Match Reports

Holgate the shining light in a drab Everton draw at West Ham

In a battle of Moyes vs Ancelotti, both men walked away having seen their sides fight to earn a point.

The game began with Ancelotti making four changes to the side that defeated Brighton a week prior. Richardson and Sigurdsson missed out with injury, replaced in the starting lineup by Kean and Delph respectively.

Ancelotti also made changes to the back four with Keane and Sidibe being swapped out for Mina and Coleman.

The match began with West Ham on the front foot as Everton struggled mightily to gain control in the game. This was largely due to the superb pressing of the Hammers and the sloppy passing of Everton. The midfield especially struggled in the first half with Delph and Davies being physically outmatched by Noble and Rice. Therefore it was no surprise to see the early chances falling to West Ham, with Haller spurning two good opportunities in quick succession. Firstly, the 6 foot 3 Frenchmen headed Pablo Fornals’ superb cross wide.

However, the second chance for Haller was far more clear cut. Lucas Digne was easily dispossessed in the midfield, a constant theme in the first half, and the ball fell to West Ham captain, Mark Noble. Noble strode forward and slipped in Haller who had just Pickford to beat. Nevertheless, Pickford stood tall and saved superbly with his foot.

From then on Everton began to grow into the game, with Moise Kean impressing. The young forward found space easily and showed off all of his pace and power thus proving a nightmare for Angelo Ogbonna to handle. This improvement in Everton’s play lead to the Blues’ best chance of the game on 31 minutes as they forced West Ham’s goalkeeper, Darren Randolph into action for the first time in the game. Lucas Digne played a superb one-two with Fabian Delph and got in behind the Irons defensive line.

Digne fizzed in a brilliant ball which found it’s way to Theo Walcott at the back post but Walcott scuffed his effort and gifted Randolph a comfortable save.

Despite Everton’s growing confidence, it was West Ham that hit first 40 minutes into the contest. Fabian Delph gave away a needless free kick that proved a costly mistake. Robert Snodgrass delivered a perfect ball into the Everton penalty area which met the head of Issa Diop.

The young centre back flicked his header home, leaving Pickford with no chance and West Ham with the lead. The more pessimistic of Everton fans would have feared the worst having seen their side register just 1 point from a losing position all season long.

However, their fears were proved unjustified just 4 minutes later as Everton hit back.  

Everton won a corner and Lucas Digne stepped up to take. Digne swung in a magnificent ball that found Mason Holgate. Holgate’s flick was met by Calvert Lewin at the back post and Everton’s number nine headed home to send the travelling Evertonians into pandemonium.

West Ham almost hit straight back as Zabaleta delivered a brilliant cross and Pablo Fornals headed the ball towards goal for what seemed like a certain goal. However, Jordan Pickford produced a quite unbelievable stop to keep the game level entering half time.

The second half began with Everton fans getting a glimpse into the future as Anthony Gordon made his Premier League debut, replacing Bernard at half time. The Toffees began the half on top and should have gone ahead on 50 minutes. Delph played a magnificent ball into Walcott, who had the relatively simple task of finding Calvert Lewin for a certain goal, but the winger could only fire his cross into Issa Diop for an Everton corner.

It was an opportunity missed and yet another example of Walcott’s lack of end product, something that has plagued him throughout his career. From then on, the match was mainly played out in the midfield areas with scrappy play and a clear lack of quality defining the contest. It was clear a moment of magic or an individual mistake was the only way in which a winning goal would be found and on 55 minutes the latter almost came to fruition.

A routine catch for Pickford very nearly turned into a disaster for Everton as Pickford dropped the ball and it fell at Haller’s feet. With the goal at his mercy, Haller scooped his effort over Pickford but was denied by a fantastically positioned Mason Holgate, who cleared the effort off the line. Haller threatened the Everton goal once more soon after as his towering header was just kept from going over the line by a less than convincing Jordan Pickford stop.  

The final half an hour was entirely devoid of quality and left a draw looking certain. Gordon impressed and, despite his young age, looked the most likely to find a winner for his boyhood club. His pace, trickery and confidence was on full display as the 18 year old appeared to settle into the game as the clock ticked by.

However, in spite of both teams best efforts, a winner never came. The game fizzled out and ended in a deserved point for both sides. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a good point in the end for Everton.

 The man of the match was clear as, not for the first time this season, Mason Holgate was comfortably Everton’s best performer. The 22 year old looks like a veteran in the heart of the Everton defence and has quickly established himself as the Blues’ most consistent performer this campaign.

His pace, toughness and superb reading of the game has lead to a string of impressive performances by Holgate, who will most certainly be in Gareth Southgate’s thoughts when it comes to selecting his next England squad. 

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I have been a blue since the age of 5 and live and breathe Everton. I hope you enjoy my work and we all enjoy some Everton success. COYB!

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