Lukaku strikes again to defeat Hammers

Barclays Premier League
West Ham United 1-2 Everton 

The Hammers slipped to a 2-1 defeat in their last home game of the season in agonizing circumstances as tormentor-in-chief Romelu Lukaku scored a 93rd minute winner. 

In an even game which had a distinct end-of-season flavour about it, the hosts drew first blood thanks to a skilful finish from Stewart Downing. The England international ran onto a threaded ball from Alex Song. Downing checked, before curling an effort past Tim Howard. 

The Toffees, playing the Hammers for the fourth time this season, rallied through a fantastic goal of their own as Leon Osman’s scissor kick evened the proceedings. 

Both sides had a handful of half-chances to take all three points, yet it was Romelu Lukaku, who else, who popped up unmarked in the six yard box to seal the win for the Blues. 

In a game of little significance save for determining who will compete in the Europa League, Roberto Martinez’s Toffees showed first at the Boleyn Ground. Ross Barkley played in Leon Osman, whose toe poke was tipped around the post by Adrian.

From the resulting corner, Romelu Lukaku miskicked and John Stones skewed wide of the far post from eight yards.      

At the other end, Mark Noble and Aaron Cresswell crosses brought handball appeals. Kevin Friend pointed to the corner flag on both occasions. 

There was an early reshuffle for Big Sam to contend with, as Young Hammer of the Year Reece Burke replaced an injured James Collins. 

West Ham had to make do with long-range efforts. Alex Song found the side netting, before Enner Valencia drove one straight at Tim Howard.   

With almost half-an-hour played Noble surrendered possession and West Ham nearly paid a heavy price. Lennon teed up Lukaku, who cut inside onto his left foot and blasted over the top. 

Then Stewart Downing sought to liven things up with a rasping drive from some 25 yards, but Howard was equal to it, beating it aside and out of harm’s way. 

In the fair play stakes, Everton racked up two bookings to West Ham’s one in the first half, but, in truth, there was precious little to shout about.    

As they did in the first half, the visitors started the brighter in the second. Lukaku’s free-kick from Leighton Baines territory went whistling past the upright and cannoned into the stanchion. The Everton fans behind the goal thought it was in. Hammers fans could at least delight in their disappointment.  

Downing was growing into the game and dragged his teammates with him. The winger looked increasingly dangerous on the right and then popped up with a 62nd-minute opener. 

Song slipped it into his path and the No.11 instantly brought his under spell before bending a neat left-footed effort into the far corner. Classy finish.  

The lead, however, would last little more than five minutes. Though Lukaku’s cross from the right was a shade behind Osman, his control was splendid and then, on the turn, he sent an acrobatic right-footed effort past Adrian.        

The match became increasingly stretched as both sides pressed for a winner and the hosts almost found one through Alex Song as he found himself, surprisingly, in the six yard box where he headed Jenkinson’s lofted cross just over. 

Ironically, for two teams aiming to qualify for the Europa League via the Fair Play League, an edge to the game developed as Kouyate reacted angrily to Galloway’s challenge. Referee Kevin Friend was quick to intervene and diffuse the situation. 

With just minutes to go, the Hammers eagerness to find a winner cost them the game as Everton countered from a corner. They broke with pace and managed to set Lukaku free on the edge of the box who unleashed a fierce drive yet Adrian was equal to it as he palmed it away.     

The Hammers failed to deal with the pressure from the resulting corner. Substitute Aiden McGeady crossed from the right flank for Lukaku to head home from close range. 

Everton’s win sees them overtake the Hammers, with both sides on equal points and goal difference. The Hammers go into their final league game of the season away at Newcastle knowing they’ll need a win to give them a chance of finishing in the top ten.  

West Ham United: Adrian, Jenkinson, Cresswell, Collins (Burke 14), Reid, Song, Noble, Kouyate, Downing, Cole (Nene 69), Valencia 
Subs: Jaaskelainen, O’Brien, Amalfitano, Jarvis, Lee

Goals: Downing 62 

Booked: Reid 

Everton: Howard, Coleman, Galloway, Jagielka, Stones, McCarthy, Barry, Lennon (McGeady 77), Barkley (Mirallas 70), Osman, Lukaku
Subs: Robles, Garbutt, Besic, Naismith, Kone  

Goals: Osman 68, Lukaku 90+3   

Booked: Coleman, Barry, McCarthy, Galloway 

Referee: Kevin Friend