West Ham come to sticky end against Toffees
PUBLISHED: 17:22 16 May 2015 | UPDATED: 17:22 16 May 2015
Everton’s Lukaku strikes again as West Ham throw away lead
West Ham United 1 Everton 2
With one eye on the Fair Play League, the Hammers may have won the yellow card count 4-1 but it was Everton, who seized the points at Upton Park, where Romelu Lukaku’s late, late diving header gave the Toffees a sweet victory.
Stewart Downing looked to have set Sam Allardyce’s team on the way to securing a top-half spot and a half-century of points with his sixth goal of the season, on the hour.
But Leon Osman soon levelled and with both sides looking all set to share the spoils in the Boleyn Ground’s final game of the campaign, lethal Lukaku then struck again in additional time to send Roberto Martinez’s men level on points with the Hammers.
A Top Ten finish, 50 points and the somewhat onerous possibility of qualifying for the early July stages of the Europa League via the UEFA Fair Play place, were the incentives on offer to both sides as they went into their penultimate match of the season.
Kicking off in 10th-spot - just three points and one place above the visitors - the Hammers knew that there was so little to choose between these teams, with Allardyce’s side having only lost by the odd goal in three at Goodison Park back in November, before winning an epic FA Cup third-round replay 9-8 on penalties in January.
Following their defeat at Aston Villa last Saturday, West Ham made a trio of changes as Carlton Cole, Alex Song and fit-again Winston Reid came in for Kevin Nolan (family bereavement) plus substitutes Morgan Amalfitano and Reece Burke.
Pre-match, Big Sam had pledged that the Hammers would not be pulling out of any tackles to preserve their Fair Play ranking and, with referee Kevin Friend pulling the East Enders up for a trio of early fouls without reply, it was clear that they intended to live up to their manager’s promise.
Everton, who also suffered defeat last weekend, had made just one switch from the side that lost to Sunderland as Brendan Galloway replaced the injured Leighton Baines.
And while they were not committing too many fouls, the Merseysiders were threatening in the opening exchanges as Osman forced Adrian into a low, full-length save, before John Stones stabbed the resultant corner wide.
In reply, Hammer-of-the-Year, Aaron Cresswell saw an angled effort scrambled away from the base of his near post by Tim Howard and, after James Collins hobbled away to be replaced by Burke, the Everton keeper then fielded Enner Valencia’s 20-yarder.
On 26 minutes, Reid blotted the Hammers copy-book with a yellow card for body-checking the rampaging Lukaku and, shortly afterwards, the Belgian sent a rising 18-yard shot inches over the left-hand angle.
Mark Noble also let fly with an angled 12-yarder that scorched past the far post with Howard well beaten, while Seamus Coleman levelled the caution count for dragging down Valencia and Downing’s 25-yard sizzler was fisted out by the Goodison glove-man.
Right on half time, Gareth Barry was booked for crudely chopping Reid and, although that meant Everton were ahead on yellows, both sides were still showing zeros in the ‘Goals For’ column.
Neither Downing nor Ross Barkley got close to breaking the deadlock with wayward 20-yard efforts soon after the restart, while Lukaku’s curling free-kick from similar range struck the back stanchion.
On 62 minutes, however, the alert Downing did get the Hammers in front, when he strode on to Song’s cleverly stroked pass into the Everton area and, with work still to do, the former England winger fired a low, angled angled 15-yard shot across the face of Howard and into the far corner.
But the claret and blue joy was short-lived, for just six minutes later, Lukaku danced along the right-hand by-line, before crossing into the near post, where Osman got between Reid and Burke to juggle the ball waist-high and then volley beyond the helpless Adrian.
That leveller was the cue for out-of-contract Cole to depart the Upton Park stage for a final time to appreciative applause from the Hammers fans amongst the shirt-sleeved crowd of 34,977 and, with Nene arriving in his place, the Brazilian was quickly the victim of a juddering challenge from the consequently cautioned James McCarthy.
Kevin Mirallas and Aiden McGeady also replaced Barkley and Aaron Lennon and although Song headed inches over and Nene cleared the bar from distance, too, Lukaku served up a warning of his intent, when he forced Adrian to fist away his sizzling 18-yarder.
With the game heading into stoppage time, a fourth Everton booking for young Galloway, who had body-slammed Cheikhou Kouyate left the home fans chanting: ‘We’re all going on a European tour” but with just seconds remaining the Cockney knees-up was brought to an abrupt halt by Lukaku, who dived between Carl Jenkinson and Burke to head home McGeady’s cross into the six-yard box.
HAMMERS: Adrian, Jenkinson, Cresswell, Reid, Collins (Burke 14), Kouyate, Song, Noble, Downing, Cole (Nene 69), Valencia. Unused subs: Jaaskelainen, Jarvis, O’Brien, Amalfitano, Lee.
TOFFEES: Howard, Galloway, Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Lennon (McGeady 77), Osman, Barry, McCarthy, Barkley (Mirallas 69), Lukaku. Unused subs: Robles, Kone, Naismith, Besic, Garbutt.
Booked: Reid (26), Coleman (33), Barry (44), McCarthy (73), Galloway (90+1)
Referee: Kevin Friend.