Late equaliser keeps Hammers at the foot of the table
In a superb game at Goodison Park, frenetic from the off and after a second half that saw the result change hands three times, it was the Belgian with the late equalizer who saved the point for the home side, in what was a heartbreaking defeat for a resilient West Ham outfit.
David Moyes' side have, ironically enough, become a far more effective outfit since Tim Cahill, arguably the club's best player, left Merseyside to join up with Australia for the Asia Cup in Qatar. Forcing the Scot into a 4-4-2 formation from his usual five man midfield, the Toffees have become a far more clinical outfit in the absence of their talisman and it was the same side that secured a point in last week's Merseyside Derby at Anfield that lined up to face Avram Grant's struggling side.
The visitors' owners may have kept faith with their beleaguered manager but Grant, who saw his side demolished against Arsenal last week, rung the changes with Frederic Piquionne and the Scott Parker, the engine that returning to the Hammers starting lining up.
It was the visitors that created the early chances, breaking up Everton possession, with a vigor that has so often been lacking for the Hammers in recent weeks. They nearly took the lead after six impressive opening minutes, with Mark Noble receiving the ball on the edge of the box from a lovely Scott Parker ball but the young midfielder panicked, frenetically swinging the ball over the bar. It was a statement of intent from the Hammers, who were prickling with energy, albeit a little nervous.
For all of West Ham's invention, as the opening exchanges meandered slowly on, it was the home side who were becoming stronger in possession and on the 20 minute mark, with a lucid exchange of passes between the Everton midfield and front two, Jermaine Beckford was threaded the ball in the West Ham box, only to hesitate and see Rob Green smother a weak attempt at his feet. It was a wonderful passage of play by the Toffees but it should have been 1-0.
Everton scented blood and it was only some desperate but admittedly effective defending from Avram Grant's side that kept the Toffees out as the game neared the conclusion of its opening third.
However, the old adage of possession is nothing without a goal rang loud and true at Goodison after an intense period of Everton pressure broke down, Luis Boa Morte picked up the ball finding acres of space down the left and after a burst of pace that defied his years, the Portuguese wide man showed superb awareness to slip in Jonathan Spector, who was waiting gratefully to slot home his first ever Premier League goal.
Everton were rattled and with the home fans getting on their back, David Moyes' side were crumbling. With West Ham reinvigorated, it should have been two as Piquionne, meeting a cross superbly in the air nearly doubled the visitor's advantage, only to see his effort hit the inside of Howard's post and agonizingly roll across the face of the goal in front of a massively relieved Gwladys Street end.
Everton struggled to take hold of possession once again and following a disjointed first half performance by the home side, West Ham gleefully went in at the break a goal to the good. A chorus of boos rang around Goodison Park as Peter Walton blew his whistle, with David Moyes looking equally unimpressed.
Louis Saha, who had five goals in his last four games against the Hammers, returned from a thigh strain for Jermaine Beckford, who with a heavy touch and nervousness in front of goal, will have few complaints to offer Moyes.
The second period started in a similar vein to the end of the first, with West Ham keeping out an Everton side with the look of a team with their manager's barked orders still ringing in their ears and the hosts weren't giving the Upton Park outfit an inch.
Everton thought that their pressure had been rewarded when, amidst a chorus of desperate appeals, Victor Anichebe fell in the box under an aerial challenge from James Tomkins. In truth, it was a limp effort by the Nigerian, going to ground far too easily and had more than a hint of hope over expectation in his appeal.
History was appearing to repeat itself and as Everton looked like they were to set up camp in the Hammers half on the hour mark, Grant's side countered again. It was Spector, who was performing superbly down the right-hand side for West Ham, who found space in front of Tim Howard's box, only to see his effort fly harmlessly over the bar. Everton were anxious and their frustration was showing, with Mikel Arteta misplacing passes, delivering a performance that was merely a shadow of his brilliant best.
It was the Hammers however that were playing with confidence and with the tempo not lowering for a second, the belief radiated from the visitors and after a marauding run from Wayne Bridge, who looked a different player to the man who struggled so massively against Arsenal last week, the Toffees nearly conceded again.
However, as is the way when you are languishing at the bottom of the table, West Ham's fine defensive work was spoiled when, after further pressure from the Blues, Phil Neville delivered a cross, only to see it cleared by Piquionne into a grateful Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, who hit a superb effort into Rob Green's bottom corner to equalize.
Everton should have scored another almost immediately afterwards, when Seamus Coleman, picking up on a save from Rob Green after Louis Saha's twisting shot, only to hit the ball over in front of an open goal. It was a terrible miss and provided the Hammers some hope.
It was justified and the Hammers, who could so easily have wilted as the home side chased a winner, provided a further swing on the pendulum, summing up what had been a superb previous 85 minutes, connecting with a fine header to secure what seemed like the win for the visitors. Piquionne, who had already been booked, dove into the crowd and was sent-off for his troubles, in what seemed like a terribly harsh decision from referee Peter Walton.
However, when sweet relief for Grant seemed certain, there was a final sting in the tail when Fellaini, deep into stoppage time, collected the ball in a goalmouth scramble and in the cruelest but also most fitting possible way, equalized for the Toffees and kept West Ham at the bottom of the table.
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