Belfast Telegraph

Toffees come unstuck again at Hull

Goals from Ahmed Elmohamady and Nikica Jelavic ensured Everton's festive flop continued with a fourth straight defeat at strugglers Hull.

Toffees boss Roberto Martinez was looking to banish recent defeats by Southampton, Stoke and Newcastle but instead saw his team brushed aside by opponents who had won just once in their last 12 matches, with a late red card for Antolin Alcaraz rubbing salt into the wounds.

Prior to this 2-0 success - a scoreline that might easily have been doubled - Hull had one just one Barclays Premier League game at the KC Stadium all season.

But Everton are an increasingly obliging prospect, with Gareth Barry hopelessly exposed in an unfamiliar back-three position.

Barry's fish-out-of-water efforts were the most jarring, but an Everton side that welcomed back key men Phil Jagielka, Kevin Mirallas, Steven Naismith and Ross Barkley were second best at every turn.

Abel Hernandez excelled for the Tigers from start to finish without finding the net but there was a rare headed opener from Elmohamady and a neatly taken sixth of the season from Jelavic, who reminded his former club of his finishing prowess.

Despite that, Everton almost unpicked Hull in a matter of seconds, Seamus Coleman and Arouna Kone creating an overlap on the right but once that danger was cleared the shift in tone was immediate.

Hull should have had a second-minute penalty when their first attack ended in Hernandez being bundled over by Barry.

Referee Kevin Friend instead awarded a free-kick just outside the box, only for replays to show the incident taking place several inches further forward.

Gaston Ramirez was trusted with the shot at goal but lofted over the top.

Hernandez warmed Joel Robles' hands with a long-range drive soon after and soon began to zero in on Barry, who was already creaking in his defensive role.

The Tigers were quick to spot the weakness, lifting long balls into Barry's territory and unleashing Hernandez in pursuit.

After one such move left the veteran on all fours as the Uruguayan raced clear Everton began to double up on the position, opening gaps elsewhere.

The Toffees had chances to break the pattern of the game, not least when Barkley finally imposed himself on proceedings with a barrelling 30-yard dash through midfield.

He came to an abrupt stop as Curtis Davies blocked his path at the very edge of the area and when Friend waved play-on, Barkley appeared incredulous.

Replays this time supported the official, with no obvious foul.

Hull's dominance paid off in the 33rd minute when Liam Rosenior, on for the injured Andy Robertson, arced a fine cross to the far post.

Elmohamady was waiting and made surprisingly light work of Leighton Baines' challenge to nod into the bottom corner.

The goal only increased the visitors' defensive jitters, Hernandez and Jake Livermore both having chances before Jelavic made it 2-0 just before the break.

With Everton pressing high, Hernandez hooked a bouncing ball over his shoulder and Barry played Jelavic on.

The Croatian was left one on one with Robles and held his nerve with a delicate lobbed finish before a modest celebration.

Martinez swapped Mirallas and Muhamed Besic for Romelu Lukaku and Bryan Oviedo at the break but almost conceded at a goalmouth scramble moments into the second half.

Hernandez had the last attempt but scuffed it wide from an awkward position.

Rosenior suffered a nasty knee injury in the 55th minute and with the hosts temporarily down to 10, Barkley almost netted for the Toffees.

With a deft turn and a couple of clever touches, he carved space in a crowded box only to see his powerful shot bravely blocked by Allan McGregor.

Rosenior departed on a stretcher, with the inexperienced Harry Maguire on in his place, but Hull's twice reshaped backline held firm.

Lukaku added purpose to the away side's attacks but his best effort, a looping header across goal, landed on the roof of the net.

The day ended on another sour note for Martinez, who saw Alcaraz dismissed late on for a harsh second booking.

A goal for Hernandez would have provided a fitting finale but the £10million man sent his final chance a yard wide.

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