Premier League: Diego Lugano earns West Brom a 1-1 draw against Everton
Last Updated: 21/01/14 9:01am
Diego Lugano: Equalises for West Brom with a diving header
Diego Lugano's header denied Everton a place in the top four and gave Pepe Mel a point in his first game as West Brom coach after a 1-1 draw at The Hawthorns.
The Uruguay international's 75th-minute header secured a 1-1 draw against a misfiring Everton side who briefly had one foot in the Champions League places when Kevin Mirallas fired them into a first-half lead.
Best of the match:
- Goal of the match: Lugano was done for pace when Mirallas scored the opener, but the centre-half made amends by bursting in front of Distin to power an unstoppable diving header past Howard.
- Pass of the match: There was little quality from wide areas all night but Morrison's driven cross for Lugano meant the centre-half only had to connect with the ball for it to thunder into the net.
- Save of the match: Both keepers were rarely troubled, but Howard did have to dive from his line to palm away Vydra's cross and deny Morrison a simple finish at the far post.
- Moment of the match: Everton thought they had won it with the last kick but Distin was rightly flagged offside when he turned in Barry's wayward shot in the fourth minute of added time.
- Man of the match: There were few stand-out performances but Mirallas provided a creative spark for Everton in Ross Barkley's absence.
- Talking point: Mel promised a more creative and aggressive West Brom, but can the new boss implement his ideas all the while keeping Albion out of a relegation scrap?
Mel found himself having to earn his money almost immediately as, against a backdrop of off-field issues, he coaxed an improved second-half performance out of his side which could have easily also produced a winner.
Mel will have been grateful to be able to focus on the football as Nicolas Anelka had dominated the news agenda in the days and hours before kick-off.
Club sponsor Zoopla announced it would not be renewing its shirt sponsorship deal after the furore surrounding the Frenchman's 'quenelle' gesture at West Ham last month.
Anelka began this game energised and motivated, but despite being significantly involved he could not have the impact he would have wanted and was eventually substituted just after West Brom's equaliser.
With Everton led by Roberto Martinez it meant there were two Spanish managers on the touchline. The expectation, even on a chilly night in the West Midlands, was for an exhibition of flowing football.
What materialised in the first half was anything but as Mel's men, no doubt eager to impress their new manager, were pulled up for a number of niggling fouls while the visitors displayed little of their usual flow and rhythm.
With the spotlight on Anelka, the Frenchman at least provided glimpses of his talent but it was mainly when operating from a slightly withdrawn position.
There were several occasions when he received the ball with his back to goal yet managed to turn his marker and thread a pass through to fellow forward Matej Vydra or Zoltan Gera running from deep, but only once did he get a sight of goal and his effort was off target.
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Half-chances were prevalent. Romelu Lukaku, who spent last season on loan with West Brom, hooked an early effort wide while Matej Vydra's cross - via another Anelka through-ball - was tipped away by Tim Howard with James Morrison lurking at the back post.
Bryan Oviedo, back in the Everton side for the injured Steven Pienaar, was given the task of operating in an unfamiliar wide right role but he used the position to his advantage by flashing volleys just wide of either post in quick succession.
Roberto Martinez felt his side created a lot of chances in the first half, but began to struggle with the pitch
An off-balance James McCarthy and Mirallas both failed to test Ben Foster with shots, while right-back Seamus Coleman - with five goals in his last 10 games - saw a tame shot blocked by the combination of Liam Ridgewell and Chris Brunt.
The breakthrough goal, in the 41st minute, came out of the blue and would definitely be classed as part of Martinez's plan B.
Centre-back Sylvain Distin launched the ball in the direction of Lukaku and he nodded it down into the path of Mirallas who easily beat Foster.
With the creative Ross Barkley missing for another couple of weeks with a broken toe, Martinez will hope Mirallas, playing centrally, can maintain this form to help sustain their top-four challenge.
Pepe Mel was pleased with a point from his first match in charge and feels given time, West Brom can improve.
The quality did not improve greatly in the second half but the hosts, sensing Everton were not entirely comfortable, ramped up the pressure and substitute Victor Anichebe - another playing against a club he left in the summer - had a near-post chance blocked by Phil Jagielka from Anelka's cross.
When Lugano attacked the same area from Morrison's cross he had more success, powering a header past Tim Howard.
Everton tried to respond, sending on new signing Aiden McGeady for his debut late on, and although Gareth Barry's shot was diverted into the net with the last kick of the game by Distin the defender was clearly offside.
The draw sees Everton remain in sixth place, while Albion climb to 13th.