Thursday, 27 October 2016

West Ham 2 - 1 Chelsea : The Truth!


As the sun set majestically in East London, so did Chelsea’s hopes of silverware in this increasingly important competition, as West Ham United ran out comfortable winners at the London Stadium.

                Due to unwarranted media attention, the fixture needed no introduction and there was a palpable buzz around the stadium, as the nigh on capacity crowd descended upon Stratford. There was vociferous singing and some volatile chanting preceding the match and well into the first half. On the whole, despite the typical goading and schadenfreude, little between the vast majority of supporters seemed amiss.

                Chelsea’s continuity most certainly was mind you, as a revitalised West Ham took full advantage of a lacklustre Chelsea display, typified by the woefully off-key Jon Terry.

                West Ham continued with their 3-5-2 formation that has brought them some success over the past few weeks and more importantly, seven points. This time it was the in-form Michail Antonio’s turn to start up front and his pace and aggression caused the Chelsea stalwart a mountain of issues at the back.

                A bright start from the Hammers was rewarded when Mark Noble’s pinpoint cross was met by Cheikhou Kouyate’s head who directed a sharp header, past the outstretched Asmir Begovic, for nothing less than the hosts deserved, an early one-nil lead.

                Chelsea, despite making seven changes, fielded a very strong team and in particular Nathaniel Chalobah looked quick and dangerous on the break. Batshuayi however, was not so clinical in front of goal, as the few attempts the visitors had, landed safely in the welcoming arms of Darren Randolph.

                Mark Noble as usual, summed up the ferocity and desire in the West Ham camp and put in some thumping, yet legal tackles in the middle of the park, which certainly helped to keep the likes of N’Golo Kante and Ola Aina quiet for a large part of the first half.

                As the half drew to a close, West Ham were the ones clinging on a little for dear life, as the legs tired. Chelsea continued to attack but found a stubborn defensive resistance and a competent goal keeping performance from the Irons number 1 in number, if not in name.             

                Anxious West Ham spirits were lifted once more, early in the second half, as Edmilson Fernandes wonder strike from the edge of the area sent the stadium into further rapture. It was the perfect time to score and West Ham seemed home and dry.

                However, Chelsea were not ready to roll over and with half an hour left, Antonio Conte rang the changes. Pedro, Costa and Hazard were all introduced and had an immediate impact as the West Londoners came ever closer to finding the back of the net.

                In one particularly fluent move in the 83rd minute, Costa seemed to have chipped Randolph to find the back of the net, only to watch the ball dribble agonizingly wide of the upright and out for a goal kick.

                West Ham defended stoutly but fell afoul of the proverbial kitchen sink as in the 94th minute Gary Cahill bundled in a questionable goal. However, it was too late and the referee’s final whistle blew much to the relief and dare I say it, shock of the Upton Park faithful.

                Let’s face it, West Ham have had a stuttering start to the season, while Chelsea’s display on Sunday against Mourinho’s United was nothing short of sublime. Yet, West Ham looked like they had slipped it into fourth gear and are beginning to get back to the heady heights that were reached last season. There is still no out and out striker of any real quality fully fit, which makes the victory even sweeter.

                With that in mind and players coming back, there is no reason not to feel confident as the mighty Irons travel to Old Trafford in the next round of the EFL Cup. Next up though, is a visit to Everton FC this Sunday in the Premier League. Surely some sort of result here will signal crisis over for Bilic and his happy Hammers?    

                With regards to the ‘trouble,’ let me just say that this has been quite ferociously over-egged by all and sundry in the media. Yes, there was the usual arm-waving and ‘my flymo’s bigger than your flymo’ type of banter, but in the grand scheme of things, this was largely just kids on their half term wanting to relive their wet dreams over Football Factory and being part of the mob. The ICF and Headhunters are most certainly not back, that is for sure. To put it another way, if you saw the Skysports coverage, that was the extent of it. As a spectator, I felt mildly miffed and worried about my train, in the case of being further delayed out of the ground. I wasn’t phoning the Samaritans this morning in need of a friendly voice, like the feeding frenzy might suggest.

