Everton kept its top-four challenge on track with a 2-1 win over West Brom at Goodison Park on Wednesday evening.
The hosts looked to be cruising to victory after Leighton Baines plundered two first-half goals, but substitute Shane Long ensured a nervy finish with his headed goal.
Both sides started tentatively, with missed headers from Phil Jagielka and Romelu Lukaku the early highlights in a cagey opening 10 minutes. And matters took some time to improve, with 18 minutes having passed before Marouane Fellaini shook Ben Foster’s post with a half volley inside the penalty area.
It would take a further 10 for a show of further genuine quality, but this time it would prove more decisive.
Baines collected the ball from Leon Osman 25 yards out after one of his trademark surges up the left and, in a show of class, found the top corner beautifully from the edge of the box.
The Baggies, who had been marginally second best despite the lack of cutting edge on show, were dealt a further blow when Thorne was forced to leave the field with injury. Things were about to get worse, though, as Thorne’s replacement Claudio Yacob tripped Victor Anichebe in the box to hand a penalty to the hosts two minutes after coming on.
Baines, the scorer of the game’s first goal, subsequently stepped up to send Foster the wrong way and give his side a 2-0 halftime lead which it had earned without breaking a sweat.
The teams came out with notably more enthusiasm in the second period but this simply resulted in a scrappy midfield battle rather than added quality, meaning the Toffees looked certain of closing out an easy victory with an hour gone.
However, the introduction of Long for the ineffective James Morrison changed things significantly, as the Irishman capitalized on Heitinga’s inexplicable chip in the box to nod home with virtually his first touch.
That goal prompted a late flurry of attacking surges from both sides, with Osman’s terrible miss in the box the most notable. The ball had bounced fortunately for the England international, but he did not take the invitation and smashed the ball over the bar from just six yards.
That was the best opportunity either side had before the end, as Moyes’ men saw the game out well to earn another important win.
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- Leighton Baines
- Marouane Fellaini