Thursday 22 February 2018

Forgotten man Niasse puts Rooney in shade

Wayne Rooney points an accusing finger after suffering an eye cut that makes him doubtful for Thursday’s Europa League match against Apollon Limassol. Photo: Barrington Coombs/PA Wire
Wayne Rooney points an accusing finger after suffering an eye cut that makes him doubtful for Thursday’s Europa League match against Apollon Limassol. Photo: Barrington Coombs/PA Wire

Chris Bascombe

When Everton opt for a nickname for striker Oumar Niasse, they cannot look beyond 'Lazarus'.

A Premier League career that looked dead soon after his arrival has been resuscitated - along with his club's morale.

Niasse had been written off on Merseyside, Ronald Koeman initially declaring he did not possess enough quality.

Others worried he would be one of the club's worst signings, so the Dutchman's decision to send on Niasse for Wayne Rooney in the 55th minute against Bournemouth with Everton a goal down reeked of desperation.

However, the Senegal striker responded with two goals to secure victory; his previous history at the club erased, his future suddenly full of promise.

Niasse was already being showered in goodwill before he struck. He is one of those curious players acquiring favouritism on the Gwladys Street by virtue of being deemed hopeless by those who saw his cameos in the latter stages of the Roberto Martinez era.

He arrived for £13.5m from Lokomotiv Moscow not only lacking fitness, but also balance and a first touch.

Still, plenty felt that he deserved another chance. A loan spell at Hull last season hinted that a footballer could be in hiding beneath a clumsy exterior, even if a top excavation team would be required to find it.

But back from exile he is, courtesy of Everton's inability to find a replacement for Romelu Lukaku, running around enthusiastically, and scoring to turn deflation into elation.

And what a first goal it was. Niasse stole possession, exchanged passes with Tom Davies and then slammed his shot ferociously past Asmir Begovic.

Davies, whose own influence as substitute must not be overlooked, also played his part in the 82nd-minute winner.

The midfielder's shot was deflected and looped towards goal, from where Niasse headed the ball over the line, making sure before the goalline technology was required to judge if Begovic had saved the first attempt.

"Oumar" was the chant - a combination of disbelief as well as acclaim.

"Oumar was incredible," said Koeman.

"But he hasn't surprised me because I know him.

"The boy has the kind of qualities when we are struggling, with his aggression and his direct play he can create a lot of problems."

Before the late charge, the blood and fury in Everton's football was not what Koeman had in mind.

Rooney's timer was set on 35 minutes when he felt that Simon Francis' erratic elbow to his face carried more intent than replays suggest.

Only Francis can answer to that, but Rooney's eye was evidence of the damage, and his remonstration with referee Martin Atkinson was his testimony on the Bournemouth captain's cynicism.

"Simon had eyes on the ball. When you jump like that there is no intention whatsoever," insisted Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe.

Rooney played for another 20 minutes, but was clearly impeded by the injury.

At that stage Everton were behind, Josh King having been found in space by Charlie Daniels to take advantage of an absent home midfield on 49 minutes.

Jordan Pickford stopped Jermain Defoe adding a second minutes later in a game-changing intervention. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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