                The most unsavoury events that occurred for me were two-fold. Firstly, being handed a piece of paper near entry from a West Ham ‘fan’ encouraging us to sing homophobic chants about Costa and Terry. This is to the tune of Dimitri Payet (the fan spelt his name wrong too). Thankfully, I think most fans threw down the paper in disgust, like I, rather than get involved and the Payet song rang harmoniously around the ground throughout the game, with no amended lyrics.

                Secondly, some of the ‘banter’ for want of a better word around me was quite frankly, vile. I have alluded to this earlier, but much to my disappointment, I feel it needs further mention. We’ve all been there, getting involved one too many bevvies or poison of your choice, yet the personal nature of some of the chanting was just not what I’ve heard before at West Ham.

                Behind us, in block 113 stood a group of wannabe TOWIE twonks, in their cheap Primarni suits, thinking they could do and say what they want. They could be no more than 18 or 19 and when they weren’t telling one portly Chelsea fan, minding his own business that his ‘wife should be ashamed of him,’ they were informing another young away supporter that his girlfriend next to her ‘had chlamydia and was going to suck them off.’

                It was all a bit puerile and not very West Ham for me. We all like giving John Terry the gears, but none of us pay the money to support our team to get goaded by slick-haired oiks, fuelled by warm carling and synthetic cocaine, who would run a mile when faced with the people they choose to chastise.

                Anyway, the new stadium brings a lot of positives but also its negatives. Football-wise West Ham were outstanding and not a million miles from their best tonight. Long may it continue.

               

Monday, 18 August 2014

Smash and Grab - West Ham 0 - Tottenham Hotspur 1

The Premier League recommenced with a mouth watering tie at Upton Park, as the two London rivals met in front of a sell out crowd at the Boleyn Ground. 
Typically, there had been much unrest in East London in the run up to the new season. Despite six summer signings and manager Sam Allardyce smashing the club’s transfer record, many sections of the Hammer’s faithful remained unhappy. Pre-season had hardly been a success and there seemed no evidence of the attacking football Allardyce had been politely told to play by his employers. I reminded myself that Rome was not built in a day and made the trip to Upton Park full of high hopes for the current campaign. 
The game started brightly, in particular for the visitors who had in the most part been worryingly quiet in pre season. It was clear Pochettino’s mantra of close, concise play had been instilled and as a result, West Ham enjoyed very little time on the ball. That being said there were glimmers of hope. New singings Aaron Cresswell and Cheikhou Kouyate looked impressive and there appeared to be a new resilience and in my eyes at least, an attempt to play the ball on the ground in an attacking style. 
We more than matched the visitors in the opening exchanges but in all honesty there was very little to write home about in the first half. So much so, I got carried away watching events in one of the boxes. A group of lads draped a Lazio flag from the box. Security, came twice to ensure it was moved cue vociferous chants of ‘Viva Lazio’ from the Alpari Lower and Trevor Brooking. It was replaced with a picture of a walrus and the words ‘BFS we love you.’ Far more to Security’s liking. 
It appears I was not the only one who was slightly underwhelmed by the football as a lively supporter made his way on to the pitch and after running the full length of it, stopped to take a shot with the match ball. This was potentially the first shot of target and sparked the crowd into life as he left rotund security guards in his wake before being wrestled to the ground and dismissed. 
West Ham continued to pressure the Tottenham box and from a corner, the ball landed at Kevin Nolan’s feet who hit the ball goalward. Kyle Naughton raised his arms and after much remonstration by the home team and deliberation from the officials, a penalty kick was awarded. Naughton’s block was deemed to be deliberate and he was in turn given his marching orders. 
Celebrations were wild, the crowd erupted into ‘it’s happening again’ because Mark Noble doesn’t miss penalties. Until now. The ball skewed wide of the left hand post and Tottenham were handed a new lifeline. Still 11 played 10 and West Ham were certainly in the ascendancy. 
The second half started again with pressure from the home side. There was an attempt to pass and keep the ball, more than I saw at any stage last season. However, the luck was not on our side and the likes of Stewart Downing and Carlton Cole huffed and puffed but sadly to no avail. Tottenham did continue to threaten on the break and with the arrival of Lewis Holtby and Andros Townsend, the pace of the threat augmented. 
James Collins was booked for a cynical challenge, which stopped a Tottenham attack and not long after with Adebayor in a fairly innocuous position, he decided to aggressively barge the forward to the ground and referee Chris Foy correctly sent him off. 
Alarm bells begun to ring around the stadium as Tottenham’s belief rose their chances grew. 
Bentaleb forced a diving save from fan favourite Adrian and the West Ham defence begun to look shakier as time wore on. 
Allardyce introduced Guy Demel for Joey O’Brien, presumably for a niggle of some description. Mo Diame appeared in place of the ineffective Vaz Te but the greatest applause was saved for new signing Enner Valencia who arrived in place of beleaguered Carlton Cole. 
Valencia looked lively from the off and chased balls that Carlton wouldn’t have even jogged for, winning West Ham an unlikely corner in the process. The game ebbed and flowed, both sides threatened, but in the 94th minute, Tottenham broke and Erik Deer on debut was put through on goal, rounded the keeper and placed the ball perfectly into Adrian’s net. 
As the away fans went wild, the home ones left in their droves, just in time to see a Spurs fan, who had clearly overexcited himself, being removed by the stewards. Smiling and inciting the Trevor Brooking Lower during his exit, events certainly took a darker turn, most certainly for the female security guard tasked with restraining a large handful of East London’s finest at melting point. 
Back to the football and despite the disappointment of the result, West Ham played rather well in my opinion. Downing, Cole and Vaz Te were decidedly poor yet despite this, had the ever reliable Mark Noble converted, I think we would have won comfortably. No-one in the ground would have wanted to score more than he, so it was heartwarming to hear chants of Mark Noble straight after the miss. 
Kouyate looks like a fantastic player, big strong and playing for the shirt. Tin minutes of Valencia was not enough but again he looks like a handful. Cresswell did well and surprisingly Nolan put in a very good shift. Rumours abound that he returned to pre-season fitter than ever, perhaps worrying about his place in the side? This can only be a good thing. 
Ravel Morrison is back in training too and Diame looked tricky when he came on, so I am afraid I am not jumping on the Sam out bandwagon just yet. It’s Crystal Palace next week and if the football gods are evening scores like it felt today, it surely has to be an away win for the Hammers. 

