Everton fell to their seventh home defeat of the Premier League season, surrendering a 2-0 lead to West Ham.
The Blues’ spectacular implosion came having led until the 78th minute, with goals from Romelu Lukaku and Aaron Lennon.
But Kevin Mirallas’ dismissal after 34 minutes gave West Ham the numerical advantage, and the extra man took it’s toll when the visitors drew level through Michael Antonio and Diafro Sakho.
And Everton’s self-destruction was complete in the 90th minute when Dimitri Payet stole between Blue shirts to clinch three points for the Hammers.
Home form has to change – for everyone’s sake
The defeat to Slaven Bilic’s side is the seventh of a dismal campaign at Goodison Park. It’s also Everton’s third defeat in four games on home turf in the Premier League.
They’re the kind of statistics that need no explanation, and paint a pretty clear picture of Everton’s fortunes in their own back yard. If there’s one sure-fire way to upset your own fans, its to continuously disappoint at home.
And perhaps that’s what rankles most with the Everton faithful about Roberto Martinez’s reign. Everyone likes to win on the road, but it’s still seen as somewhat of a bonus; something to top up your home record.
But when you’ve lost more games than you’ve won at home, it’s difficult -from a managerial point of view- to keep the fans onside. Fans expect better, and they deserve better, regardless of mitigating factors such as red cards and missed penalties.
Have you ever seen a ‘good’ Lukaku penalty?
Speaking of missed penalties, how could we not talk about the game-changing one at Goodison? Lukaku has now taken six penalties in an Everton shirt, missing for the first time today.
Yet, I’ve never felt confident about seeing the Belgian step up and place the ball on the spot. Has anyone ever seen him take a good penalty? One that was well placed in the far corner? That hit the side netting? That was well-drilled; hit true?
All I can recall are weak kicks. Attempts just to the left or right of centre. Penalties stroked down the middle, run-ups with a stutter. Yes, five out of six have gone in, but why take the chance?
His penalty against West Ham, had it gone in, would have put Everton firmly in the driving seat, and would surely have killed off an away side one man up, but 3-0 down.
Instead, the game’s pendulum swung firmly in West Ham’s favour, unlike Lukaku’s penalty which was at the ideal height for Adrian to parry. Stutter and all, I’d like to see the Belgian taken off penalty duty until he learns to take one with more conviction.
Mirallas’ recklessness could prove the end for him
It would be unfair to lay the blame for Everton’s defeat solely at the door at Lukaku. Everton were still 2-0 up when the Belgian as good as breathed the ball in Adrian’s direction, and some lapse defending contributed to West Ham stealing the points.
It would be more than fair to look to his compatriot, Mirallas, whose idiocy and selfishness gave Everton an uphill struggle in the 34th minute.
Despite having the lead, and doubling it in the second half, it is a tremendous ask for 10 men to keep a clean sheet against a top 4-chasing gang of 6ft-plus beef-units. Perhaps the yellow card for diving was harsh (I’m yet to see a replay of the booking), but the decision to lunge recklessly and needlessly at Aaron Creswell gave West Ham an advantage they really didn’t need.
Mirallas let everyone down, including a manager who has not been shy to exile the winger for reasons of discipline. It might be some time before we see him start another game.
Martinez must answer to odd substitution
Bringing Oumar Niasse on for Lennon in the 76th minute was the wrong decision, rightfully bemusing Evertonians. But while the Martinez-Out faction will use the sub to batter the Spaniard over the head with, there seems to be a split between why it was the wrong substitution.
Some have pointed out that having two strikers on, while 2-0 up with 10 men was completely wrong and that Lennon should have stayed on the pitch. And while I cannot disagree with regards having two strikers on, it was surely the incoming change that should have been different, not the decision to change personnel.
Lennon was Everton’s hardest worker, and had demonstrably run himself into the ground. The sub was welcome, just not in the form of Niasse. Better for Gareth Barry to come on at that point, an experienced head to bring calm to the centre of the pitch and further shore up a 10-man blockade.
Were Everton ultimately undone by fatigue?
In the immediate, steaming aftermath of defeat, Evertonians have understandably pointed to Martinez’s substitution in the 76th minute.
Whether you agree with the timing of, or personnel involved in the substitution, is it really possible to subscribe to the belief that the change was responsible for conceding three goals?
What can be more accurately observed is the poor defending that allowed West Ham to nick the points. Ramiro Funes Mori, while having an excellent first campaign, got caught on his heels for the first two goals and was slow to react.
Similarly, Muhamed Besic failed to track the run of Payet, allowing him the space to pinch the winner.
Moments of poor defending, in an otherwise very good performance, cost Everton, and it would be unfair to ignore the impact that playing for so long with 10 men has on both body and mind.