Everton extended their unbeaten run away to West Ham in the Premier League to nine games – six wins and three draws – but their first visit to the new Olympic Stadium in Stratford was a largely forgetful affair.
Romelu Lukaku failed to score for the first time in 10 appearances against the Hammers and the Blues, whose home record in 2017 is surpassed only by Barcelona across Europe’s top five leagues, were unable to secure a first win on the road in six games.
Only one change was made to the Everton starting line-up, with Maarten Stekelenburg restored to the goalkeeping position for the first time since he came off injured in the game against Liverpool on December 19 at Goodison. West Ham were short of the likes of Andy Carroll, Mark Noble, Sam Byram, Angelo Ogbonna and Michail Antonio through various injuries and suspensions and the Hammers had won only one of nine games coming in, but were unbeaten in their previous two following five straight defeats.
West Ham’s poor record in their new stadium - just six home wins all season – has been a major factor in their below-par campaign following their march into Europe in the previous season.
Neither side was able to assert itself, however, in the early going, possession being lost too easily and a lack of fluidity of movement. Edimilson Fernandes’ cross from the right in the 12th minute induced the first moment of anxiety in the Everton rearguard, but Phil Jagielka reacted to it well to beat Jonathan Calleri to the header at the expense of a corner.
A lapse in concentration by the West Ham goalkeeper, Adrián, when his clearance from a throw by Fernandes was charged down by Lukaku, almost allowed in Kevin Mirallas, but the Spaniard redeemed himself by quickly recapturing the ball. Lukaku, who had scored in each of his nine previous appearances against the Hammers, struggled to make an impact with a distinct dearth of quality delivery, even if Everton’s dominance of possession was conspicuous, almost 70 per cent in the opening half. The Hammers remained resolute in their resistance, thwarting much of the Blues’ approach work, but the overall quality of play was leaving much to be desired.
“Everton's performance so far has been indifferent,” suggested Leon Osman. “At the moment it's scrappy, both teams giving the ball away too easily. You'd hope this match will soon settle down.”
It was almost half an hour before the first shot of the game, the ball arriving at Havard Nordtveit from a corner and the Norwegian’s shot rebounding off Tom Davies before his follow-up effort was deflected by Calleri and saved by Stekelenburg. Idrissa Gana Gueye was booked for a foul on Calleri and Cheikhou Kouyate shot wide from 25 yards.
Arthur Masuaku made a strong run down the left to win a corner, Jagielka heading away the danger before Manuel Lanzini’s cross to the back post produced the clearest opportunity of a spartan 45 minutes, James Collins climbing above his fellow Welshman, Ashley Williams, but steering his header well wide of Stekelenburg’s right post.
The game needed something to bring it to life. Ronald Koeman made two changes for the second half, bringing in Gareth Barry and Ademola Lookman for Gana and Davies. But there continued to be a litany of frustration for both teams in their search for a breakthrough. Fernandes and Lanzini were thwarted at one end, Ross Barkley at the other and neither team could find that final ball. Calleri did pick out Fernandes in some space on the left of the Everton penalty area but the West Ham midfielder fired well over.
When Lukaku finally did find himself with some space in the box and the ball at his feet, it got away from him as Collins closed in. The visitors were unable to sustain any danger and at the other end a free kick by Ayew struck the Everton wall and went out for a corner. From the resultant kick by Lanzini, there were appeals for a handball in the box off Williams but the referee, Roger East, dismissed the claims.
Lanzini continued to pose some threat and a strong run from the halfway line before he cut inside and fired on his right foot necessitated a save low to his left by Stekelenburg. Lookman was asking questions of West Ham and twice shot from distance, the second time his effort just clearing Adrián’s crossbar. Dominic Calvert-Lewin replaced Mirallas and took a battering from Jose Fonte very quickly which prompted a yellow card.
Mason Holgate put in a quality delivery with seven minutes remaining, with which Lukaku narrowly failed to connect and the Hammers defence came under some serious pressure with Jagielka firing a header wide. There was to be no thrilling climax.