Adrian 6
O’ Brien 6
Reid 7
Collins 4
Cresswell 7
Kouyate 9
Noble 7
Nolan 7
Vaz Te 5
Downing 6
Cole 4 

Demel 6
Diame 7
Valencia 7

Saturday, 1 February 2014

This is the modern way: Chelsea 0-0 West Ham United

Talking points aplenty as much maligned West Ham United earn a valuable point at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.
Not many folk in the footballing world gave the Hammers much of a chance in this midweek fixture, but a resolute, never say die attitude from the players, ensured the Irons left West London the happier of the two camps. Big Sam welcomed back Andy Carroll to the starting line up, with Italian duo Nocerino and Borriello joining the club on loan, the former making the subs bench.
Chelsea's outstanding home form was a daunting prospect for the Hammers whose season's woes have been well- documented. That being said, our away form has generally been better, notching wins at Tottenham and Cardiff and we have the league's equal best clean sheet record along with Arsenal.
The game started slowly with West Ham United soaking up a great deal of Blues pressure. Oscar came the closest when his dipping effort hit the crossbar in the first half. Wave after wave of attack came, but the Irons sat deep and challenged the might of Chelsea to pass through them. The tactic worked in the first half and despite a very one-sided affair, the team went in nil-nil at the break. Yet another injury to disrupt proceedings for the Hammers occurred in the first half, as Mohamed Diame went barrelling over the advertising hoardings and into the crowd. A heavy fall for him brought on Matt Jarvis for the remainder of the game.
Chelsea also brought on Frank Lampard whose record against the Irons speaks for itself. The noisy travelling army were overjoyed to see his first effort of the game sail over the bar. Chelsea continued to knock on the door and the last ditch defending from West Ham was nothing short of immense. At one stage, three defenders dived in to make a block against the former West Ham man, typifying the resolute attitude we had come the expect under Big Sam, that quite frankly has been missing in recent weeks.
West Ham had a spectacular chance when Downing broke down the left and laid the ball on a plate for Andy Carroll. Rustiness abound sadly as he missed the ball playing an air shot into the top corner, to the sheer delight of the home fans.
This was very much against the run of play as Chelsea became more desperate for a goal and Eden Hazard showed why he wishes to be thought of in the same breath as Ronaldo and Messi. His trickery and guile was superb at times but every attempt was thwarted by a resurgent Adrian in the West Ham goal. His performance not dissimilar to that of Rob Green's when West Ham recorded the first victory at the Emirates many moons ago.
A clumsy tackle from Gary Cahill ended Joey O'Brien's season with a dislocated shoulder, so West Ham ended the match with ten men. West Ham still did not lie down, Samuel Eto'o having to resort to crude tactics, kicking the ball in the net as Adrian stepped back for his run up, from a Chelsea foul. Their player's gesticulating and pressuring the ref summed up what was a magnificent evening for the Hammers and a frustrating one for the Blues.
Mourinho protested after the game that West Ham played football from the 19th century and bemoaned Big Sam's tactics. Chelsea did in fact have 38 shots on target, the most from any team who have failed to score in the Premier League and there is the point, they failed to score and failed to beat us. I am not entirely sure in this modern era of football how teams like West Ham are supposed to go to these big boys and be competitive whilst knocking it around? I am not sure it is possible. Perhaps Big Sam is showing us the new modern way to get points at these super clubs. It may not have been prettying but it was vital, keeping us in touch with the rest of the pack at the bottom of the league. For once fat Frank did not have the last laugh and to see Mourinho so frustrated was music to East London's ears.
