Bilic hails new-look Hammers defence as Lukaku draws a blank

Slaven Bilic believes a tactical change to a three-man defence helped keep the Premier League’s leading marksman Romelu Lukaku quiet during their goalless draw against Everton on Saturday.

Hammers centre-backs Winston Reid, Jose Fonte and James Collins produced an excellent display as the Belgian striker was limited to a single blocked shot.

The West Ham boss admitted he was wary of Lukaku’s impressive goalscoring run against West Ham prior to the game, with the 23-year-old scoring in nine consecutive games against the Hammers, but praised his side for their meticulous approach to the game.

“It was about stopping the service to Lukaku,” Bilic said.

“He’s a major threat, scoring 24 goals. The next top goalscorer (for Everton) has four goals I think so it is about Lukaku. We stopped the service to him from (Ross) Barkley and (Kevin) Mirallas and when he was getting the ball, we tried to double him up.

“So the whole team, the three at the back, did a really amazing job on him.

“I’m really pleased with the way we played. Especially if you are talking about how solid we were, how composed we were, how we kept the shape. If you’re talking about effort, determination and defensive quality, then there’s nothing more I could ask from the players.

“They did brilliantly, I told them to be proud of themselves and to use this pattern as a motivation to boost their confidence for the remainder of the season.”

Bilic also confirmed that midfielder Robert Snodgrass missed out due to a swollen knee.

Meanwhile, Ronald Koeman admitted he felt like making 10 substitutions at half-time after his side’s sub-par performance at the London Stadium.

The Toffees failed to register a single shot on target as their winless run away from Goodison Park stretches back to Boxing Day.

Tom Davies and Idrissa Gueye were the unfortunate duo to be substituted after the first half as Everton only had one touch in the West Ham’s box in the opening 45 minutes.

“I feel sorry for Tom, Gana (Gueye), because if I was allowed, I would change 10 players after the first half,” the Everton boss said.

“(I’m) disappointed about the performance this afternoon. (We were) far away from the level at every aspect of football.

“One positive thing, a clean sheet and we go home.

“We didn’t bring intensity to the game, I think it was too slow. A lot of ball possession, too many players in the centre position of the midfield. (We) took too much time – in my opinion if you start a game like this, it’s always difficult to change.

“It’s a nice stadium, maybe the temperature was a little bit different in the last few weeks. You try to find some reasons why the team was not at that level we expect but it’s difficult.

“I’m not worried, because it’s possible, it’s football.”

Source: PA

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