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Everton secured a third straight home win as they overcame a dogged Hull City 2-1 at Goodison Park.
Kevin Mirallas gave the hosts the lead in the first half with a low shot that beat an unsighted Allan McGregor, but Yannick Sagbo hit back to equalise before half-time. Steven Pienaar scored the winner just 10 seconds after being introduced as a second-half substitute to send Roberto Martinez's side into the top six.
Gareth Barry returned to Everton's midfield, having missed the defeat to Manchester City due to the terms of his loan deal, while Hull were boosted by top-scorer Robbie Brady's comeback from a hernia.
Curtis Davies headed an early corner over for the visitors while Romelu Lukaku tested McGregor and it was Everton who took the lead just nine minutes in. A corner from the left was worked to Mirallas on the edge of the area and the Belgian's low shot creeped in at the near post past McGregor, who made no attempt to keep the ball out with his view blocked by a congested penalty area.
As Hull worked their way back into the contest, Abdoulaye Faye twice headed over from corner kicks. The visitors' pressure paid off on the half-hour as Sagbo, who had replaced the injured Danny Graham, netted his first Barclays Premier League goal.
Sone Aluko burst past Leighton Baines down the right and cut the ball back to Sagbo, eight yards out, and the Ivorian firmly side-footed past Tim Howard at his near post to level the scores.
Aluko showed no ill-effects of a crunching tackle from Barry to assist the goal and twice went close in the dying stages of the half, looping a deflected effort over before his close-range header was nudged clear by Baines.
After a quiet start to the second half, Everton regained their lead with Pienaar making a perfect introduction after replacing Leon Osman on 57 minutes.
A long ball from Howard was flicked into Mirallas by Lukaku and the Belgian tore up the right wing before crossing to an unmarked Pienaar, who flicked home neatly with his first touch of the game.
Faye again proved a threat from set-pieces for the visitors when he met Huddlestone's corner, but Barry was on hand to clear away, while Davies went close, nodding wide.
Everton could have put the game to bed with 10 minutes to go, but Arouna Kone crashed an effort against a post when one-on-one with McGregor who then made a smart save out from the same player.
That mattered little though, as Everton kept Hull at arm's length to secure a hard-earned three points.
Everton manager Roberto Martinez: "We were all delighted that Stevie [Pienaar] was able to play today. It's been a frustrating time for everyone because the injury kept him sidelined. He seemed desperate to play a part, desperate to be involved and his first touch was a reflection of what he is – someone who can give you that little bit of magic that you sometimes need to win. It was pleasing to see him do that and it's great to have him available to help the team again.
"What was important was the way he worked over the week. He looked sharp in training and has been very clinical in his finishing and I thought that he was ready for the game, not for 90 minutes but to have an impact.
"We have had so many players away on international duty, plus Hull have had a really good start to the season. They are confident and you could see they were full of energy. They were pressing us really high up, trying to stop us from playing and we found it very difficult. But in those situations it's important that you are professional enough and clever enough to find a way to win."
Hull City manager Steve Bruce: "It was a cracking game which was end to end and could have went either way. Jake Livermore missed a chance about two minutes before they went up the other end and scored.
"[My players] gave us everything they've got out there and they run themselves into a standstill in the end and a bit of quality has killed us off but I couldn't ask of anything more from the players and their endeavour and spirit. They've played with a great endeavour all season, it's never easy to come here.
[Pienaar] has been a great player over the years, and the cross and the finish was top class – and it needed that to beat us. But we can take a lot of heart from it, we've gone out and competed again and we've shown a few people that we're a decent team."
|20 Apr 2014||v Man Utd (H)|
|11 May 2014||v Hull (A)|
|26 Dec 2013||v Sunderland (H)|
|01 Jan 2014||v Stoke (A)|
|20 Jan 2014||v West Brom (A)|
|22 Mar 2014||v Swansea (H)|