Apart from the two Italians, Sam has signed a further five players, most notably Pablo Armero the Napoli wing back who takes the place of Razvan Rat who has been released. Modify Maigs has gone on loan to QPR and I wish him all the best.
The sun is shining on this beautiful Saturday morning with West Ham entertaining the unpredictable Swansea City at the Boleyn Ground. I seem to be saying this weekly, but a must-win game for us; the gap between us and safety is now 2 points. Big Sam will be looking to build on the clean sheet record and Andy Carroll should start giving us greater threat up front.
Come on you Irons!

Adrian 9
Joey O' Brien 8
Tomkins 8
Collins 7
Demel 8
Taylor 8
Noble 6
Nolan 6
Downing 7
Diame 6
Carroll 6

Jarvis 6
Nocerino 6



Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Cardiff City 0 - 2 West Ham United

West Ham's hoodoo over Cardiff City continued as the East Londoners picked up a vital three points in the fight for survival.
Much has been discussed of the week preceding the Cardiff City game and Big Sam backed his tried and tested players when it came to team selection in South Wales. Matt Taylor, Jack Collison, Carlton Cole all started while Mo Diame and Ravel Morrison were notably dropped to the bench.
A positive start was slowed by the injury to Guy Demel, who was elbowed in the eye by new arrival Roger Johnson. It never rains, it pours at Upton Park. Another injury to a key defender and this is eight minutes gone in the game. George McCartney, as has become familiar, filled in as West Ham soldiered on through the first half.
Despite Cardiff City showing some rather impressive attacking flair, it was West Ham who opened the scoring. Matt Jarvis played in a first time ball from the right, which Carlton Cole hit first time into the back of the net to make it 1-0.
Cardiff continued their dominance of possession and had shots galore to match. Adrian was once again passionate and impressive in between the sticks for the Hammers and made some splendid saves to deny Odemwingie and later Craig Bellamy.
With twenty minutes of the match to go, Big Sam brought on Andy Carroll, who looked as fit as a butcher's dog and fresh for the fight. He won his first header on and continued to impress from there.
As stated previously, it never rains it torrentially persists down at West Ham and James Tomkins was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence, meaning the last throes of the game were rather nervy for an away faithful getting used to regular drubbings.
Luckily, the combined efforts of Andy Carroll, who set up the ever-present Mark Noble in the 93rd minute to rifle the ball low and hard into the net were enough to secure the points. If ever a player deserved this goal, it was stand-in captain Mark Noble. The player scraps and fights for the team week in, week out and covered every blade on the grass on the pitch. I don't think there is a West Ham fan in the land who would not have him as our club captain after this performance.
That being said, it was heart-warming to see the reaction of management, players and staff combined at the final whistle of this fixture. It became clear to all and sundry what a tight unit the players are and also that they are behind the manager, who interestingly refrained from talking to the media after the game. Perhaps this was a metaphoric two fingers to the press and fans who have bashed Sam continuously during the last few weeks.
Either way, the team was triumphant, Andy Carroll looked impressive and hopefully this is a turning point for a team who surely cannot suffer too much more bad luck this season.
Next week, Newcastle United visit Upton Park in a game that will prove whether Big Sam's boys are here to stay or this result was just a flash in the pan.
Come on you Irons!

