West Ham vs. Everton: 6 Things We Learned
Everton emerged from Upton Park with three valuable points after a game marred by several calamitous refereeing calls.
Following a bright start from the visitors, West Ham opened the scoring in the first half thanks to some sharp play from Carlton Cole.
The Toffees fought back well in the second period, equalising through Victor Anichebe, before a controversial red card to Cole swung the game in Everton's favour.
Steven Pienaar capitalised on his side's numerical advantage, bundling home a goal with the help of some hapless defenders, and the Toffees held on to secure what may prove a vital 2-1 win.
Here's a look at some Everton-related talking points that emerged from Saturday's contest:
How Not to Referee
Throughout the game, Anthony Taylor produced a portfolio of ridiculous decisions that hurt both sides during and after the contest.
To be fair, the first major gaffe was down to his assistant. At 0-0, Leon Osman headed in a delightfully delivered corner, only for the referee to rule it out after his linesman incorrectly flagged for interference.
Interference that no replay was able to show.
Later on at 1-1, Carlton Cole stretched for a bouncing ball, clipped Leighton Baines on the arm and for some bizarre reason was promptly given his marching orders.
Both sets of players seemed entirely dumbfounded by the decision, illustrated by the general confusion shown in the picture above.
Everton took full advantage of the fortuitous call, scoring to make it 2-1, before Taylor chose to send off Darron Gibson late on for a similarly innocuous collision.
Again, a very poor decision.
West Ham will rightly feel cheated at the timing of Cole's dismissal, just as Everton were initially incensed at their disallowed goal earlier in the match.
However, the fact both these influential performers will be banned and miss further action is unfair and undeserved.
Both cards need to be rescinded.
Osman on Another Level
Before kickoff, there were several murmurings of discontent from Evertonians at the prospect of Leon Osman moving positions to accommodate Phil Neville.
Having excelled in central midfield this season, few approved of his switch to a wider berth, especially with other key men missing from the lineup.
Yet despite this different role, Osman was the game's best player, continually looking the most likely source of creativity for the Toffees.
He was wrongly denied an early goal, created Pienaar's winner and his nimble footwork and astute vision continually troubled West Ham's defence throughout the game.
Since earning his first international cap, the England man has taken his performances to another level over the past few weeks. He's oozing confidence, class and influencing far more results than ever before.
Heitinga's Thoughts Elsewhere
Johnny Heitinga is a player many fans envisage leaving Goodison Park in January, and this performance will have only helped reinforce those beliefs.
The Dutchman looked lethargic, disinterested and was too often caught out flat-footed.
He failed to get tight to Carlton Cole for West Ham's opening goal and was too often out-muscled by the Hammers' front man, until his unfortunate late dismissal.
Even with few attackers to marshal late on, another lapse almost resulted in a dramatic equaliser for Kevin Nolan.
If Heitinga is trying to highlight his desire to move on next year, then he's certainly done so—although displays like this are hardly going to attract an army of suitors.
Anichebe Scores and Everton Win
So often a target of supporters' abuse, Victor Anichebe once again silenced his doubters and produced a crucial strike for his side.
Restored to the lineup after a lengthy spell on the sidelines, the Nigerian registered his fourth goal of the season in only his fifth start and was a constant nuisance for his opposite man.
In the 20 games he's scored for Everton, the Toffees are amazingly yet to taste defeat, winning 15 and drawing five.
If he could only maintain his fitness, his current form demands an extended run in the side, especially with Marouane Fellaini suspended over Christmas.
A Game to Forget for Jelavic
Despite the win, it's hard to ignore what was a truly woeful performance from Nikica Jelavic.
Playing off the shoulder he strayed offside too early an incredible five times and now leads the Premier League for the most offsides, with 29 already this season.
Aside from his persistent premature starts, his finishing was also uncharacteristically wayward. He missed a one-on-one—that was fortunately called back for offside—and also hashed at a great chance from just six yards out.
With such a congested Christmas fixture list approaching, it's vital Jelavic finds his shooting boots as soon as possible.
The Race for Fourth Heats Up
After a frustrating draw at Stoke, after which Everton relinquished their hold on fourth, at 1-0 down there were sections of support beginning to doubt their side's top four credentials.
After an improved second half performance and a fortunate referring call, the Toffees suddenly found themselves back in fourth with their hopes restored.
The fact four teams sit together on 30 points shows exactly how competitive the race for the Champions League has become.
Had Everton not won, they would now be sitting seventh in the table, with a far more subdued aura emanating from the club.
As bizarre as this game played out, the fact Everton emerged with all three points could well prove crucial come the end of the season.