Dimitri Payet, Michail Antonio inspire West Ham United in thrilling comeback
This season just seems to get better and better for West Ham United.
Two-nil down with just 12 minutes to play, on a ground where they usually struggle to get anything, Slaven Bilic masterminded a complete turnaround with three goals from Michail Antonio, Diafra Sakho and, of course, Dimitri Payet. The France international's 90th-minute winner sent the visiting fans delirious. Even Bilic himself seemed unable to comprehend what he'd just seen.
The Hammers have never had much change from either of the Merseyside clubs over the years but, following the three wins over the red half of Liverpool this season, Bilic has now managed to oversee an unlikely comeback against the blue of Everton; a club he represented in his playing days.
It could be argued that Everton should have had the game sewn up before Antonio hit the Hammers' first goal after 78 minutes, but Bilic's team found a seam of determination and energy that just swept their opponents away.
Bilic must be pinching himself; the manager's current run of form is nearly as impressive as that of his team. Employing Cheikhou Kouyate as an emergency centre-back to cover injuries to three regulars, Bilic decided to replace the struggling Reece Oxford with Andy Carroll and later, Emmanuel Emenike with Diafra Sakho as Everton pulled his team apart. All his tactical changes worked perfectly, with Carroll and Sakho destroying the home defence in little over 15 minutes.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Adrian, 8 -- The Spanish keeper saved an admittedly weak penalty from Romelu Lukaku but also backed that up with a string of fine saves that kept West Ham in the game.
DF Michail Antonio, 8 -- Scored yet another goal; the much-travelled, London-born striker must suddenly feel as if he has found his home. Active at either end of the pitch.
DF Cheikhou Kouyate, 6 -- The Senegal international struggled to cope in the triple central-defensive role with which Bilic started the game but, like all his defensive counterparts, was given a good day out by his colleagues in attack.
DF Reece Oxford, 5 -- Was brushed aside by Romelu Lukaku for Everton's first goal and looked like a boy among men for most of the first half -- which essentially, of course, is what the youngster is. Bilic was right to replace the 17-year-old at the break; hopefully the Hammers central defensive issues will clear quickly enough to ensure that Oxford can mature and learn his craft at a more leisurely pace.
DF Angelo Ogbonna, 6 -- The Hammers' defence struggled to contain Lukaku and Aaron Lennon, but the Italian stuck manfully to his job.
DF Aaron Cresswell, 6 -- Had a difficult day against a lively Everton attack and will be happy the game was eventually decided further up the pitch.
MF Pedro Obiang, 6 -- Obiang was sacrificed as the manager attempted to get something from the game, and the move proved to be correct.
MF Mark Noble, 8 -- The trick is to mention the captain without using the words 'battling display'; it's probably doomed to failure however.
MF Dimitri Payet, 9 -- Once Carroll and Sakho joined the game, Payet was able to make the most of his sumptuous crosses. Had an assist for the equaliser and was quick to react to Sakho's exquisite flick to stab home the winner in yet another majestic display.
MF Manuel Lanzini, 6 -- Things didn't quite come off for the Argentinean, but he's not a player the opposition can afford to ignore.
FW Emmanuel Emenike, 6 -- A quiet game after a productive performance in midweek and was rightly replaced with 30 minutes still to play.
MF Alex Song, 6 -- Came on for Obiang after 60 minutes but fouled Muhamed Besic to give Everton a penalty. Although the foul looked to be outside the area -- fortunately, for once against the Hammers -- Lukaku made a hash of the spot kick and the moment was a turning point in the match. That was lucky for Song, who looked off the pace throughout his spell on the pitch.
FW Andy Carroll, 7 -- Replaced Oxford after half-time as Bilic abandoned the three-centre-back strategy and chased the game. As is usual, the big centre-forward shook up Everton and was one of the reasons for the fantastic comeback.
FW Diafra Sakho, 7 -- Replaced Emenike after an hour and scored the equaliser and then provided the assist for Payet's late winner. Just what you want from a player coming off the bench -- this could signal a return to the starting lineup for the much-missed striker.
Peter Thorne, aka Billy Blagg (@BillyBlaggEsq), is the author of a regular column at WestHamOnline.net and the East London Guardian.