Adrian 8
Excellent performance and passion
Demel 5
Injured early on
Johnson 6
Getting better - but could do with not injuring our best defenders
Tomkins 5
Disappointing due to sending off
Rat 6
Fair performance
Noble 10
WHAT A GUY
Jarvis 7
Consistent supply
Downing 7
A good game
Collison 6
Worked hard
Taylor 7
Has been very good when asked of this season
Cole 8
A goal and another top effort from the lad

McCartney 7
Asked to fill in - did very well
Carroll 7
A lovely assist and great to see him back

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

West Ham United 3 - 3 West Bromwich Albion

Sam's 'must win match' ends in a draw as West Ham's inability to hold a lead costs them dear once again.

Big Sam stuck with the team that valiantly went down to Arsenal two days previously and was rewarded early on when some intelligent and neat interplay by the much maligned Kevin Nolan, landed at Joe Cole's feet who made no mistake from 12 yards out, beating Ben Foster at his near post.

As the sun beat down on the Boleyn Ground, there was a brief feeling of joy, was this going to be the day we finally fulfilled our potential? The crowd certainly needed something to cheer, if Twitter rumours are to be believed, young protege Ravel Morrison had indeed handed in a transfer request adding to the Hammers woes over the festive period.
In addition to this, David Gold tweeted the return estimations for some of our bigger players. Early suggestions had predicted big Andy Carroll on the bench for this game, not to be, he is apparently out for another 3/4 weeks. Cue collective groan.

As such, an early goal was well needed, but rather than force forward and get that vital second, West Ham, a team with little belief at present found themselves on the backfoot, being outpassed by a belligerent and hungry West Brom outfit.

The cause was not helped by James Tomkins being subbed after eight minutes due to injury. Might I add what a stellar attitude this lad has got. In addition to his personal troubles at the present time, as the board for Guy Demel went up to indicate the sub, Tomkins waved it away and tried to run off his injury up and down the sidelines. His grimace of pain said enough and eventually the substitution was made. If we had eleven players with the courage and heart of Tomkins, I feel we would not be getting these continually disappointing results.

A surprise bonus of the festive period is the imperious return to form of Matt Jarvis. A goal against Spurs and some excellent displays continued today as he wreaked havoc down the left flank. That being said, despite the pressure and Carlton Cole causing a nuisance up front, there were no more first half goals to ease the mounting pressure on the West Ham back four. It must also be added with the removal of Tomkins, West Ham had no recognised centre backs playing. McCartney filled in magnificently, Joey O'Brien certainly struggled.

It was indeed the signs of a makeshift defence when Chris Brunt provides a killer pass that beat the offside trap and found Anelka, who slotted effortlessly past the recalled Jussi Jaaskelainen late in the second half. The ground fell under a spellbound silence, something that has become all too familiar this year.
 
It did not take the Baggies long to take the lead. A corner which perhaps should have been a goal kick was cleared off the line by big Carlton Cole and fell at the feet of Anelka, who prodded home his second is as many minutes. West Ham went into the changing room 2-1 down.

West Ham started the second half timidly and found themselves under increasing pressure from a resurgent West Brom side. The home fans were getting tetchy to say the least, more from the distinct lack of fight than their lack of quality. Anelka found himself in on goal again, two minutes after the restart but a good save by Jussi kept the Frenchman from sealing a ten minute hat-trick.

