LIVERPOOL (AFP) – Everton forward Kevin Mirallas was involved in a penalty row as the Belgian’s missed spot-kick condemned his struggling side to a frustrating 0-0 draw against West Bromwich Albion on Monday.
Mirallas appeared to ignore his team-mates when he picked up the ball to take a penalty instead of spot-kick expert Leighton Baines just before half-time at Goodison Park.
And the winger’s risky decision backfired as his penalty hit a post and he was then taken off by Everton manager Roberto Martinez moments later at half-time.
Mirallas’s actions, which came just days after he was linked with a potential move to Tottenham or German side Borussia Dortmund, will be interpreted as a selfish attempt to seize the spotlight.
But more significantly, his miss means Martinez’s troubled team are now without a win in their last eight matches in all competitions and sit only four points above the Premier League relegation zone.
“For me, Leighton is the number one penalty taker but at that moment Kevin felt really confident and wanted to take it,” Martinez said.
“I would have been happy for the two players to discuss it. There are a few penalty takers in the squad and the big disappointment is we missed the penalty, not who took it.
“He (Mirallas) was not feeling 100 percent, he felt his hamstring straight after the penalty. That was the reason for the substitution.”
With a scene from Sylvester Stallone’s new Rocky movie being filmed at half-time, both Everton and Albion were sorely lacking a knockout punch in a dour encounter.
Unsurprisingly given their recent struggles, Martinez’s men looked short of confidence and when Baines had their first shot, the left-back was unable to get enough power behind it to trouble Albion goalkeeper Ben Foster.
A foul on Baines gave Mirallas the chance to try his luck with a free-kick in a dangerous position, but the Belgium international’s effort was easily saved by Foster.
Even when Everton were handed a golden opportunity to open the scoring in the 43rd minute, they still couldn’t take advantage.
Albion’s former Everton defender Joleon Lescott conceded a clear penalty when he handled after Romelu Lukaku tried to bring the ball down inside the area with his chest.
Baines had scored 15 of his last 16 penalties, but it was Mirallas who snatched the ball and ignored his team-mates’ protests before driving his spot-kick against a post.
It was a huge blunder by the Belgian and Martinez appeared to waste little time laying down the law to his rebellious star as he hauled off Mirallas at half-time and sent on Bryan Oviedo in his place.
The controversy could have destabilised Everton, but they pushed hard in the second half and Lukaku’s shot was blocked when the burly striker tried to bulldoze his way through.
After scoring six goals in his previous three appearances, Albion striker Saido Berahino was completely anonymous and he was replaced by midfielder Graham Dorrans as boss Tony Pulis tried to spark his side into life.
Instead, it was Everton who nearly won it when Ross Barkley and Steven Naismith combined to tee up Lukaku, but the striker shot wide from 12 yards.