Saturday, 19th October 2013
I've probably said it before but I'm not a fan of these early evening kick-offs. The football supporter body clock is a delicate machine and when, like me, you're a finely-tuned athlete, any change to the routine can completely throw you off sync. Which is why I ended up at 3am asleep in front of a computer keyboard trying to transcribe a press conference and why I've already nodded off twice writing this.
After the fun of two weeks ago, Mr Allardyce elected to go with the same line-up and system that had prevailed at the O3 arena, namely: JJ, Demel, Rat, Tomkins, Reid, Noble, Diame, Downing, Morrison, Nolan, Vaz Te.
Whether it be that, having gone with the no striker option last week the element of surprise had gone or just the fact that Manchester City had better players with which to cope with it is an arguable point. However it became apparent from an early stage of the match that the visitors were having none of it, often playing with as few as one at the back to counter the notional numerical supremacy that we had in the middle.
The one early chance we had involved some good link up play between Rat and Diame that saw the latter cut in and shoot in wayward style. It was a rare effort on goal at that stage with the visitors showing a lot of patience in possession and they took the lead on the quarter hour. Reid had been alet to Negredo, sticking in a fine tackle just as the trigger was about to be pulled. However, the respite was temporary. A short ball from Fernandinho had enough pace on it for Negredo to dummy, a feint that deceived both Reid and Tomkins. Aguero ran through on goal and comfortably beat JJ with a low shot to the 'keeper's right.
We had a few spells but they were the exception rather than the rule. During one of these mini periods Morrison tested out the theory that Hart is vulnerable at his near post. The effort was not sufficiently testing to enable any conclusion to be reached, the shot drifting harmlessly wide.
During another spell of possession we saw the first yellow of the evening, Vaz Te took an air shot at a cross and Rat won the race with Silva to the loose ball, Silva's challenge being a nanosecond late rather than malicious the yellow seemed to result from the spectacular result of the tackle rather than from the intrinsic merit of the challenge itself. Morrison pulled Noble's free-kick wide in the aftermath.
We got the second yellow on the half hour. Nolan won the ball from Silva cleanly enough but, seeing the challenge from a different angle Oliver elected to adopt the standard “refereeing by guesswork” ploy that seems to form the bulk of the PGMOL training manual and booked Nolan just in case. The yellow was a case of adding insult to injury as Nolan's intervention would have kept the ball alive during a decent spell of possession. Instead the initiative was handed to the visitors.
JJ was the busier of the two custodians, having to be alive to make a couple of saves from Aguero and a further one from Toure after an unusually duff clearance from Reid. We did pick up a couple of corners before the break but nothing came of them – the ref giving a free-kick for a non-existent foul on Hart didn't help much.
The interval in our bit of the ground was a bit of a chocolate-fest with cakes and brownies a-plenty. Which was a bit of a shame for Upton Girlie's guest (I won't embarrass him by naming him) who has a bit of a problem with gluten. He was therefore forced to endure the sight of finely-tuned athletes like myself building up energy stores for the second half.
The general opinion was that, since City had pretty much sussed-out and coped with the 4-6-0 formation we would need to move things about a bit to give them something to think about. In the event, both teams emerged from the break unchanged. As a result, the pattern of the second half followed that of the first with only the direction of play differentiating matters.
The visitors doubled the lead five minutes after the restart. Aguero went down under a challenge from Reid and Demel Neither looked particularly illegal but the presence of two playes in the mix persuaded ref Oliver that there was something untoward involved. Vaz Te lost concentration and Aguero had all the space in the world to bury an excellent header at the near post.
Shortly after we had an interruption caused by the sort of fool who likes to blow £52 quid on getting themselves banned from the ground. Impressiveturn of pace from the steward who caught him though.
This wa followed by a decent spell of pessure from us. Downing was getting into the game a bit more and on 56 minutes some splendid passing between Morrson and Downing almost saw Diame in. hart's save eventually rebounded over of Nolan. Rat's cross to the far post was nodded back by Downing. Morrison flicked the ball over his own head and Vaz Te finished in magnificent style with a first time overhead kick.
This set up what was already a decent match for the last half hour. Negredo seemed to have been played far too wide but unleashed a hot that had power and very nearly direction, thumping the underside of the bar before bouncing off to safety.
Clichy was next into the book, his cynical tug back at Downing gaining him a deserved yellow.
We made our first changes on 65 minutes. Guy Demel hobbled off with what we were later told was a dead leg, Joey O'Brien came on to replace. Goalscorer Vaz Te also came off at the same time, Jarvis being the replacement. City also made a change at that point. Negredo completed the slowest walk of the day when being replaced by Kolarov, having of course taken the precaution of moving over to the far touchline and spending a few moments looking the other way as his number was raised.
