Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United managed to get off the mark in the Premier League for the 2018/2019 season on Sunday afternoon, convincingly defeating Marco Silva’s Everton to the tune of 1-3 at Goodison Park, today, we look back at and analyse Five Massive Moments from the one-sided Super Sunday encounter.
Yarmolenko Introduces Himself To The Premier League
The root of our first Massive Moment begins before a ball had even been kicked in Liverpool, in the team selection of visiting manager Pellegrini and his decision to give summer signing Andriy Yarmolenko his first Premier League start.
Before yesterday, he had only been given a cameo role in each of the Hammers’ opening four league defeats, but he was to finally make his full league debut in Claret & Blue at Goodison, and what a way to mark it.
It would take Yarmolenko just 11 minutes to turn his first PL start into his first PL goal, getting himself into an excellent position as Marko Arnautovic and Pedro Obiang exchanged passes, playing the Austrian through on Jordan Pickford.
Instead of shooting, the vice-skipper saw his new teammate and laid it perfectly into his path, leaving him to direct the ball into the near bottom left-hand corner and giving England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford very little chance, sending the small corner of West Ham fans into delirium.
While Yarmolenko would score an arguably better goal 20 minutes later, curling into the top corner from range, it was his silky first that set the tone for his and his side’s terrific all-around performance, and of course, their first three points under Pellegrini.
Sigurdsson Brings Irons Back Down To Earth
With half-time fast approaching and the Hammers two goals to the good on Merseyside, our second Massive Moment occurred and it was one that could have changed the whole course of the afternoon and the game for Silva’s home side.
Having threatened to force a way back into the match ever since Yarmolenko made it 0-2, the Toffees finally got their reward in the form of a lifeline, a goal back on the stroke of half-time.
Pellegrini’s men had eased the pressure slightly and found themselves on the backfoot with the hosts pressing them, but meeting their resistance with some strong defending, although they would eventually let their guard down in first-half added-time.
Young full-back Jonjoe Kenny found some space to deliver a cross from the right of the penalty area and when he did, picked out the head of Icelandic International Gylfi Sigurdsson perfectly, to powerfully finish home past Lukasz Fabianski from the centre of the box.
Just seconds after West Ham restarted the game, referee Martin Atkinson blew his half-time whistle, the Toffees couldn’t have picked a better time to pull a goal back and they now had all the momentum heading into the second half, with the score at 2-1.
Arnautovic’s Decisive Strike And Injury Worry
The only way that the Hammers could rule out any suggestion of an immediate comeback from the Toffees, who now had a new-found confidence, was to score early in the second period and restore their two-goal advantage.
This was exactly what they were able to do, with Arnautovic striking his third league goal of the season in the 61st minute and really depleting any hopes the hosts might have had of salvaging something against a team they rarely lose at home to.
The strike would be another clear example of just how well the visitors were playing, yet another smooth team move that heavily involved the likes of eventual scorer Arnautovic and midfielder Pedro Obiang, a developing partnership under Pellegrini.
As they did for the first goal, the pair combined to slip Arnautovic through, this time, there was no passing option for him and he stretched to get to the ball before Pickford and poked it underneath him, into the back of the net, giving Pellegrini’s men a bit of breathing space and the game, a Massive Moment.
Unfortunately, the nature of this finish came at a price for the reigning Hammer of the Year, who captained Austria during the recent International break, as it became apparent, after he had finished celebrating with the travelling supporters, that he had picked up an injury and was forced off. The extent of it is not yet known.
Perez’s Bench Unrest
Our fourth Massive Moment is an incident that occurred off the pitch entirely as Arnautovic exited the match with the aforementioned suspected hamstring nock and in fact, came around in the West Ham technical area, and was one of the biggest talking points post-match.
Precautionary or not, the Austria star man had to be substituted because of the injury he picked up scoring the away team’s third goal and the man waiting in the wings to replace him was Deadline Day signing Lucas Perez.
However, it was not the ex-Arsenal man who came on, indeed, Michail Antonio entered the field of play for a 30-minute cameo, the original rumour was that Pellegrini had asked Perez to warm-up in preparation for his entrance, but he refused.
While shots of the striker sitting on the bench showed his heated conversation with a member of the club’s coaching staff, Goalkeeper Coach Xavi Valero, the gaffer confirmed these murmurs weren’t true in his post-match press conference.
The Chilean, celebrating his 65th birthday, claimed that the reason Antonio came on was that he was warming up and Perez wasn’t, therefore was not ready, and that the forward was angry due to not replacing Arnautovic himself, Perez has also since confirmed this. Regardless, possible tension behind the scenes is the last thing the East Londoners need as things start to finally look up, on the pitch.
Niasse’s Late Miss
While much of the second-half attention was on the away bench, back on the field, the Toffees had under 30 minutes to pull yet another goal back and put all the pressure on the Irons to hold out for a victory of unimaginable importance.
They had a number of half-chances as the Goodison clock ticked down until the full-time whistle to do this, however, none of them were as clear as the one gifted to substitute Oumar Niasse on 84 minutes.
The man the African replaced, Cenk Tosun, had not been on his day and missed many opportunities to make the scoreline a bit tighter, before exiting the field to frustration in the 69th.
The missed chances theme continued with Niasse as ex-Barcelona star Lucas Digne whipped in a marvellous cross from the left with six minutes remaining, it was met by Niasse just yards out in plenty of space, having beaten the offside trap, only for him to smash it against the crossbar and away to safety.
If the centre-forward had scored the relatively simple chance, it would have set up a grandstand finish at Goodison and with the support of their home fans roaring them on, who would have backed against the Toffees finding a late equaliser? However, in the end, they had to settle for a 1-3 defeat.
So, now that the Five Massive Moments from a wonderful birthday afternoon for Pellegrini, in which his team gifted him three crucial points to move off 20th and out of the bottom three altogether have been well and truly covered, will we be analysing yet more positive Massive Moments come this time next week, after Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea have paid London Stadium a visit? Join us once again, then, to find out.