Everton 2 Hull City 1: Pineaar sinks Tigers

HULL CITY’S four-match unbeaten run in the top-flight ended at the proverbial bogey venue for the Tigers - despite a spirited showing against home specialists Everton.

Hull City's Jake Livermore (left) and Everton's James McCarthy battle for the ball.

A goal from sub Steven Pineaar, just 27 seconds after entering the fray, four minutes before the hour mark settled a hard-fought contest marred by a seriously-looking injury to striker Danny Graham early on - in Everton’s favour.

It was Graham’s replacement, Yannick Sagbo, who provided his first positive contribution in a Tigers jersey with his maiden goal for the club on 30 minutes - to cancel out Kevin Mirallas’ eighth-minute opener for the Toffees.

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But Roberto Martinez’s Blues secured the spoils thanks to Pineaar’s effortless finish, with Hull still looking for their first win at Goodison Park since over sixty years ago - way back in August 1952.

It maintained the Blues’ 100 per cent home record against City in the Premier League, but they were certainly given a few scares along the way by the plucky Tigers.

It had been a long while between drinks since City’s previous success in the blue half of Merseyside and the early omens did not look good with the hosts - unbeaten on home soil this calendar year - forging a breakthrough inside the first ten minutes.

It was actually Hull who had the game’s first half-chance with Curtis Davies heading wide following a Tom Huddlestone corner, but not too long after, the Blues flexed their muscles - quite literally.

Powerhouse Romelu Lukaku profited from a mistake from Davies and outmuscled the Tigers captain before seeing his low shot blocked by Allan McGregor.

Suitably encouraged, the hosts went in front a few minutes later.

Neat interplay down the left between Leighton Baines and Leon Osman ended with the latter slipping the ball to Belgian international Mirallas, whose low shot seemed to be misjudged by McGregor, who inadvisedly thought the effort was going wide, only for it to find the net off the post.

Replays showed that the shot went through the legs of Gareth Barry, hovering in an offside position, and may have even taken a slight deflection. But the goal stood.

The afternoon then went from bad to worse for the Tigers when luckless striker Graham was stretchered off after coming off second best in a challenge with Barry following lengthy attention - prompting the whole ground to applaud him as he was taken off by medics.

Barry avoided any card for his untidy challenge on the unfortunate Graham, who lay prostrate on the pitch in agony following the challenge.

Yannick Sagbo took Graham’s place on 16 minutes with City’s best offensive moment eventually arriving thus far midway through the half when Faye, minutes after heading over from Huddlestone’s flagkick, saw off his downward header following another flagkick from the club’s record signing bouncing just off target when the defender was well-placed.

At the other end, dangerman Lukaku also diverted a long-ranger from the busy Osman towards goal, but five minutes later, more significant action arrived at the other end, with the Tigers drawing level.

Sone Aluko’s footwork got the better of Baines down the right and he manufactured enough space to cut the ball back invitingly, and in a flash, Sagbo fired in a fierce left-footed shot which flew high into the net at Howard’s near post on the half hour.

Pressure in four minutes of added-on time before the interval threatened at further reward for Hull, with Aluko heading over from close range after Faye again made a real nuisance of himself following another Huddlestone corner.

A nip-and-tuck second half burst into life shortly before the hour mark with the Tigers spurning a great opportunity at one end and the Blues not so wasteful at the other.

An attacking foray from the visitors ended with Jake Livermore screwing a shot wide when well placed, with his midfield counterpart Steven Pienaar showing him how it is done not long after.

A matter of 27 seconds after replacing Osman, the South African international got on the end of a telling cross on the right from Mirallas, with his delightful instinctive precision finish drifting past the stranded McGregor on 57 minutes for a quality goal.

City made an offensive change on 66 minutes when George Boyd replaced Liam Rosenior and soon after Arouna Kone entered the fray for man-mountain Lukaku.

Sagbo then escaped a yellow card for a late challenge on home captain Phil Jagielka before Steve Bruce played his final card with Stephen Quinn coming on for Aluko.

City patiently tried to contrive the opportunity they craved, with the game still very much in the melting pot and despite a fair bit of possession, they struggled to find a meaningful route through, with the Toffees happy to soak up pressure and attempt to hit the visitors on the break.

It almost yielded a killer third with Kone missing a real sitter to wrap things up.

With Hull caught with bodies upfield when a move broke down, Everton poured forward with Seamus Coleman’s cross on the right finding the replacement in front of goal, but with only McGregor to beat from point-blank range, his shot cannoned off the far post.

Moments later, Kone had another opportunity to calm the home fans nerves with another presentable chance with his low shot beaten away by McGregor.

At the other end, Hull couldn’t create substantive opportunities and couldn’t seize upon the collective nerves of the home faithful as Everton held out in relative comfort to maintain their impressive start to the campaign.

Everton: Howard, Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Mirallas, McCarthy, Barry, Osman (Pineaar 56), Barkley (Naismith 80), Lukaku (Kone 68). Substitutes not used: Robles, Jelavic, Deulofeu, Stones.

Hull City: McGregor, Rosenior (Boyd 66), Faye, Davies, Figueroa, Elmohamady, Huddlestone, Livermore, Brady, Aluko (Quinn 74), Graham (Sagbo 16). Substitutes not used: Harper, Bruce, McShane, Meyler.

Referee: N Swarbrick (Preston).