Saturday, 12th February 2011
Goals from Graham Dorrans, Jerome Thomas and an own goal by Winston Reid had put the home side three-up by the break. However a stunning comeback from Avram Grant's side saw the Hammers snatch a point through goals from Carlton Cole and man of the match Demba Ba (2), making his first start for United.
In a game featuring two teams who have now conceded 99 Premier League goals between them this season, the likelyhood of a tight match with infrequent chances was always unlikely - and so it proved, as the old adage 'a game of two halves' was illustrated perfectly.
Those three goals in the opening 45 minutes for the home side could quite easily have been six, as Avram Grant's side initially looked like boys against men - despite their managerless opponents having lost 13 of their last 18 games prior to today.
The Baggies were ahead after just three minutes when former Hammers target Graham Dorrans took advantage of the space offered by West Ham's defensive unit on the edge of the box. Having criminally been allowed time to pick his spot, Dorrans found the corner of Rob Green's net with some ease.
Two minutes later and Albion should have doubled their lead when Chris Brunt's goalbound effort was blocked on the line by his own player, Marc Antione-Fortune. However they didn't have to wait long - three minutes, to be precise - before adding a second through Jerome Thomas who, like Dorrans before him, was afforded acres of space around the penalty box.
West Ham survived what looked like a fairly cast-iron penalty appeal on 12 minutes when Thomas, having rounded Rob Green, went down in front of an open goal with the hapless Winston Reid appearing to tug at his shoulder.
Odemwingie then somehow missed a free header from a corner before Chris Brunt's fairly innocuous 32nd minute free kick, floated into the box, was turned into his own net by the hapless Reid, looking more like a Sunday league footballer than one deserving of a starting berth in a Premier League team.
Althoughly defensively they were, at best, inept, Avram Grant's side still managed to hit the woodwork twice - firstly through Demba Ba, striking the woodwork for the second successive game and then when Gary O'Neil's effort beat Boaz Myhill all ends up before cannoning back off the crossbar. Carlton Cole was also unlucky to be pulled back for offside when finding the net on 25 minutes as TV replays clearly showed he was in line with the last defender.
So (very) down but not out, West Ham set about their unlikely comeback in committed fashion - but only after they had survived a third penalty appeal following Reid's clumsy 49th minute challenge on Thomas. From the resulting passage of play, United reduced the deficit to two when a lofted Mark Noble delivery found Ba at the back post; the Senegalese striker shrugged off two defenders before planting the ball between the legs of Boaz Myhill. Game on.
Luis Boa Morte went close with a header from a Noble corner before Avram Grant threw Freddy Piquionne into the proceedings at the expense of the Portuguese on 57 minutes. His first touch - centreing a Noble free kick to the right side of the six-yard box - was met by the head of Carlton Cole who had the simplest of tasks to make it 3-2.
With Albion reeling, West Ham pushed on for an equaliser. Lee Mason waved away a fifth penalty appeal when Noble went down in the box before Ba saw an effort cleared off the line by Nicky Shorey. When the African's penalty appeal on 67 minutes - the game's sixth, and possibly the strongest - was ignored by Mason you got the distinct impression he had made his mind up not to award any today.
Ba, already proving to be a most astute transfer window purchase went close again with an effort that found the side-netting with 20 left to play. But he had his sights set correctly with just seven minutes of normal time remaining when Noble - who played a significant part in ever United goal - lofted a cross to the back post and Ba struck a wonderful volley into the top corner of Myhill's net.
The only disappointing aspect of the second-half was that West Ham failed to push on for a match-winning fourth goal, with their opponents on the ropes and there for the taking. As it was, the home side appeared more likely to win the game; Peter Odenwingie guilty of failing to convert either of the two golden opportunitities he was presented with in the closing minutes.
Although Grant and his team deserve great credit for producing a stunning comeback it shouldn't gloss over the error-strewn first half in which the Irons could have quite easily been six behind at the break. Massive question marks remain about the ability of young Winston Reid to cope at this level currently, whilst the entire team appeared completely unprepared to deal with their opponents.
Whilst a point keeps the Hammers in the fight to avoid relegation - and a place higher than this morning due to Wolves' 2-0 defeat at the Emirates Stadium - time is running out for Grant and his players. With only 25 points on the board - and just 11 league games left to play - they simply must start winning games, with most pundits agreeing with Grant's forecast than anything less than 38 points will not be enough this season.
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Not much chance with goals one and two but you'd have liked to see him being alittle more assertive for the third.
Poor. Failed to close down for either of the first two goals and looked suspect positionally throughout.
Possibly the lest ineffective defender on the day - and still found time to get forward in the second half.
Manuel Da Costa
A poor game. The Portuguese looked ill at ease being the most senior central defender.
A nighmare performance that brought back memories of Gary's Breen and Strodder. The kid's simply not ready for the rigours of Premier League football at present.
Spent too much time backtracking and was easily snuffed out by Albion. Needs to release the ball earlier at times as he can really stifle free-flowing attacking play.
A poor first half but he had a hand in all three of our goals after the break.
Hit the bar with a dipping effort late on in the first half but just never got into the game.
Luis Boa Morte
Didn't get near enough to his opponents for his niggly tackles to take effect.
His knockdown led to the crucial second but once again it was at defensive set-pieces that he provided his most important contributions. Excluding Adams' goal that he made a complete hash of, naturally.
Outstanding full debut. Two goals, one off the post and one cleared off the line - what more can you ask from a striker.
(Replaced Boa Morte, 57 mins) His first touch was to set up Cole's goal. A constant threat to Albion for the time he was on the pitch, only let down by his erratic aiming.
(Replaced O'Neil, 78 mins) Playing in an advanced role this week but little time to effect the game.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Lee Mason.
Man of the Match: Demba Ba.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Lars Jacobsen, Wayne Bridge, Manuel Da Costa, Winston Reid, Scott Parker, Mark Noble, Gary O'Neill, Luis Boa Morte, Carlton Cole, Demba Ba.
Goals: Demba Ba 50 Carlton Cole 58 Demba Ba 83 .
Booked: Luis Boa Morte 30 Mark Noble 39 Jonathan Spector 88 .
Sent off: None.
West Bromwich Albion
Myhill, Jara, Olsson, Shorey, Thomas, Scharner, Brunt , Dorrans, Mulumbu, Fortune, Odemwingie.
Substitutes: Morrison (Mulumbu 14), Barnes (Thomas 61), Tamas (Dorrans 82).
Subs not used: Carson, Ibanez, Vela, Cox.
Goals: Dorrans (3), Thomas (8), Reid og (32).
Booked: Dorrnas (29), Brunt (57).
Sent Off: None.