For once, David Moyes could not celebrate the most Moyesian of triumphs. Over an 11-year reign at Goodison Park, there was often the sense that when Everton really needed a win, they would find a way to grind one out. It might be ugly, it could be effective and it would probably be 1-0. On the Scot’s return to Merseyside, he was greeted with a familiar outcome. The problem for Moyes was that his West Ham suffered as a result of the Evertonian graft and grit he used to imbue. They were left in the relegation zone by his own methods.
A reunion was a happier affair for former Hammer Frank Lampard. A belated first victory means Everton’s start to the season is transformed into a platform. The previous time they claimed three points, against Crystal Palace in May, it secured their survival on a seminal evening that ended with Lampard bouncing up and down on the roof of an executive box. This was not quite of the same proportions but it felt vital nonetheless. It was an endorsement of an overhaul, a sense of justification for Lampard’s rebuilding project.
Everton had shown signs of progress but optimism can only be retained while winless for so long. Now they are unbeaten in five games, with clean sheets in the last two. Neal Maupay was scarcely the most glamorous of signings but his first Everton goal was both well-taken and decisive. While Said Benrahma curled a 20-yard shot against the post, a West Ham squad furnished with £150m of signings could not respond in kind.
In a game featuring two sides who arrived with seven goals between them this season, any finish had the potential to be crucial. Everton struck with their first shot on target, which did not come in a forgettable opening half. They lacked much of a threat before the break, for all Maupay’s verve, with a lack of creativity threatening to stifle them.
Then Maupay accepted Alex Iwobi’s pass, spun and unleashed a snap-shot that flew past Lukasz Fabianski. Maupay acquired a reputation for glaring misses at Brighton but he has long the ability to take harder chances and this was a clinical finish. Lampard has been an admirer of the Frenchman since his Brentford days and this was early vindication for a distinctly unfashionable signing. Maupay has assumed an added importance for other reasons: this had been pencilled in for Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s comeback but Lampard took the cautious approach and did not even name the striker on the bench. Maupay ensured he was not required.
Lampard made another telling choice. With Seamus Coleman a substitute and Jordan Pickford injured, Conor Coady captained Everton on just his sixth appearance for them. He produced a terrific interception to stop Michail Antonio from converting Jarrod Bowen’s cross. Coady excelled again in partnership with another summer signing, James Tarkowski, and their defiance is a reason why only Brighton have conceded fewer goals than Everton.
They scarcely produced free-flowing football but Lampard is rendering them hard to beat and, from the influential Idrissa Gueye to the impressive Iwobi, others lent solidity and energy. Demarai Gray was bright after the break, troubling Vladimir Coufal and delivering a couple of enticing crosses, and both full-backs again offered evidence of their improvement.
They helped shield a second-choice goalkeeper. Pickford’s deputy Asmir Begovic was a spectator for swathes of the game. He held Kurt Zouma’s header and did well to tip over a shot from the substitute, and former Everton target, Maxwel Cornet, who at least brought dynamism in his cameo.
But West Ham worked Begovic too infrequently. Bowen dispatched a half-volley over the bar but is yet to open his Premier League account for the season or regain the spark he showed in spring. Tomas Soucek flashed a header wide but while West Ham applied pressure at the end, they lacked incision.
They have still scored far more goals against Danish than English clubs this season and if that partly reflects the Europa Conference League draw, it reflects the way their domestic campaign needs kickstarting. Five of Moyes’ summer signings began on the bench, with only Thilo Kehrer and Lucas Paqueta starting and the Brazilian was snuffed out by Gueye.
In Coady and Tarkowski, Gueye and Amadou Onana, much of the spine of Lampard’s side consisted of his recruits. In Maupay, they included the match-winner. For Moyes, the manner of Everton’s victory may have seemed all too recognisable.