Aluko lifts battling Hull out of drop zone

Everton 1 Hull City 1

Aluko lifts battling Hull out of drop zone

Hull’s slump looked set to continue as they trailed to a first-half goal from Everton’s leading scorer Romelu Lukaku.

Lukaku’s seventh goal of the campaign — and third in four games — had Everton seemingly in the comfort zone and heading back level on points with neighbours Liverpool and a place in the top eight.

But Roberto Martinez’s side, for all their good work in the Europa League, has been less than ruthless at Goodison Park where domestic matters are concerned and they duly let Hull off the hook.

“Who knows with the point, we have hopefully stopped the rot,” said Steve Bruce.

“It was the first time we were in the relegation zone in 18 months. It's only our second season up. The Premier League is starting to take shape. We hope we can still finish midway through the division - we have a far better chance than we did last season.

“The second half we were much, much better. There wasn't much between the sides in the first half. After the difficult weekend in Manchester and a difficult month - if anybody was going to win it was us.”

Even so, goals have been hard to come by for Steve Bruce’s embattled side. But on a freezing night, Aluko, whose recent efforts with Nigeria came up just short as they missed out on a place in the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations, proved the saviour as his 60th-minute strike stopped the rot.

Having seen an unbeaten eight-game run ended at Tottenham — one of their potential rivals for a top-four place — at the weekend, it appeared Everton could hardly have hand-picked better opponents to face to try and regain their momentum.

Not only had Hull won just one of their previous six Premier League meetings, but four successive defeats prior to this, and only one win since August, had taken them into the bottom three the first time under Bruce in his near two-and-a-half years in charge.

A tame surrender at Manchester United prompted four changes to his team as Bruce went back to the tried and tested and Hull were given early encouragement by a strangely subdued Everton side still missing the injured James McCarthy.

Gradually, though, Everton warmed to their task as Lukaku stung the hands of Alan McGregor with a fierce drive 13 minutes in.

That hardly opened the floodgate but a combination between Gareth Barry and Lukaku ended with the latter poking a shot towards goal which struck the arm of defender Jake Livermore, who rightly avoided punishment from referee Robert Madley.

It was a short-lived reprieve for the visitors, though, as Everton’s growing superiority finally paid off with the opening goal 11 minutes before half time. Kevin Mirallas always looked capable of opening up Hull’s defence and after teeing up Leon Osman for flicked shot saved by McGregor, he repeated the dose for Lukaku.

The Belgian international had initially headed the ball on for fellow countryman Mirallas and when the cross was delivered, Lukaku slid and thumped home a left-footed shot from 10 yards.

When Muhamed Besic then curled a shot just wide it looked as though Everton might do just as they please but, as in the first half, Hull started the second half positively and this time they made it count.

Mohamed Diame had threatened a couple of times as Everton dithered at the back but it was his replacement, Aluko, who did the damage, accepting a pass from Everton old boy Nikica Jelavic before skipping past Sylvain Distin and driving an angled shot past Tim Howard.

Jelavic then looped a header just past the post and as Everton became increasingly frustrated, they failed to muster a better chance of their own.

EVERTON (4-2-3-1): Howard 6; Coleman 7, Jagielka 7, Distin 6, Baines 7; Besic 7 (McGeady, 80), Barry 6; Mirallas 7 (Pienaar 64) , Barkley 7, Osman 7; Lukaku 7.

HULL CITY (4-4-2): McGregor 6; Elmohamady 6, Dawson 7, Chester 6, Rosenior 6; Meyler 6 (Brady 87), Livermore 7, Huddlestone 7, Quinn 7 (Robertson 89); Jelavic 7, Diame 6 (Aluko 53, 8).

Referee: R Madley 6.

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