Modibo Maiga came on a the interval for the carded Carlton Cole and begun to make an impact, forcing a fingertip save from Ben Foster for a West Ham corner. Just two minutes later in the 65th minute, a beautiful curling left-foot shot by Maiga, bounced in front of Foster and found its way into the back of the net and built some belief around the Boleyn. The noise level was up again, the crowd roared into life (my throat is still sore!) and West Ham went on the attack again.

Maiga again was integral as he nodded on Noble's cross to the waiting Nolan, who dare I say it, athletically, poked in from six-yards out-3-2 West Ham! This couldn't be happening? Written in the stars perhaps? Beleaguered captain scores crunch game winner in East London...

Predictably it was not to be, as the impressive Berahino eased past Guy Demel two minutes later and slotted neatly past Jaaskaleinen. Although a sweet finish from a tight angle, I do feel Adrian might have had this one covered. Either way it was 3 - 3 after a mad eight minutes and a nervy finish for the East London side.

West Ham were either exhausted, flat or did not care in the final 20 minutes as this was the poorest spell of the game for the team. They were outrun and outplayed by the Baggies and Berahino was unlucky not to have grabbed the winner with a sweet, curling free kick that hit the corner of the upright. Jussi stood cemented to the spot for the fifth time this season. Mercifully, this one did not result in an opposition goal.

The game ended with a chorus of boos and I was adamant Big Sam would have to be releived of his duties after this one. The chairmen wanted 6 points from the festive period, we had 2 points with one to play.

My only conclusion is that there is so much that needs managing behind the scenes that it would be dangerous to get rid of the big man just now. I don't really buy into the concept of 'if you were in this situation, you would appoint Allardyce' philosophy, he has got us into this situation.

That being said, there are two sides to every argument. The first being managing this horrific injury list, a team with no morale, clearly a difficult and bullish young starlet etc.  The other side is the short-sighted signings, the negative tactics, the distinct lack of fight from key players at the moment, our shocking return from free kicks and corners at the moment (I thought Big Sam was a master of the set piece?)

Either way, its tough work being a Hammer at the moment - do spare a thought for us. Happy new year, to all and here's hoping 2014 can start brightly in an away game at Fulham where quite frankly anything can happen.

Jussi 5
You were right first time Sam - his time has gone
JOB 4
Very poor - out of position - a fish out of water
G McCartney 7
Fought tirelessly
Tomkins 5
Injured after 8 minutes
Rat 6
Played well - needs to improve his forward balls
Noble 5
Mediocre today - very negative when passing
Diame 3
Where is the fight?
Jarvis 7
Played well - had bottle -created chances
Nolan 6
Scored a goal - was ineefective otherwise in midfield
Cole 6
Worked hard - well taken goal
C.Cole 6
Gave it his limited all


Maiga  7*
Turned the game - something to be positive about
Collison 6
Ran around a lot
Demel 5
Disappointing - Berahino made him look a bit silly for the third goal

