Analyzing Leighton Baines' 2-Goal Performance vs. West Ham

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Analyzing Leighton Baines' 2-Goal Performance vs. West Ham
Ian Walton/Getty Images

If there were any doubts about the logic of Everton's refusal to relinquish Leighton Baines over the summer, the England native's performance on Saturday answered them.

And then some.

Twice Everton went down to West Ham, and twice it was a Baines' free kick outside of the box that drew his team even. Second-half substitution Romelu Lukaku would add a headed goal with just under five minutes remaining, giving Everton a 3-2 win and keeping the side unbeaten in the Premier League. 

Baines' first goal came in the 61st minute, after James Collins fouled Ross Barkley and earned himself a yellow card. Baines stepped up to take the free kick, and boy, was it a beauty.

Everything about that effort was absurdly good. The power. The dip. The placement. By the time Jussi Jaaskelainen picked up the flight of the ball, it was swerving past him. 

Ian Walton/Getty Images

But Everton once again went down a goal, as Kevin Nolan was fouled in the box and Mark Noble sent keeper Tim Howard the wrong way on the penalty, giving West Ham a 2-1 advantage. 

But again, Baines had an answer. 

This time, Nolan took down Barkley with a rather cynical challenge that earned him his second yellow of the match and a trip to the dressing room, leaving Everton a man up and giving Baines another free kick in almost the same position as the first one.

He didn't disappoint. 

This time, Baines noticed Jaaskelainen shading to the left and sent his free kick in the opposite direction, freezing the keeper and careening the effort off the cross bar and into the net. It was the sort of free kick that makes you suspect Baines could put his shot through a tire swing from about 60 yards away. 

Few defenders in the world can match Baines' ability to play the role of offensive weapon. His runs down the left side of the pitch and crosses into the box make him a constant threat, his long free kicks into the box aimed at a teammates' head are the stuff of legend and his free kicks on goal are always dangerous. 

It's rare that a defender's brace saves his team. On Saturday, Baines pulled off the feat, proving once again why keeping him was Everton's finest move of the summer.

 

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