|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
West Ham frustrate Everton’s hopes of a top-four finish in incident-free draw
Paul MacInnes at the London Stadium
datePublished Saturday 22 April 2017 17.12 BST
A match almost entirely lacking in incident stymied Everton’s chances of catching the Premier League elite and proved Slaven Bilic is capable of some sly expectations management, as his scratch West Ham United team comfortably held Ronald Koeman’s side in their first goalless draw of the season.
“I think we can do a really short press conference,” said a clearly enervated Koeman after the match. “I’m disappointed about the performance. We were not the team we can be; we were far away in every aspect. We didn’t bring intensity in the game, we had a lot of ball possession, too many players in the centre of the midfield, we took too much time to switch the play. If you start a game like this, it’s always difficult to change. Maybe the temperature was a little different from the last few weeks too. You try to find a reason, but it’s difficult.”
Koeman was certainly right about the weather. With the sun shining across the open spaces of the London Stadium it was possible to detect a hint of summer in the air. Bilic embraced this theme of change, dropping his first-choice keeper, filling his first team with irregulars, his bench with kids and, finally, switching to an unfamiliar three at the back.
That side, after an opening 30 minutes in which neither team seemed able to pass the ball or summon up any tempo, was well organised and composed, and Bilic declared himself pleased with the day’s endeavours. “Especially if you’re talking about how solid we were, how composed, how we kept the shape, I was very pleased,” he said. “If you’re talking about effort and determination there is nothing more to ask. Apart from set pieces, we had eight or nine situations where you are expecting to finish it with a good shot. I think we deserved to win the game.”
Bilic’s gameplan – to stifle the supply to Romelu Lukaku and break directly – became more and more effective as the game wore on. The first instance of note came when a counter from the little-seen forward Jonathan Calleri forced Idrissa Gueye into a lunging foul that brought a yellow card in the 27th minute. The subsequent free-kick led to a corner and, from that, the forgotten midfielder Havard Nordtveit picked off two strong long-range efforts that were first blocked by a defender and then held by Maarten Stekelenburg.
In the 36th minute, another succession of set plays almost ended in the opening goal, after Winston Reid won the ball from a Manuel Lanzini corner, played the ball back to the Argentinian, whose second cross was met by James Collins at the back post, but his header was wide. Five minutes later and Morgan Schneiderlin was forced to clear for another corner, after Collins caused more complications for Everton’s backline.
With the game scoreless and the visitors off the pace, Koeman made a double change at half-time, bringing off one teenager, Tom Davies, for another, Ademola Lookman, while Gueye, who had been booked, was replaced by Gareth Barry. “I made a signal to the team with the changes,” Koeman said, “but I feel sorry for Tom and Gana [Gueye] because if I was allowed to change 10 I would have.”
Sadly for Koeman, the substitutions brought little effect. Their only effort of any note in the entire match came from Lookman, but his long-range shot flew narrowly over the bar in the 75th minute. For the Hammers, José Fonte should have done better with a far-post header from an 89th-minute corner. To record any more events here would be to afford them too much importance.
All in all, West Ham will be happy with a draw. Their home form this season has not been much to write about and this was only their 22nd point from the London Stadium. Goalkeeper Adrián kept a clean sheet on his return and two more of the Hammers’ dead men, Arthur Masuaku and Edimilson Fernandes, turned in decent performances.
Everton, meanwhile, surely waved goodbye to the Champions League dream in the meekest way possible. But still, at least the weather was nice.
MATCH FACTS, RATINGS, TABLE AND MATCH ZONE
WEST HAM (3-4-3): Adrian, Collins, Fonte, Reid, Masuaku, Fernandes, Nordtveit, Kouyate (Cresswell 79), Lanzini, Ayew, Calleri (Sakho 62)
Subs not used: Randolph, Rice, Makasi, Holland, Fletcher
Booked: Fernandes, Fonte
EVERTON (4-3-3): Stekelenburg, Holgate, Jagielka, Williams, Baines, Gueye (Lookman 45), Schneiderlin, Davies (Barry 45), Barkley, Mirallas (Calvert-Lewin 72), Lukaku
Subs not used: Robles, Kone, Pennington, Kenny
Booked: Gueye, Williams, Barry
Referee: Roger East