Friday, 27 December 2013

West Ham 1-3 Arsenal

A better performance by the Hammers still ended in defeat, as Arsenal turned up the heat at the top of the table.
West Ham fielded a much-changed side from games' past as Maiga made way for Carlton Cole and Ravel Morrison was omitted from the squad with Kevin Nolan returning from suspension. Adrian kept his place in goal and despite his festive misdemeanours, James Tomkins lined up alongside James Collins in the centre of defence.
Arsenal named a strong side with Ramsey, Walcott, Ozil, Cazorla and Giroud all starting.
West Ham started brightly with Carlton Cole causing a number of difficulties for Mertesacker and Vermaulen in the centre of defence. Mark Noble played extremely well in the centre of midfield breaking up a number of Arsenal attacks. As usual, Arsenal were slow to start, but once they got into their stride were very difficult to live with. Crisp, fast passing but with Olivier Giroud up front, not a great deal of end product. Despite a slow start, at the halfway point, Arsenal had dominated 68% of possession and had the majority of the chances. Theo Walcott had the best chance at the end of the half when a scything through ball fell to him in the six yard box, the West Ham faithful praying for the offside flag which never appeared, somehow he managed to drive the ball wide. West Ham were hanging on, but went in at the break 0-0.
It seemed like a change of gameplan for the Irons at the break as we looked to soak up pressure and hit Arsenal on the counter attack. As we know, a plan executed with some aplomb against the hapless Spurs team at their place last October (sorry - I couldn't resist!)
Early in the half, after a broken down Arsenal attack, West Ham broke and a Diame ball into the box was half cleared to an unmarked Nolan on the edge of the 18 yard area. A powerful drive straight at the keeper caused Sczezny only to parry to the awaiting Carlton Cole who deftly popped the ball into the Arsenal net and a surprise 1-0 lead to the Hammers. I was doubly over the moon as I had Cole as first goal scorer so was in the money. A trip to the sportingbet lads was in order, only to find they had promptly cleared out halfway through the second half!
So it was back to the football and buoyed by a vocal Upton Park crowd, West Ham's counter attacking style continued to find openings in the wobbly Arsenal defence. We successfully soaked up the pressure and hit on the break with Diame and Joe Cole the main tormentors. One such ball into the box, left Carlton Cole six yards out with an open goal at his disposal. Sadly, he could only manage to shot wide and when Joey O'Brien's free header squirmed inches wide, nerves set in and you could feel it was not going to be our day.
Ramsey pulled up with what appeared to be a torn muscle and on came Lucas Podolski who.had an immediate effect on the game. However despite staunch defending from the East Londoners, after much pressure a Walcott shot managed to wriggle through the defence and flailing arms of Adrian to equalise for the Gunners. For the last 25 minutes the gulf in quality and indeed the lack of belief from  West Ham filtered through as the North Londoners piled forward. Kieran Gibbs played in a hugely advanced role and terrorised Joey O'Brien, to cause a straight swap for Guy Demel. It was to no avail sadly as a cross whipped in from the left and deflected off a West Ham defender straight into the path of Walcott who rifled it into the net, scoring his first ever goal in the Premier League with his head. Hard to believe? This is West Ham, don't forget!
The home side had all but thrown in the towel by now and further Arsenal passing and moving mesmerised our drained defence and some nice interplay saw Giroud lay off to Podolski who fired into the bottom right to seal the victory.
The game ended with West Ham in the attack, but really it was all said and done and a noble performance was never enough against such a high quality attack. That being said, we did exposé the Arsenal defence on a number of occasions and if we had a real striker of any quality, we would have gone 2-0 up and who knows what might have happened. As with so many games this year our lack of quality firepower cost us, but as always, when our best players return,  I am confident we will be fine.
Hilariously, Carlton Cole was named man of the match. This depresses me as it depicts the huge lack of ambition at the club really. It was indeed his misses and his absent performance for the most part of the second half that cost us dear. If anyone was man of the match, I would suggest Noble, who worked tirelessly against a world class midfield.
West Bromwich Albion at home followed by Fulham away on New Year's Day now become huge fixtures for us.
Merry Christmas one and all and a happy new year.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Tottenham Hotspur 1 - 2 West Ham United

For the second time in ten weeks, West Ham United have beaten Spurs at White Hart Lane to heap even more pressure on the underachieving North London club.

Stand in Spurs manager, Tim Sherwood, showed his intent by playing two strikers, something AVB was reticent to do whilst Big Sam named an experienced, yet largely second string side. Noble, Diame and Morrison dropped to the bench and there were call ups for Matty Taylor, Alou Diarra and Jack Collison. Razvan Rat returned to the starting line up and George McCartney filled in at centre back for the injured James Tomkins.
Carlton Cole made only his second start of the season upfront.

Tottenham started the brighter of the two teams and ex-Hammer Jermain Defoe, had a gilt-edged chance. Spurs continued to make a lot of the running in the first half with chances for Adebayor and Sigurdsson both going astray. As has been the case for a majority of this season, there was a lot of huff and puff from Tottenham but little final product and as the minutes ebbed away, West Ham knew they had every opportunity of nicking a chance on the break.

That being said, there were few West Ham chances in the first half, with Carlton Cole striking tepidly at Lloris and Jarvis causing difficulties down the left hand side, sadly there was little else to write home about. Defensively though, the Irons were outstanding. Marshalled by stand-in skipper James Collins, West Ham frustrated their opponents, not dissimilarly to the league match here in October. Diarra and Collison sat in front of the back four and broke up Tottenham's play well and looked to attack on the break.