Aguero was denied the match ball a minute or so after the substitutions, managing to get a far post curler in that JJ did well to turn away. Not for the first time in the match the ref then destroyed any momentum that we were building up. Noble being adjudged to have handled the ball when the ball plainly hit him in the stomach while his hands couldn't have been further away from the point of contact.
If you're not sure, make it up is is the title of Chapter 2 of the PGMO manual (the reaining pages are left blank so referees can play noughts and crosses or whatever it is that they do when they meet up – it certainly isn't discussing the laws of the game
Downing again broke free on the right and Nolan tried a mid air effort that would have been even nore spectacular than RVT's effort had been had it come off. It didn't and the ball whent straight back in the direction whence it came.
With 73 on the clock Nasri was replaced by Milner, beating Negredo's earlier record for tardiness of departure by some margin. Milner came on which was a further indication of the nervousness of the opposition at that point.
However, six minutes later the game was all but over. Rat's clearance after a City attack was poor. The visitors pushed forward in the form of Aguero, whose clever back heel found Silva in acres. The Spaniard feigned a shot which took Reid out of the equation before curling home at the far post to put the game beyond all doubt.
Petric replced Nolan, and won an early header, the likes of which one would have expected the likes of Nolan to have got on the end of, which was a bit unfortunate under the circumstances. Toure then went down in the box and had the nerve to look exasperated when it was a) clear that his tumble had had nothing to do with any interference from Reid and b) Toure had been pulling the shirt off the Kiwi's back in the first place.
Downing then spread play from right to left, Jarvis pulled the ball back for Morrison but the kid's shot was wayward in the extreme and that was pretty much yer lot.
The teams left to generous applause – the lack of the knee-jerk booing that often greets home defeats was a refreshing acknowledgement that we had been beaten by what had been the better side on the day. We'd given it a go but one look at the respective benches gives the clue as to the relative resources that had been available.
It's a shame that we couldn't keep the momentum from beating a small club going for when we came up against someone decent but even finely tuned athletes (like me) can't win them all. The trick is to get the heads up for the next game. Over to you Sam...
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Not “the best West Ham player on the pitch” as later claimed by Pellegrini but a fine game nonetheless.
Stuck to his task well before hobbling off in the second half.
An uncomfortable 90 which saw him give the ball away a bit to much for my liking.
A torrid time for the Kiwi – understandably so given the quality he was up against.
As uncertain today as he had been sure footed against much lesser opposition two weeks ago.
Outstanding – note to Mr Pellegrini: the player you saw breaking up attack after attack and starting up new ones was Noble not Jaasklainen. Good to see that the refereeing idiocy of a few weeks back hasn't diminished his appetite for a tackle as well.
Good in parts. One or two blind alleys fewer wouldn't have gone amiss though.
Some fine touches and he will hopefuly have learned a lot from this one.
A little bit in and out but was the source of much of what was good on the attacking side of things.
Unlucky with the booking but didn't make much of a contribution otherwise. I think we'll need to see Carroll back before the skipper starts to shine.
Ricardo Vaz Te
A little bit wayward for their goal but seems to have the bit between his teeth following his failure to land a move away last month. The finish for his goal was superb.
Replaced Demel so didn't have much time to get the pace of the game.
Got into a few good positions but with no-one to cross to his crosses often found no-one.
File this appearance firmly in the file marked: “hiding to nothing”.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Michael Oliver.
Man of the Match: Mark Noble.
West Ham United
Jussi Jaaskalainen, Guy Demel, Razvan Rat, Winston Reid, James Tomkins, Mark Noble, Mo Diame, Ravel Morrison, Stewart Downing, Kevin Nolan, Ricardo Vaz Te.
Goals: Ricardo Vaz Te 58 .
Booked: Kevin Nolan 33 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Joe Hart, Micah Richards, Francisco Javi Garcia, Matija Nastasic, Gael Clichy, David Silva, Yaya Toure, Luis Fernandinho, Samir Nasri, Alvaro Negredo, Sergio Aguero.
Substitutes: Aleksandar Kolarov (Alvaro Negredo 66), James Milner (Samir Nasri 74), Stevan Jovetic (Sergio Aguero 82).
Subs not used: Costel Pantilimon, Pablo Zabaleta, Joleon Lescott, Edin Dzeko.
Goals: Sergio Aguero (2), David Silva.
Booked: None booked..
Sent Off: None sent off..