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Saturday 30 August K.O. 17:30

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Goodison Park | 4th April 2010 16:00

Everton v West Ham

After seven consecutive home victories - Everton's winning march has been halted by relegation-battling West Ham.

Goodison endured its first Premier League draw since December on an afternoon of high drama - with the Blues twice seeing their lead snatched away by Gianfranco Zola's tenacious outfit.

A second half equaliser from Manuel Da Costa cancelled out Diniyar Bilyaletdinov's first half strike. But when Yakubu rose to fire home a header six minutes from time it seemed Everton had regained their footing in the race for European qualification.

But a dramatic diving header from Ilan minutes later levelled the scores again and ensured the Toffees had to settle for a single point on an afternoon when they were so desperate for all three.

It was hugely frustrating for David Moyes' men - who were acutely aware of the need for points in order to maintain the pressure on the sides above them in the battle for European qualification.

News of Liverpool's draw at Birmingham only added to the sense that an opportunity had been missed.

It was a game that certainly didn't lack incident, with Howard Webb eager to brandish his card - and incensing the home fans with a controversial first half penalty when Sylvain Distin and Carlton Cole collided.

Tim Howard was the hero in that moment, denying Mido from the penalty spot. And with almost an hour of the game still to play, it seemed Everton had overcome their toughest test.

Bilaletdinov Nets Against West HamBilyaletdinov Nets Against West Ham

Indeed, in the early stages Everton were blossoming in the Spring sunshine. And despite struggling to create many openings, their possession and territorial dominance meant it was no surprise when Robert Green was beaten.

Leighton Baines was the provider, teeing up a tantalising cross from the left which Tim Cahill flicked on before Bilyaletdinov nodded in from close range.

The goal came in the 24th minute - and set the tone for the remainder of the opening period. Cahill fired wide from distance after a typically forceful run and Bilyaletdinov sailed a teasing effort over as the Blues pushed for another goal.

But it was a goal that WASN'T scored that earned the biggest cheer of the first period.

Ten minutes before the break and West Ham had a rare foray forward. Carlton Cole and Sylvain Distin came together and tumbled as they chased the ball into the area.

To the disbelief of the majority inside Goodison, referee Howard Webb pointed to the penalty spot. With the Gwladys Street booing in unison, Mido's side-footed effort was brilliantly pushed away by Tim Howard - who has made a habit of eye-catching penalty stops at Goodison this term.

West Ham sent out a warning of what was to come shortly before the hour mark when a cheeky chip from Mark Noble hit the crossbar. Everton managed to smuggle it behind for a corner. But then came the equaliser. Da Costa scrambled the ball over as the Everton defenders got in each other's way attempting to clear the centre.

It stunned Goodison. And as the home side dusted themselves down, Zola's relegation battlers sensed an opportunity. They threatened from another corner and then Cole fired wide after a swift counter-attack.

Moyes' response was to introduce Yakubu in place of Bilyaltedinov to give the visiting defence something extra to think about.

Heitinga fired wide and then referee Webb denied Everton a penalty despite Saha appearing to be tumbled to the ground by Da Costa in the 70th minute.

Phil NevillePhil Neville battles for possession

Yakubu fired well over as the game entered its final stages and the home faithful became increasingly anxious.

But the Nigerian international was not to be denied. Again, Baines was the provider with a perfectly floated centre. Yak rose majestically to nod beyond Green with six minutes left on the clock.

Chants of 'Feed the Yak and he will score' echoed around Goodison - the sense of relief was tangible as well.

But it was shortlived. Just two minutes later - a flowing counter-attack down the right culminated with an early cross from the right which Ilan met impressively - sending a diving header into the bottom corner of the net with Howard beaten.

It was a huge blow to the home side, although the point means they are now four points behind Aston Villa and five away from Liverpool with a trip to Villa Park to look forward to on Wednesday week.

Scott McLeod

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