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