Everton slumped to their first home defeat of the season, losing 1-0 to West Ham United. Angelo Ogbonna’s 74th minute header was the only goal of the game as the Toffees’ four-match winning streak at Goodison Park come to an end.
It was a poor game from the neutral perspective with Rafael Benitez’s side in particular looking uninspiring and bereft of ideas when it came to chance creation.
There was a certain level of optimism pre-match as a result of Seamus Coleman’s return to the starting XI and Lucas Digne retaining in his spot after suffering a minor hamstring issue whilst away with France during the international break.
However, the continued absence of both Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin ultimately cost the Blues, as well as Yerry Mina being forced to drop to the bench having appeared for Colombia as recently as last Thursday.
There was also some bemusement from supporters at the decision to pick Alex Iwobi to start over Anthony Gordon, who impressed in Everton’s last outing at Old Trafford, and this general opinion was backed up after a rather dismal performance from the Nigerian.
The 25-year-old was on the receiving of the first big chance of the match, when he was picked out on the edge of the six-yard area by Demarai Gray’s drilled cross from the right but he failed to connect with the ball which instead travelled through his legs and away from danger.
The Hammers, managed by former Everton boss David Moyes, were the better side in the first half and thought their superiority had been rewarded when Tomas Soucek smashed home the rebound after Jarrod Bowen’s effort was saved but the Czech international was adjudged offside and the goal ruled out.
The Blues made a strong start to the second period as Salomon Rondon came close with a glancing header from a wicked Andros Townsend cross and Iwobi had another good opportunity but saw his shot blocked.
With 16 minutes remaining, the visitors took the lead when Ogbonna’s flicked header at the front post from a corner sailed in, leaving Jordan Pickford with no chance.
Rafael Benitez’s men searched for an equaliser but were suffocated by West Ham’s rigid defensive set-up and aerial dominance and indeed it was the Irons who came closest to scoring the game’s second goal when Bowen forced another good save out of Pickford late on.
In the end, it never looked like Everton were going to find a goal and their second league defeat of the season was soon confirmed.
The result will perhaps serve as a reality check for some supporters after such a positive start that not all is rosy at Goodison just yet.
It was excruciating at times how dependent the players seemed on Gray and Townsend to produce a moment of magic, but the fact is while Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin remain out, we are desperately lacking in quality upfront.
Rondon had another poor game and the lack of fitness excuse must surely be worn out by now and it may just be time for some fans to accept he is not at the level needed to be the club’s back-up striker.
Iwobi was frustrating to say the least and Gordon displayed just how inexplicable the decision to choose the former Arsenal man over him was, showing some good touches in a ten-minute cameo appearance off the bench.
It was an overall drab Sunday afternoon of football but there were still some positives, most notably that Coleman impressed on his first appearance since injury while still not looking 100% yet.
In addition, throughout the game the centre-back pairing of Michael Keane and Ben Godfrey successfully subdued the threat of West Ham forward Michail Antonio, who has proved a nuisance to several opposition defences so far this season.
By no means is it a disastrous result or even a concerning performance, but the fact remains this may just be the level this particular group of players finds itself at currently.
But the impressive run of results prior to this loss demonstrates that there is still a decent core to be built around in this side.
In other words, let’s try and save any knee-jerk reactions, particularly over Benitez, until we’re in a considerably worse position than the one this defeat leaves us in.