West Ham United started April by picking up a vital three points at home to Everton, as they beat them 2-1 on Sunday afternoon.
David Moyes made three changes to the side that lost to Tottenham Hotspur before the international break as Ryan Fredericks, Pablo Fornals and Jarrod Bowen replaced Arthur Masuaku, Manuel Lanzini and Ben Johnson. Vladimír Coufal returned to the matchday squad after injury but had to settle for a place alongside youngster Ajibola Alese on what otherwise looked to be a fairly experienced bench.
The visitors usually have a good record away to the Hammers but having said that, Everton hadn’t won on the road since August so the omens seemed to be largely in favour of the home side on this occasion.
Either side could have grabbed an early advantage but the defences were on top as both teams had to produce defensive blocks to keep the scoreline level as Fornals and Michail Antonio went close, while both Fredericks and Craig Dawson did well to keep out Richarlison. Bowen then tried his luck but his effort was straight at goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
Both sides play again in midweek so neither were prepared to give the other any sort of advantage in a tight start to the game. Despite a poor run, Everton looked a threat but West Ham also had their chances with Pickford thwarting Fornals.
Richarlison had a great chance to open the scoring but after Fredericks made the initial mistake he then showed his pace to get back into position and make amends brilliantly.
The home side then made the breakthrough just after the half-hour mark. Bowen was fouled and Aaron Cresswell stepped up to take the resulting free-kick. He managed to get the ball up and over the defensive wall, giving Pickford no chance.
The former Watford striker was close to beating home goalkeeper Łukasz Fabiański but the majority inside the stadium were relieved when it hit the crossbar.
Referee Michael Oliver then blew for half-time and West Ham were just forty five away from doing their first double over the Merseysiders for forty nine years.
The Toffees continued to look dangerous when the action restarted as Dominic Calvert-Lewin sent a shot goalwards but whatever the visitors were trying just wasn’t coming off for them as that also came back off the woodwork.
Just minutes later however, they did benefit from slice of luck as they were awarded a corner and although Fabiański punched it away, the ball then dropped at the feet of Richarlison. He found Mason Holgate, whose shot levelled matters, despite Fornals trying to get the block in.
The visitors weren’t on level terms for too long though as a mistake from Alex Iwobi gave Antonio the space to race into the box and shoot at Pickford. The goalkeeper could only parry and when Bowen was presented with the ball he found the empty net and the hosts had restored their lead.
Frank Lampard’s side were dealt a further blow when club Captain Michael Keane, who had been booked earlier in the match for stopping Antonio’s run was sent off when the two players were involved in a similar incident.
Moyes made his first change on seventy minutes as he replaced Bowen with Mark Noble and twelve minutes later, he shuffled his pack again as Andriy Yarmolenko was brought on in place of Saïd Benrahma.
Everton’s energy had been taken out of them after the needless sending-off, meaning that Moyes’ men were able to take their foot off the gas before another win was confirmed.
The East Londoners now have a few days to prepare for another “big” night in Europe when French outfit Olympique Lyonnais arrive in Stratford for the first-leg on Thursday night.