Everton v Hull City
A sensational comeback goal from Steven Pienaar – just 25 seconds after his introduction from the substitutes’ bench - fired Everton to a 2-1 victory over Hull City.
Fit-again after missing the last five matches through injury, the South African struck a 57th-minute winner as the Blues got back on track after suffering their first Premier League defeat of the campaign at Manchester City a fortnight ago.
On what was billed ‘Retro Day’, this was far from a classic encounter. But few would have argued against Everton deserving maximum points in front of Goodison’s biggest gate of the season.
Kevin Mirallas fired in off the post to notch his first goal of the campaign and put the Blues ahead after just eight minutes.
The Toffees were pegged back when substitute Yannick Sagbo levelled a quarter of an hour prior to half-time, before Pienaar marked his return with his dramatic winner after the break.
Similarly to the previous outing at Goodison against Newcastle three weeks earlier, Everton raced out of the traps. It took Roberto Martinez's charges just eight minutes to net their opening goal of the afternoon, which arrived through the right boot of Mirallas.
Allan McGregor had already saved well from Romelu Lukaku – but there was little the Scottish keeper could do as Mirallas took Osman’s pass in his stride and drilled a low effort through a crowd of legs and into the bottom corner, via the inside of the post.
Hull’s start to the game seemingly went from bad to worse when Danny Graham was stretchered from the field on 15 minutes after he was caught by Gareth Barry. Steve Bruce replaced the on-loan forward with Sagbo in a like-for-like swap up top.
What appeared a setback at the time actually proved a positive for the visitors. They rallied from the early double blow, grew into the contest and came close to equalising when veteran central defender Abdoulaye Faye twice headed over from corners after some slack Everton marking.
The hosts failed to take heed of the warning signs and Hull were back level on the half-hour mark when substitute Sagbo clinically converted Sone Aluko’s right-wing centre. It was a fine finish too, with the Ivory Coast international steering the ball past Tim Howard with his side-foot from eight-yards out.
The Blues regained their composure and went again but the best they could conjure before the break was a drive from distance by Lukaku which sailed over the bar and into the Gwladys Street stand.
Likewise, Hull might have gone into the interval ahead had Aluko not placed a close-range header over the bar in first-half stoppage time.
As part of the nostalgic festivities, 1966 legends Geoff Hurst, Ray Wilson and Derek Temple – all guests of the Club - were introduced to the Goodison crowd at half-time. As the heavens opened, the rain did little to dampen their parade as the trio were given a rousing welcome by the sell-out home support.
Goodison was again on its feet 12 minutes after the restart as Pienaar, incredibly, announced his comeback from injury by firing Everton back in front – less than a minute after he had emerged from the bench to replace Leon Osman.
The build-up was superb. Lukaku and Barkley combined in the central areas, Mirallas crossed from the right and Pienaar elegantly guided the ball into the corner of the net with a first-time effort.
The home fans could hardly believe what they had witnessed as the midfielder celebrated with a South African flag at the Park End.
Having offered a spirited reply to conceding in the first half, Hull were unable to repeat their efforts again as Everton made sure they did not squander the lead for a second time.
In fact, Martinez's side should well have scored for a third time when Arouna Kone – a second half replacement for Lukaku – spurned a golden chance to open his Toffees account.
Picked out by Seamus Coleman at the far post, the former Wigan man cut inside and had ample time to pick his spot. However, with a full target to aim at, he could only guide his finish against the inside of the post. It was a gilt-edged opportunity.
Still, the Blues had already done enough to make sure of their fourth league win of the campaign – one which puts them just four points behind early-season pacesetters Arsenal.