cannot claw back 10th place from Everton on the final day. Evertonís victory moved them above West Ham on goals scored.
The rumours over Allardyceís future have swirled in recent weeks. His contract is up and the suspicion is that West Ham are minded to end what at times has resembled an unhappy marriage of convenience. They would love to tempt Rafael Benítez to east London.
Allardyce defended his record. He won promotion in his first season and has kept West Ham in the Premier League. He regards Sundayís trip to Newcastle United as business as usual.
Yet his confidence in his ability may not convince West Hamís owners, David Gold and David Sullivan, that he is the man to take them forward. It is a results business and West Ham lost again.
That Lukaku was the architect of their demise, creating Leon Osmanís equaliser and heading the decisive goal past Adrián in stoppage time, was predictable. Lukaku loves playing against West Ham. This was his sixth goal in six games against them.
The consolation for West Ham is that they probably did enough to hold off Everton in the race to qualify for the Europa League via the fair play table Ė assuming, of course, that they regard that as something to celebrate.
Everton had four players booked in the fair play clásico Ė Séamus Coleman, Gareth Barry, James McCarthy and the teenage debutant, Brendan Galloway Ė and Winston Reid was the only West Ham player who went into Kevin Friendís notebook.
The West Ham fans chanted about going on a European tour but if that bonus Europa League spot is given to them, their season will begin with the first qualifying round on 2 July. There are three qualifying rounds, finishing on 6 August and then there is a two-legged play-off to reach the group phase. It will be a slog.
As for the present, it was a sickening way for West Ham to lose. Everton deserved to win, though. Their football was slicker, they created the better chances and they responded well after Stewart Downing had given West Ham the lead in the 62nd minute, curling a lovely shot past Tim Howard with his left foot after fastening on to a fine pass from Alex Song.
West Hamís goal came during their strongest spell but they were predictable for long periods. Their 4-5-1 formation, with Carlton Cole on his own up front, rarely troubled Everton.
Osmanís equaliser in the 67th minute was a beauty. Lukakuís cross from the right was behind him, but he controlled the ball, held off Reece Burke, swivelled brilliantly and smashed a volley past Adrián from close range.
The Hammers keeper then made a spectacular save to deny Lukaku but he was helpless when a cross from the Everton substitute Aiden McGeady reached the Belgian at the far post in the dying moments. Out came that banner.