In a season to forget for Evertonians, Wayne Rooney gives hope of better times ahead with a breathtaking goal
After his one match as England manager, Sam Allardyce suggested it was not for him to tell a living legend such as Wayne Rooney where to play. Just put him out there and let him do his stuff, was the big fella’s suggestion.
Almost 15 months on, it is doubtful his view will change. Not after this vintage performance, not after this hat-trick, not after THIS strike. Not after what just might be the most impudent, the most perfectly-hit goal of his record-breaking career. It was truly a remarkable moment — Rooney drilling home Joe Hart’s skewed clearance from just inside his own half.
It secured his first Everton match-ball and after a nervous 20 second half minutes that included a priceless Jordan Pickford penalty save, it secured the game. No wonder Allardyce, watching in the directors’ box and wearing a grin broad by even his standards, jabbed the Goodison air and had a word or two with Farhad Moshiri.
'That’s the first instalment of my million-pound survival bonus sorted!' — or words to that effect. Just for that moment alone, in a game in which Allardyce was not even officially in charge, Big Sam will owe Rooney a bob or two if and when Everton stay up. Never mind if it was a fleeting reminder of his glorious, bygone years.
Never mind if it was out of kilter with the waning of his considerable powers.
Never mind those of us who considered his signing a retrograde step.
Just enjoy it.
It was simply breathtaking.
It was not the most brilliantly-worked goal in Premier League history, especially as the hapless Hart should have put his mid-half interception into the stand, but it was certainly as pure a sporting connection as you will ever see. It was Tiger Woods hitting his one-iron stinger under the wind. It was Roger Federer brutally yet beautifully swatting a forehand on to the angle of sideline and baseline.
It was Virat Kohli flat-batting a six over extra cover. Fading like that Woods one-iron, it barely rose above crossbar level in the entirety of its 54-metre journey. That it was his third of the night. That it settled matters made it all the more special for Rooney.
As throwback moments go, they don’t get much more vivid and his overall performance was perhaps his best of the season. This also became Everton’s best performance of the season — albeit with the assistance of a pretty shocking West Ham. And, on the first goal specifically, with the assistance of Pedro Obiang and that man Hart.
Obiang turned Gylfi Sigurdsson’s tame pass into a defence-splitting ball and the England keeper recklessly upended Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Michael Oliver only had one dilemma… for how long would he let Hart plead before producing the red card to go with the penalty.
Not even a yellow materialised, but a modicum of justice prevailed when Hart’s save popped up obligingly for Rooney. One simple nod later and Everton were invigorated and West Ham in disarray.
That is why the second was no surprise.
It was simple enough, Rooney side-footing in after Jonjoe Kenny had aimed an air-shot at a Tom Davies cross, but it was abject defending - flimsy, half-hearted stuff; the stuff of serious relegation candidates. In contrast, in Unsworth’s final frolic, Everton looked a team with a sense of purpose and a degree of organisation.