Slaven Bilics much-changed West Ham side held Everton to a 0-0 draw at home to quash the Merseyside teams hopes of a place in the Champions League
A match almost entirely lacking in incident stymied Evertons chances of catching the Premier League elite and proved Slaven Bilic is capable of some sly expectations management, as his scratch WestHam United team comfortably held Ronald Koemans side in their first goalless draw of the season.
I think we can do a really short press conference, said a clearly enervated Koeman after the match. Im disappointed about the performance. We were not the team we can be; we were far away in every aspect. We didnt bring intensity in the game, we had a lotof ball possession, too many players in the centre of the midfield, we took too much time to switch the play. If youstarta game like this, its always difficult to change. Maybe the temperature was a little different from the last fewweeks too. You try to find a reason, but its difficult.
Koeman was certainly right about the weather. With the sun shining across the open spaces of the London Stadium it was possible to detect a hint of summer in the air. Bilic embraced this theme of change, dropping his first-choice keeper, filling his first team with irregulars, his bench with kids and, finally, switching to an unfamiliar three at the back.
That side, after an opening 30 minutes in which neither team seemed able to pass the ball or summon up any tempo, was well organised and composed, and Bilic declared himself pleased with the days endeavours. Especially if youre talking about how solid we were, how composed, how we kept the shape, I was very pleased, he said. If youre talking about effort and determination there is nothing more to ask. Apart from set pieces, we had eight or nine situations where you are expecting to finish it with a good shot. I think we deserved to win the game.
Bilics gameplan to stifle the supply to Romelu Lukaku and break directly became more and more effective as the game wore on. The first instance of note came when a counter from the little-seen forward Jonathan Calleri forced Idrissa Gueye into a lunging foul that brought a yellow card in the 27th minute. The subsequent free-kick led to a corner and, from that, the forgotten midfielder Havard Nordtveit picked off two strong long-range efforts that were first blocked by a defender and then held by Maarten Stekelenburg.