Calvert-Lewin and Everton check West Ham’s top four hopes
England forward’s first-half strike enough to earn Toffees a hard-fought three points
Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin scores his side’s opener against West Ham. Photograph: Justin Setterfield/PA
West Ham United 0 Everton 1
This was probably the day when West Ham’s dream of qualifying for the Champions League died. For the first time this season, they had the air of a team who did not truly believe. The pressure weighed them down and although it was impossible to fault West Ham for effort, Everton’s greater conviction in attack made the difference.
The margins were fine. At the end West Ham could point to a dreadful miss from Saïd Benrahma, who should have equalised in the first half, plus the moment when Vladimir Coufal saw a low shot hit the woodwork. Yet Everton, who are up to seventh and have a game in hand on West Ham, deserved a win that keeps their hopes of European football alive. Carlo Ancelotti’s side were measured and controlled in midfield, defiant at the back and clinical in attack, earning the points thanks to an excellent goal from the tireless Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
This was a bad moment for West Ham, who are five points below Leicester with three games left, to misplace their composure. Too many players in claret and blue were off their game during an awkward first half. It felt too forced, too frantic, too edgy. Michail Antonio was an early culprit, smashing a long pass hastily out for a throw when it would have been better to keep the ball, while Benrahma was a disappointment on the left.
Nothing quite clicked for West Ham in the final third. Jesse Lingard arrived a split-second too late when Antonio rolled a pass into the area from the left and West Ham lacked their usual intensity, struggling as Everton pressed high to force errors.
The problem for West Ham was partly that Manuel Lanzini was too lightweight a partner for Tomas Soucek, who is not the same force without Declan Rice alongside him in midfield. Rice was still not ready to return from his knee injury and with Mark Noble also missing, Everton were able to impose themselves on the hosts from the start.
Everton were the stronger team and had the tactical edge thanks to Ancelotti’s switch to a 3-5-2 system. Tom Davies and Allan offered bite in midfield, snuffing out West Ham’s creative talents with a series of timely interception, and provided the visitors with a platform to push forward. Gylfi Sigurdsson found space behind Soucek and Richarlison was a threat up front, repeatedly spinning away from Issa Diop to cause problems with his pace.
It came as no surprise when Everton broke through with a fine goal in the 24th minute. West Ham gave Ben Godfrey time to step into midfield and the centre-back punished them by releasing Calvert-Lewin, who had the pace to evade Craig Dawson and the composure to drill a low finish beyond Lukasz Fabianski.
Calvert-Lewin’s 21st goal of the season was no more than Everton deserved and the visitors could have added to their lead before the interval. Fabianski pushed Sigurdsson’s bending free-kick over and West Ham’s goalkeeper also had to save well from Richarlison after more good work from Calvert-Lewin.
West Ham, who had to pull Pablo Fornals back into midfield when Lanzini succumbed to a muscle problem, did not have a shot on target during the first half. They should, however, have equalised when Fornals curved a cross to the far post from the right. Benrahma arrived and planted an awful header over the bar.
At least it was a sign that West Ham could create chances. Everton fell back in the second half, protecting their lead, and had to defend well. They needed Michael Keane, Yerry Mina and Godrey to stand up to Antonio and protect Jordan Pickford’s goal. They also needed a slice of luck on the hour. Fornals found space and slipped a lovely pass to Coufal, arriving from right-back and desperately unlucky to see his shot hit the far post and bounce into Pickford’s grateful arms.
Yet while they huffed and puffed until the bitter end, West Ham did not create another chance. Everton got their blocks in and their defence headed everything away, even though Mina had to make way for Mason Holgate. They even could have added another on the break, only for Joshua King to head against the left post after replacing Richarlison.
When it was over Calvert-Lewin, who never stopped running, fell to the turf out of sheer exhaustion. The striker gave everything to the cause. It was West Ham who ran out of steam. - Guardian