Neal Maupay netted his first goal in royal blue as Everton’s wait for a deserved first Premier League win of the season came to an end with a 1-0 victory over West Ham United at Goodison Park.
The French forward, signed from Brighton & Hove Albion in August, hit the winner eight minutes into the second half when he collected Alex Iwobi’s pass and cracked a fine finish past Lukasz Fabianski from the edge of the area.
It was no more than Frank Lampard’s Blues deserved after another display packed with heart and commitment, as well as other chances to score from Demarai Gray and Iwobi.
The success means Everton head into the international break boasting a six-match unbeaten run, five in the Premier League, and with the joint second-best defensive record in the top-flight.
Respects were paid before kick-off to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, with ex-Armed Forces personnel from Everton in the Community’s Veterans’ Hub laying a wreath in the centre circle to honour Britain’s longest-serving monarch.
When the action got under way, it was Everton to threaten first on seven minutes as Maupay’s well-timed slide pass put Alex Iwobi clear through the left side of the penalty area. The in-form Nigerian did well to round Fabianski but was unlucky to see the ball squeeze over the byline as he looked to apply the finish.
Second later, West Ham nearly had the lead when a swift counter-attack saw Jarrod Bowen send a dangerous ball across the six-yard area from the right which was deflected behind by skipper-for-the-day Conor Coady – thankfully for the Blues, narrowly creeping past the right-hand post.
The Blues’ bright start continued on 11 minutes as Demarai Gray was chopped down by Lucas Paqueta glancing past West Ham’s recent signing on the right edge of the penalty area. The forward picked himself up to whip in the resulting set-piece that Amadou Onana headed over the bar.
Despite applying the pressure, warning signs of West Ham’s attacking threat were evident midway through the first half as the dangerous Michail Antonio broke through the middle, his through ball to Paqueta being cut out by Coady in the nick of time.
Lampard’s side kept knocking on the door with a series of sweeping crosses into the box after fine work by Idrissa Gana Gueye – making his first start since returning to the Club on transfer deadline day – and Iwobi winning possession in midfield. Gray, in particular, had joy from the flanks, only for his teasing centres to be met by solid defending from the away side.
A lack of quality in the area from both sides kept the contest goalless, although Everton’s full-blooded approach could not be questioned, highlighted in the closing stages of the first half when Gordon tracked back to block Creswell’s attempted cross from the left, before James Tarkowski’s thunderous challenge on Antonio was met by deafening approval from the Goodison faithful.
The Blues continued to threaten after the interval, the lively Gray gliding down the left edge of the area, turning Coufal and cracking a 15-yard drive into the arms of Fabianski.
There was no stopping Everton on 53 minutes, however. Iwobi’s positive passing was in full effect as the midfielder fed Maupay on the edge of the area. The Frenchman turned Declan Rice with his first touch and, with his next, unleashed a sweet finish into the bottom left-hand corner.
It was so nearly 2-0 just two minutes later when a rapid counter-attack saw Iwobi at the heart of the action once more. The Nigerian sent Gray sprinting down the left flank whose sumptuous low cross across the six-yard box missed Maupay by inches.
One goal to the good, the hosts’ chances continued, with the excellent Gray tormenting Coufal again, cutting inside from the left side of the area and seeing a 15-yard effort whistle past the far post.
Having gone close to doubling their advantage, it was so nearly 1-1 on 74 minutes. Sloppy passing in the centre of the park enabled substitute Said Benahma space to collect possession and glide a curling 20-yard shot that beat Begovic but hit the inside of the left-hand post.
After a relatively quiet afternoon deputising for the injured Jordan Pickford between the sticks, Begovic stood tall when counted on with six minutes to go, replacement Maxwel Cornet racing into the area and drilling a finish that the Bosnian tipped over the bar.
There was huge relief around Goodison moments later when Cornet went close to levelling. A long ball over the Blues defence saw the Ivorian dart in behind, round Begovic but – with fans waiting for the net to bulge – a crucial touch from Nathan Patterson meant Cornet could not apply the finish before the ball rolled out of play.
Five minutes of added time were signalled to set up a tense finale. But Lampard’s Everton are made of stern stuff and they saw out the closing stages to spark joyous scenes around the Grand Old Lady at full-time.