In the second half, Sam swapped a tired looking Carlton Cole for Modibo Maiga. The latter won a corner for the Irons that was well defended and saw Tottenham burst up the pitch. Townsend found Defoe, who beat Matt Taylor, to produce a pinpoint cross to Adebayor, who rifled the ball into the top of the net. The Spurs faithful went wild and from Adebayor's celebrations, you would have thought he had just won the league for his side.

As the game moved into the final third, Big Sam looked to make further impact and brought on the ever-impressive Mo Diame for Joe Cole. His low shot from Maiga's flick on brought the best out of Hugo Lloris as West Ham refused to lie down once again at White Hart Lane.
 
Andros Townsend pulled up with a hamstring injury which will see him out of action until the new year and Sherwood decided to pull off Adebayor to much applause from the Tottenham fans.

Then the moment came from an Adrian clearance, which found Maiga's head superbly who knocked down to Diame. He played it into Matty Taylor, who had the vision to put Matthew Jarvis in wide on the left. Jarvis took a first time shot which cannoned into the back of the net, to even the score on the night.

Big Sam sensing blood or deja vu, made his final change of the night bringing on Ravel Morrison for the final ten minutes of the match. Diame et al continued to be a nuisance and a long cross that looked to be going out of play was kept in by Jarvis who managed to find Ravel, who played himself out of trouble before laying off a perfect ball to Diame, wide on the right. Diame with time to pick out his man, played in a majestic ball that spun and swirled in the air and found Maiga's head which in turn found the left hand corner of the goal and a 2-1 scoreline to West Ham. This was Maiga's first goal in twenty games and was fabulously taken by the much maligned centre-forward.
 
Tottenham brought on Lewis Holtby for their final throw of the dice and tried to test the West Ham defence. Their best opportunity came for Nacer Chadli, who through on goal was quite brilliantly challenged by Joey O' Brien and thus tamely knocked his effort towards the open arms of 'keeper Adrian.
 
In fact, it was West Ham who had the best opportunity to wrap up the game with a threatening break, started by Jack Collison with some nimble footwork, who played out to Ravel Morrison. Diame thrust forward as Tottenham's withered defence found themselves stretched once more. A half clearance fell to Maiga who beat his defender sublimely and shot from thirty yards only to watch the ball thunder off the crossbar and fall at the feet of a Spurs defender.
 
West Ham saw out the five minutes of added time to record another sublime victory at White Hart Lane. It was even more pleasing to note that West Ham's squad was ravaged with injuries and suspensions, while Spurs had a rather strong side. The Spurs' faithful were expecting a response following their 5-0 slaughter at the hands of Liverpool at the weekend, sadly it was not to be as West Ham out-thought and outplayed their rivals on their home patch once more this season.

So the pressure eased somewhat for West Ham and hopefully some selection headaches for Big Sam come saturday and the trip to Old Trafford. Taylor and Collison were superb in midfield and Adrian continues to impress between the sticks. Overall, the spirit though was pleasing for a team accused of not showing the passion and integrity associated with this magnificent football club.

The only down side to the evening was that the draw for the semis could have been kinder, West Ham handed a tie with in-form Manchester City. Still you have to beat the best to win the competition and Wigan knocked them out last year, so there is always hope. Something our north london rivals will be clinging onto, in these rather embarassing times.

Adrian 7
Excellent accuracy and some splendid saves
O'Brien 7
Played supremely well - some excellent tackles
Collins 8
One of the best games I have seen him have - no mistakes!
McCartney 7
Filled in fabulously
Rat 6
A solid if not inspiring game
Diarra 6
Chased shadows a lot today
Collison 7
A great game - harrassed and bullied the Tottenham midfield
Taylor 8
Really stuck his hand up today - key role in the equalising goal
Jarvis 7
Looking like he is returning to form at the right time
Cole 6
Was mostly on the backfoot - not a lot of threat
Cole C 6
Won some headers

Diame 7
Immediate impact on a tiring Spurs defence
Maiga 9
All is forgiven Modibo - best game so far
Morrison 7
Pace and dribbling always a problem for defences