Manager vindicated in decisiveness as Pedro Obiang and Andriy Yarmolenko prove pivotal, even if it invited questions why each made belated first league start of season
Manuel Pellegrini rewarded for his patience in West Ham's victory over Everton
Without knowing the circumstances of Manuel Pellegrini’s previous 64 birthdays, he may have had happier ones, but few can have offered such relief. As the Chilean reached a landmark, it threatened to bring an unwanted milestone.
Never in their 123-year history had West Ham United started a season with five straight league defeats. Pellegrini’s charges averted the ignominy, earning his maiden league win as they condemned Everton to a first loss under Marco Silva.
The pressure on Pellegrini was eased, his day made better by a different sort of present from his players. “The cake was the three goals,” he said.
He seemed vindicated in his decisiveness as two of the six men he brought in were pivotal, even if it invited questions why each was making a belated first league start of the season. Pedro Obiang played a part in two goals. Andriy Yarmolenko scored twice.
Pellegrini defended his cautious approach to blooding the Ukrainian. “He didn’t arrive here ready to play,” the Chilean insisted.
At least now a £100 million (Dh480m) makeover has yielded some points.
“I have a lot of communication with the owners,” Pellegrini added. “Of course they were not happy but they never have any doubt about what we are doing.”
That blend of expenditure and ability had made West Ham’s start so dreadful.
At £20m, Yarmolenko was not even the most expensive winger Pellegrini signed in the summer. A year at Borussia Dortmund had been unproductive, but his belated first league goals of 2018 showcased his considerable gifts.
It also highlighted Everton’s issues. They have scored and conceded in every game under Silva so far and if that represents welcome entertainment after the drudgery of the Sam Allardyce era, this was a slapdash, error-strewn display.
“In this level you cannot make mistakes like we made,” Silva said. “We didn’t play with enough quality to win the game. It is a tough result for us.”
While a West Ham newcomer, in Yarmolenko, flourished, an Everton arrival, and his immediate opponent, floundered. Their £18m left-back Lucas Digne delivered some dangerous crosses but lost Yarmolenko for the opener and failed to stop him for his second goal.
It had just a hint of Arjen Robben about it as he feinted to shoot while evading two defenders before curling a shot past Jordan Pickford. “He has a lot of quality,” his manager said.
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It was an indication of what West Ham were missing when his full league debut had been delayed by four substitute appearances amid Pellegrini’s preference for Robert Snodgrass.
Yarmolenko had only taken 11 minutes to strike, even if much of the credit for the opener belonged to Obiang, who supplied a defence-splitting pass, and Marko Arnautovic, who unselfishly laid the ball off to give the Ukrainian a simple finish.
The two suppliers combined for the third, the heroic Arnautovic sliding to finish after a one-two with Obiang. His inclusion indicated a change of approach, with less naivety and more solidity, without the full-backs bombing forward and with three fairly conservative midfielders.
West Ham nevertheless still conceded, allowed the unmarked substitute Oumar Niasse to rattle the bar and were indebted to their goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski for saves from Jonjoe Kenny, with an audacious volley, and two from Cenk Tosun, whose wait for a first league goal of the season continues and who ought to have done better with a header.
“We had four or five chances and scored one goal,” Silva lamented.
He could at least claim credit for that goal. If it felt a strange piece of timing to make a tactical substitution when Morgan Schneiderlin was removed a couple of minutes before half time, Everton reaped an immediate dividend.
Gylfi Sigurdsson was relocated into a deeper role but emerged unchecked to head in Kenny’s cross. It was a rare highlight for the hosts.
“It is a big lesson for us,” Silva said. “We have many things to improve.”