Forward Kevin Mirallas’ missed penalty cost Everton the chance of a first win in eight matches to leave Roberto Martinez’ men in the middle of a relegation dogfight.
What was even more galling for home fans last night was the fact he took it in the first place.
Whoever made the decision a minute before half-time needed to take a long hard look at themselves considering spot-kick regular Leighton Baines had previously scored 15 out of 16.
Mirallas’ withdrawal at the interval of the goalless draw merely posed more questions as speculation continues to link the Belgium international, who has 18 months remaining on his contract, with a move away.
Toffees striker Steven Naismith played down the incident afterwards. “I think Kev has come off with an injury. Think that is what it was more than anything else. Kev is so confident, he is in form and playing well so he wanted to take it. Unfortunately he has missed but we should have had enough in the 90 minutes (to win) rather than relying on the penalty.”
Martinez confirmed the Belgian was injured. “It’s a talking point because Mirallas missed the penalty. He wasn’t 100%, he felt his hamstring, that’s why he came off.”
A week is a long time in football and, after leaving the Upton Park pitch to rave reviews, Mirallas left Goodison under something of a cloud. That a missed penalty, and the whys and wherefores of who should take the kick, was the main talking point spoke volumes for the quality on show.
Everton knew West Brom would be tough to break down under new manager Tony Pulis and so it should have come as no surprise to see the visitors employ a 4-5-1 formation with Saidho Berahino, with six goals in three matches, posted wide left to curtail full-back Seamus Coleman’s forward runs.
Pulis came for — and left with — a point which extended his unbeaten run since taking over to three matches. The draw took them three points clear of the relegation zone and has given them a platform on which to build.
Everton are only a point ahead, having taken two points from a possible 18, and the chorus of boos when Martinez replaced midfielder Muhamed Besic, comfortably their best player, with striker Arouna Kone late on and also at full-time was an indicator of fans’ frustration.
Martinez has complained about a lack of decisions going Everton’s way and referee Mike Oliver’s leniency in allowing James Morrison and particularly Craig Gardner to get away with hard and late challenges on Seamus Coleman and Ross Barkley respectively did not help the manager’s early mood.
In truth there was little else for Oliver or indeed anyone else to get too agitated about until the final minute of the half, with Mirallas’ free-kick comfortably held by goalkeeper Ben Foster and Joel Robles saving from Gardner’s offside half-volley.
It appeared the mediocrity would be broken in the 44th minute when former Toffee Joleon Lescott handled Romelu Lescott’s chest trap, but Mirallas hit the foot of a post and the ball spun behind.
The half-time video message from Hollywood star Sylvester Stallone, urging the crowd to generate some atmosphere as filming took place for Rocky spin-off movie Creed, was optimistic considering what had gone before but, fittingly, Everton did show a bit more appetite for a fight.
Ross Barkley, Lukaku and Besic (twice) all had shots deflected behind but Foster barely had a save to make.
The same was true of his counterpart Robles, but West Brom’s priorities lie elsewhere.
EVERTON: Robles, Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Baines, Besic (Kone 79), Barry, Naismith, Barkley, Mirallas (Oviedo 46), Lukaku.
WEST BROM: Foster, Wisdom, McAuley, Lescott, Baird, Brunt, Yacob, Morrison (Sessegnon 65), Gardner, Berahino (Dorrans 70), Anichebe (Ideye 79).
Ref: Michael Oliver (Northumberland).