West Bromwich Albion 1-2 Everton: Toffees prevail in entertaining Hawthorns clash
Image credit: PA

Ronald Koeman grabbed his first win as Everton boss, as his side came back from a goal down to beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 at the Hawthorns at a sunny day in West Midlands.

Kevin Mirallas' well-worked strike at the end of the first half cancelled out Gareth McAuley's early header. Former England international Gareth Barry's header from close range, on his 100th appearance for Everton, on the hour mark was the decider against Tony Pulis' men, despite their best efforts at snatching the equaliser.

The Baggies doing what they do best

Ronald Koeman's men, who had been slotted into an uncanny 3-4-3 formation, with Gerard Deulofeu up front and James McCarthy at right back due to the absence of Seamus Coleman, had Romelu Lukaku on the bench following his exclusion from the line-up against Spurs last week.

West Brom, on the other hand went with the flat 4-4-2 formation, with last week's match winner Salomon Rondon and Saido Berahino up front and the Arsenal linked Jonny Evans at left back. Tony Pulis' side were seen defending in blocks of two, with Berahino operating almost like a number ten with Rondon acting as the out and out forward.

Everton were afforded possession throughout the half, while the Baggies dropped deep to defend and pressed efficiently well up front. Despite having a majority of possession, Everton failed to muster enough shots on target to even come close to troubling Ben Foster in goal. Deulofeu's inability to adjust himself up front, meant the Toffess lacked penetration and a focal point of attack, with the side struggling to get their passing rhythm going.

A floated, deep Craig Gardner corner in the ninth minute saw centre-half Gareth McAuley rise above everyone else in the the box, as the Northern Irishman headed home from close range to hand West Brom the lead. 

The goal helped West Brom stick to their plan of staying compact in the midfield further, allowing Everton as much possession as they wanted. Breaking down the Baggies shape seemed a tough task for the Toffees.

The struggle dragged on for Everton until Ronald Koeman decided to make a first half change that saw Lukaku come on for McCarthy, with Deulofeu dropping onto the right and Lukaku operating in his favored position up front. With the big Belgian on, Everton looked like a side with intent, with the ambition of equalizing, contrary to with Deulofeu up front. 

As the half wore on, Everton grew into the game and somehow got their passing rhythm going. Lukaku's presence and hold-up allowed the duo of Kevin Mirallas and Ross Barkley to move off the ball in a more slick manner. Everton's equaliser came in the second minute of stoppage time at the end of the first half, as a beautifully constructed move by Kevin Mirallas saw the Belgian find the back of the net after commendable link-up between Barkley and the former Olympiacos man.

Everton celebrate after Mirallas goal. Photo: Liverpool Echo
Everton celebrate after Mirallas goal. Photo: Liverpool Echo

The Toffees' persistence pays off

The second half saw the game stretch, as the teams played with more freedom. Maarten Stekelenburg had to go down well to deny Darren Fletcher five minutes after the second half kicked off, as West Brom refused to abandon their structure in the midfield and at the back. The organisation forced the men from Liverpool to rely on overlaps by young Mason Holgate or Ramiro Funes Mori to break down the packed Baggies defense.

Holgate came close to forcing a save off Foster, but the 22-year-old's shot was blocked in impressive fashion by McAuley. Despite Everton dominating possession, West Brom picked their moments to attack as Craig Gardener's free-kick from close range sailed just wide of the mark.

Jonas Olsson's inability to keep hold of the ball at the back, when being pressed by Mirallas saw the Swede bring down the Belgium international as his name went into the referee's book and gifted Everton a free-kick. Mirallas, who donned the opportunity to swing one in, picked out Funes Mori, whose header was parried brilliantly by Foster.

The resulting corner, which was lifted towards the far post, found Holgate who flicked it towards goal, as Gareth Barry sneaked in from close range to hand Everton a lead with a hour played. The strike did disappoint West Brom, but they hadn't given up.

The game became more hurried, as both sides began to fight midfield battles to launch counter-attacks. New acquisition Yannick Bolasie was sent on by Koeman for Deuloefeu to add some beastly pace on the counter. The Congolese came close to make an instant impact as his well-drilled cross from the right found Barkley, who had the golden opportunity to drill the final nail in the coffin, but the Englishman fluffed the opportunity blatantly. 

Bolasie was involved in the 90th minute as well, when he passed on the opportunity to kill the game off to Lukaku, whose effort was saved by Foster. Seconds later, the Hawthorns edged very close to witnessing their side equalize, but a scuffle in the Everton box led to substitute Rickie Lambert firing a shot at Stekelenburg, who saved the effort. Everton's decision to bring on debutant Ashley Williams for Mirallas reflected their intent to drop into their own box, attempting to deny West Brom a last-ditch equalizer.

Tony Pulis' men came very close to doing the same, as Ben Foster was waived to push forward for a free-kick. Substitute James McClean's cross after his free kick was blocked by the wall, was cleared as far as Foster, whose effort from just outside the box went agonizingly wide of Stekelenburg's goal.