West Ham’s Andriy Yarmolenko proves his worth in victory at Everton | Jonathan Wilson

Ukrainian provides perfect birthday gift for Manuel Pellegrini with two goals towards a first league win of the season

In West Ham’s situation any win will do. They are off the mark, off the bottom of the table and, on Manuel Pellegrini’s 65th birthday, they ensured they avoided the worst start to a league season in the club’s history. In the goals and all-round performance of Andriy Yarmolenko there were even tentative signs that the summer signings may turn out to offer some value. But nobody should be sounding the all-clear just yet: West Ham will face few opponents as sloppy and lacklustre as Everton were at the back on Sunday.

There had been a sense with Yarmolenko that he, like his fellow Ukraine winger Yevhen Konoplyanka, was a player of eternal promise, forever being linked with glamorous moves without making them until it was too late – what might be termed the William Carvalho Protocol. In that regard crueller tongues suggested he was a very West Ham signing: the right man a few seasons after the right time.

On this showing, though, that might be an overly cynical interpretation, that just because Yarmolenko never quite seemed to fit at Borussia Dortmund in what was a generally uneasy time for the club does not mean he can never succeed again. One game, of course, is insufficient to draw any firm conclusions but it may be that he proves a very useful acquisition at £22m.

Everton, of all Premier League clubs, should have been aware of his quality, given how Yarmolenko orchestrated their 5-2 demolition away to Dynamo Kyiv in the Europa League in March 2015. But this was a remarkably slapdash Everton who essentially presented him with two goals. The first was a tap-in after a simple ball over the top had released Marko Arnautovic. The second took a little more work, as he cut in from the right and lashed the ball into the top corner, but still stemmed from Jordan Pickford presenting Mark Noble with the ball with a weak clearance.

Goals have always been a part of Yarmolenko’s game – he got into double figures in six successive seasons for Dynamo and averages almost one every other match for his country – but they had rather dried up since he left Kyiv. He scored only three for Borussia Dortmund, although it should not be forgotten that he missed two months of last season with a foot injury sustained in January, after which he played only twice. These were his first league goals since he scored in a 1-1 draw at Bayer Leverkusen last December.

Yarmolenko is big for a winger, fully 10 inches taller than his opposing No 20, Bernard, with the result that their clashes on the West Ham right at times resembled a teacher joining in a school game to try to even up the sides. There will be times that what here appeared as a loping capacity to eat up the ground, brushing opponents aside, will seem like clumsiness, but there can be no doubt he unsettled Everton. The third also came from his flank, the 28-year-old combining with Noble to create space for Pedro Obiang who, after an exchange of passes with Arnautovic, surged through a mysteriously tentative back line to tee up the Austrian.

The Ukrainian’s inclusion was one of six changes Pellegrini made after the limp defeat at home to Wolves before the international break. That that was only one short of the record number of changes for a West ham line-up, set by Sam Allardyce four years ago, suggests just how furious this most inscrutable of managers was with his side after that game. Declan Rice also returned and had a fine game as a breakwater between the defensive and midfield fours.

But there was also defensive uncertainty, most notably against the crossed ball, with Gylfi Sigurdsson, Cenk Tosun and Oumar Niasse all missing decent opportunities. There is still work to be done then but, with Chelsea and Manchester United next up, this was a much needed win, if only because eight successive defeats from the start of the season is unthinkable. In the longer term, though, more significant may be the rebirth of Yarmolenko and the first glimmers of evidence that he might prosper in the Premier League.


Jonathan Wilson at Goodison Park

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