Just when the scrutiny surrounding Everton’s toothless showings would have intensified, Neal Maupay popped up to score his first goal for the club. The striker’s second-half goal secured Everton’s first Premier League victory of the season and lifted the gloom for Frank Lampard going into the international break.
Had Everton finished the first block of seven league games without a win, then there would have been questions to answer — irrespective of Lampard’s insistence that his team’s performances have been positive and worthy of more than the four points they had to their name ahead of the visit of West Ham United.
The sight of Maupay breaking his duck after signing from Brighton & Hove Albion last month will be hugely welcomed too by the Everton manager. They had scored only three league goals before this match and their blunt attack was attracting greater scrutiny. This was a deserved three points for the home team.
West Ham, who haven’t been amongst the goals themselves, now find themselves in the bottom three and struggled to get going here. It was only after Maupey struck a shot past Lucasz Fabianski in the 53rd minute that the visitors rallied but David Moyes will have time to analyse his team’s underwhelming start to the league season.
Story of the game
After the pre-match tributes to Queen Elizabeth II had concluded, the minute’s silence largely observed, the wreaths laid and national anthem sung, a low-key first half begun. The closest a goal came was when Jarrod Bowen got the better of Vitaliy Mykolenko on the left of Everton’s defence but his low inviting cross was intercepted by Conor Coady before the lurking Michail Antonio could pounce.
It was end-to-end at times but there wasn’t much quality. It was often frantic with composure on the ball rarely present. Idrissa Gueye was starting his first game since returning to Everton from Paris Saint-Germain, and the Senegal midfielder’s presence gave Amadou Onana license to roam. But the most likely route to goal for both teams came from set-pieces.
The free-kicks awarded to the home side were often wasted, however, being either over-hit, under-hit or cleared easily by a West Ham defender. Demarai Gray, being Everton’s liveliest player, made one promising burst but the attack fizzled out.
Moyes’s team often made their own problems with Lucas Paqueta, starting behind Antonio in their 4-2-3-1 shape, guilty of giving away one or two needless fouls early on. The quick turnaround from playing Europa League football in Denmark on Thursday evening to facing Everton at Goodison Park here may have been a factor in their sluggish start.
The absence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin from Everton’s matchday squad came as a surprise after Lampard had hinted that the striker, who has been out with a knee injury since the eve of the season, could be involved. Lacking a true figure-head up front was once again seemed to be proving costly for Everton. But an early breakthrough after the interval provided propulsion.
The increasingly influential Alex Iwobi exchanged passes with Gray in the 53rd minute before driving forward and threading the ball to Maupay. The forward, with three West Ham defenders around him, fixed his feet and then in a flash dispatched a shot between Fabianski and his near post. Maupay’s first goal since joining from Brighton & Hove Albion opened the game up.
West Ham took going behind with umbrage and Asmir Begovic, deputising in place of the injured Jordan Pickford, was called into action for the first time. Antonio saw a shot blocked and earlier Bowen skied an effort after a neat move. Moyes re-energised his attack, sending on Said Benrahma,, Max Cornet and Gianluca Scamacca.
The substitutes tried to wrestle some rewards for the visitors. Benrahma ran into space, curling a left-footed shot against the goalpost, leaving Begovic and the rest of the home crowd only standing and watching. The ‘keeper then pushed aside Cornet’s forceful effort from a tight angle. It was a late rally that came to nothing.
Player of the match: Neal Maupay
After experiencing a frustrating first start for Everton during the Merseyside derby two weeks ago, the striker, who signed last month from Brighton, scored the only goal of this game and got his Everton career up and running.