A first Premier League win of the season and the first goal for his new striker have lifted the gloom for Frank Lampard going into the international break. The Everton performance to defeat West Ham was industrious, littered with brief moments of quality, including Neal Maupay’s sublime winner, but little more. Lampard will not mind how the result arrived but he will be desperate for it to provide lift-off for Everton this season.
The minute’s silence was interrupted repeatedly by boos from home supporters. The away end’s rapid retort was a profane request to shut up, a sign of the lack of imagination in the back and forth to come from Everton and West Ham. Overall the atmosphere at Goodison Park was subdued for large parts as fans watched a side without their No 9, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who is yet to feature this season, or Jordan Pickford, also injured. The fiery atmosphere that helped keep Everton in the league last season has been replaced with trepidation and fear. The fans arrived in hope rather than expectation and they were rewarded for their commitment.
There are nerves abounding at Goodison Park; every misplaced pass in the early stages was greeted with a mixture of sighs and groans. Supporters are fearful of a repeat of last year’s battle for survival. Hearts were pumping a little faster when Jarrod Bowen burst into the penalty area and sent a cross into the six-yard box. Everton’s captain, Conor Coady, got a toe on it before colliding with Asmir Begovic as they watched the ball bounce inches wide rather than into the back of the net.
Despite not scoring more than once in a game this season, there is no lack of attacking talent among the Everton ranks. Demarai Gray caused problems on both flanks; first he fired a dangerous cross from the left that defeated everyone, soon followed by being brought down on the right after bamboozling the defender with mesmerising footwork. He took the subsequent free-kick but Amadou Onana could only head it over.
West Ham looked more composed, possibly buoyed by the distraction from their domestic form of the Europa Conference League, where they have managed to pick up a couple of victories, against FCSB of Romania and Denmark’s Silkeborg. They could at least claim they had enjoyed the only two efforts on target of the first half: two of the tamest headers imaginable, that Begovic could have saved with his eyes closed. Things could only get better.
It was always going to be Gray who had the first shot on goal for Everton. It took him 49 minutes to get a sight at goal, and when he did he should have done better. Starting the second half on the left, he dribbled and cut inside the full-back only to clip a shot straight at Lukasz Fabianski. The important thing was it showed intent.
Maupay had spent the afternoon looking ineffective as the latest Calvert-Lewin replacement. Rarely did he make the right run for teammates but when it mattered he found the net. Alex Iwobi played the ball into the Frenchman, he took a touch on the edge of the box to control the ball, swivelled and fired a right-footed shot home with his second. The subdued nature of Goodison was forgotten as every stand erupted in unison.
Willing and intent were finally aligned for Everton, putting West Ham on the back foot. Gray was further boosted by his side having a rare lead, causing Vladimir Coufal constant problems. The winger flashed a cross into the six-yard box but no one was able to greet it with the touch required to double the lead.
After a carefree 20 minutes following the goal, nerves returned to the stands with fans desperate for Everton to see things through. Their fears were not allayed when the substitute Saïd Benrahma picked up a loose ball 25 yards from goal, got it out of his feet and took aim. A statue-like Begovic was defeated but he was relieved to hear a ping amid the silence as the ball hit the inside of a post and bounced clear.
Maxwel Cornet had two fine chances to equalise but a mixture of Begovic and Nathan Patterson prevented him from scoring. Everton held on and few inside the ground cared how.