West Ham eventually got their reward after a punishing timeline and a grueling spectacle. Since leaving Everton eight years ago, Tomas Soucek’s late winner gave David Moyes his first points at Goodison Park and the manager replied in kind by giving his tired players four days off.
With a fifth consecutive Premier League victory, Everton may have gone second but served up a labored show bereft of ideas. Carlo Ancelotti argued that his side deserved a point. He was exceptionally kind. As West Ham defended expertly, they deserved exactly what they got, grew stronger as the game went on, and created the only talent on display.
“It’s always special to go back to your old clubs,” Moyes said. “I had a great time here. It was very significant to come here and win. There’s a fantastic moment for Everton, and you can’t underestimate what it would mean to go second, and in six days we were on the back of our third game. I can’t properly applaud the players. Big credit to them is their fitness standards and professionalism.
With Ryan Fredericks self-isolating after a promising test and West Ham planning to clean out their training ground once again, Covid-19 loomed large over the fixture. “Moyes said, “That’s not what we were told to do and it’s not because of the one Covid player we got. It’s because we’re trying to do what we can do.
Following the Liverpool city region’s leap into tier 3 on Wednesday, Goodison went eerily quiet once again after three matches enriched by the noise of supporters. For the 2,000 who hoped to start the new year by seeing their team in the flesh for the first time since March, it was as depressing as for those expected to attend the postponed match against Manchester City on Monday.
The participants had played a major role in Everton’s rise up the table, albeit limited, and their absence was reflected in a subdued performance.
The players at Everton could not find inspiration from inside. Richarlison recalled Ancelotti after the Brazilian concussion in the Carabao Cup against Manchester United and must have wondered why he bothered.
Richarlison was sad. After missing the past five matches with a calf injury, James Rodríguez also returned as a substitute but could not boost a flat attacking display either. After the City postponement, so much for the advantage of extra rest.