Everton v West Ham
Everton twice came from behind to salvage a point against a spirited West Ham side as their patchy home form continued.
Goodison Park has been a stronghold in recent seasons but poor results on their own turf have seriously undermined the Blues’ 2010/11 campaign.
Trailing to Jonathan Spector’s first half goal, the hosts struggled for fluency and failed to create a great deal as Avram Grant’s side comfortably stood firm.
Diniyar Bilyaletdinov produced a timely reminder of his talents to revive hopes of a comeback, but it looked as though the Blues would taste a gruesome defeat when Frederic Piquionne headed the Hammers back in front.
Marouane Fellaini - by that point playing as a targetman - finished superbly to drag the hosts level again, but that was as good as it got for David Moyes and his side.
In the end it was a point in a game they desperately wanted to win and that will ensure the prevailing emotion is disappointment, but if there is a positive to take it will be the depth of character the Blues showed when twice faced with a deficit.
With the Hammers toiling in the midst of a relegation scrap, and their woes splashed all over last week’s back pages, beleaguered boss Avram Grant really could have done with the tonic of an early goal.
And once Piquionne had lashed a shot high into the Gwladys, he might have had one.
Scott Parker seized upon Fellaini’s errant pass and found midfield cohort Mark Noble skulking on the edge of the box between the home centre-halves.
The former England Under-21 skipper took the ball cleanly but succeeded only in flaying a tame effort unconvincingly over Tim Howard’s bar.
As it transpired the Hammers didn’t have to wait long for their relief and Moyes will have been alarmed by the ease with which his team were sliced open.
Noble’s pass got Luis Boa Morte in behind and his pull back was slammed home by Spector arriving from midfield.
The Blues hadn’t really started and before they knew it things were almost made a whole lot worse.
Nobody dealt with Boa Morte’s aimless punt forward and Spector was alive to pick up the second ball. His cross picked out Piquionne and, with marker John Heitinga floored, the striker planted a firm header off the inside of Howard’s right-hand post.
The anxiety inside Goodison was palpable as the ball smacked the woodwork, squirmed behind the prone keeper and along the goal-line before eventually finding safety.
At the other end there were few bright moments and the only sniff of an Everton goal – Arteta feeding Beckford inside the box – was swiftly snuffed out by a fine tackle from James Tomkins.
The break arrived with the hosts having it all to do but the second half began with little change in the pattern of the game.
And with Everton struggling to create much, they were almost undone again at the back as another cross from Spector was volleyed inches wide by Zavon Hines.
On came Bilyaletdinov - keen to impress and stake his claim for a regular start - and the Russian made an almost instant impact.
His technical competence is without question and he added another strike to his fulsome collection of eye-catching goals as he sweetly dispatched a Fellaini knock down from the edge of the box.
The lofty Belgian had been pushed up front and his presence certainly had an unsettling effect on the Hammers' presiously untroubled centre-backs.
Joy quickly turned into despair, however, as Wayne Bridge’s deep cross was headed in superbly by Piquionne. It was all a bit much for the Frenchman though and he collected a second yellow card and was dismissed for his celebrations.
The goal could have spelled disaster for the hosts but substitute Jack Rodwell found Fellaini who steadied himself before firing low beyond Rob Green in the West Ham goal.