Leighton Baines and Romelu Lukaku stun West Ham in Everton comeback


Romelu Lukaku, Everton's match-winner after coming on as substitute, beats West Ham's Winston Reid to the ball at Upton Park. Photograph: Stephen Pond/PA
Romelu Lukaku, Everton’s match-winner after coming on as substitute, beats West Ham’s Winston Reid to the ball at Upton Park. Photograph: Stephen Pond/PA

To think, people said this meeting of two goal-shy sides would be a stale affair. As if. A thrilling second half at Upton Park culminated in Romelu Lukaku scoring a header on his Everton debut to give the visitors a wonderful win. But it was the “unique” Leighton Baines, who twice netted immaculate 25-yard free-kicks, who really turned this game, while West Ham, who led in both halves, had Mark Noble sent off minutes after he had scored a penalty.“I’ve never seen a footballer score two goals like that from the same position with the same quality,” Roberto Martínez said of Baines. “We are all well aware of the quality he has but where Leighton takes it to the next step is that he’s capable of doing it twice against a world-class keeper with experience like Jussi Jaaskelainen. That’s what makes him special. He’s unique. He just places the ball wherever he wants to.”

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Baines’ goals preceded Lukaku’s 85th-minute winner. The Belgian was injured as he flung himself at the ball from Kevin Mirallas, an act that Martínez lauded, and had to be told he had scored the decisive goal: “That goal was everything that typifies Lukaku – that desire, that character. His potential is incredible.”

The Everton manager had resisted the temptation to start the 20-year-old, who joined on loan from Chelsea rather than signing for West Ham or for a second season at West Brom during the transfer window, preferring instead to name the same side that beat Chelsea 1-0 at Goodison last weekend. A first half that began with such pace and promise threatened to peter out until good fortune intervened in the 31st minute. West Ham’s Matt Jarvis cut in from the left wing and slipped the ball to Ravel Morrison, whose strike was deflected into the net off the chest of Phil Jagielka.

Martínez made two tactical changes at the break, bringing on Lukaku and James McCarthy for Steven Naismith and Nikica Jelavic, and an injury to Leon Osman led to the introduction of Bryan Oviedo minutes later, completing a rapid overhaul. Everton enjoyed concerted pressure thereafter, and, when Ross Barkley earned a foul as he darted at the heart of West Ham’s agitated defence in the 62nd minute, Baines curled his first free-kick into the far top corner.

West Ham regained the lead in the 76th minute when Kevin Nolan won a penalty as he sidestepped McCarthy following admirable perseverance from the Hammers debutant Mladen Petric. Noble sent Tim Howard the wrong way from the spot but soon earned a second yellow card for fouling the gallivanting Barkley. Sam Allardyce was peeved as he felt Noble had nicked the ball.

“Right up to Noble being sent off I thought the players were great,” the West Ham manager said. “If we’d done our defensive job like we normally do, I thought we’d have got the win, but the game changed with Noble’s sending-off. It’s easy for me to say that Mark Noble played the ball but he did. It’s an ordinary tackle. But fair play to Everton, they took full advantage.”

Baines found the opposite top corner with an effort even more glorious than his first, before Lukaku bagged the winner. “You don’t expect to concede three free-kicks in two games [Jermaine Pennant scored from a set piece as Stoke won 1-0 at Upton Park in August],” Allardyce added. “You’d expect three in the entire season.”

Everton are now the only unbeaten side in the Premier League and move into the top five, while West Ham, who battled valiantly in this contest despite their striker shortage, may long continue to rue Lukaku’s decision to join the visitors.

Babatunde Akinsola
Babatunde Akinsolahttps://naija247news.com
Babatunde Akinsola is aNaija247news' Southwest editor. He's based in Lagos and writes on the Yoruba Nation political issues, news and investigative reports

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