English Premiership

Lukaku strike sinks Hammers

2014-03-01 19:50
Romelu Lukaku (AFP)

Liverpool - Everton striker Romelu Lukaku has celebrated his return from injury by coming off the bench to hit the late goal that secured a 1-0 win over West Ham on Saturday.

Lukaku had been sidelined for a month with an ankle problem and the on-loan Chelsea star was quick to make up for lost time at Goodison Park.

He came on midway through the second half and bagged his 10th club goal of the season nine minutes from time to seal Everton's first win in three Premier League matches and end West Ham's five-game unbeaten run.

Lukaku's heroics provided a much-needed morale boost for Everton, whose hopes of qualifying for the Champions League via a top-four finish had suffered a major blow after successive defeats at Tottenham and Chelsea.

Roberto Martinez's team made a vibrant start and Steven Naismith headed wide from Leon Osman's flick in the opening minutes.

Gareth Barry and Steven Pienaar both tried their luck from long-range as Everton continued to dominate, but neither strike tested Hammers goalkeeper Adrian.

Naismith finally brought Adrian into action as he bent his run to beat the West Ham offside trap before firing in a left-footed effort which the Spaniard kept out at his near post.

West Ham's lethargic display prompted an immediate response from boss Sam Allardyce, who replaced striker Carlton Cole with Andy Carroll after just 28 minutes.

Carroll was back from a three-match suspension for his controversial red card against Swansea and the burly England forward's presence gave the visitors a more menacing look.

Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard had to save bravely to deny Kevin Nolan when the Hammers captain tried to convert Matt Taylor's long ball.

The hosts were still monopolising possession and on-loan Barcelona winger Gerard Deulofeu came close with a moment of magic as he evaded three West Ham defenders to buy himself a yard of space and then curled just wide from long-range.

It was Everton who were on top again after the break and South African midfielder Steven Pienaar almost broke the deadlock with a low shot against the post.

There was a moment of alarm for Everton when Carroll almost capitalised on a slip by young defender John Stones, but the striker's shot was tipped over by Howard.

Martinez sent on Lukaku with half an hour to play and the change proved decisive.

The Belgian was immediately in the thick of it and helped set up Deulofeu for a shot that flashed narrowly wide.

And Sylvain Distin should have done better than stab wide from a Leighton Baines cross.

Everton's pressure paid off in the 81st minute when Baines slipped a pass towards Lukaku, who found space to crash home from 10 yards.


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