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Premier League
Saturday, 16th August 2014

West Ham United 0
Tottenham Hotspur 1

by Gordon Thrower


Every opening day has one shock result. Welcome to this year's.

It had been a mixed pre-season in terms of results and, infinitely more importantly of performances. There had been some promising signings, though of the seven only two started, with a further three on the bench (the other two being not signed in time and injured)

Starting XI: Adrian, O'Brien, Cresswell, Reid, Collins, Kouyate, Noble, Downing, Vaz Te, Nolan, Cole.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the provenance of their current manager, Spurs looked a lot like Southampton. Tons of possession across the back and middle but clueless as to how to break a defence down. For our part, we were knocking the ball about nicely and playing decent football for once.

The first proper effort on goal came from Carlton Cole. As is his usual habit, decent nature of his first touch was matched in almost Newtonian style by the awfulness of his second, in this case an attempted pass inside was cut out by a defender whose block came straight back to Colle. Cole's curled effort got an “ooh” as it cleared the bar but would have been covered had it been a genuine threat.

The visitors' only real effort on goal came from a free-kick on seven minutes. The general tactic seemed to be to keep playing the ball square across the pitch until given away or somebody got bored enough with the whole thing to give away a foul. Lennon bought one such foul. The resulting free-kick fro Eriksen was goal-bound but Adrian got down well and held on to it, something he hadn't always been doing in pre-season.

Vaz Te was next on the miss list. He pulled one wide after a corner then his header from a Downing cross was similarly wide. Collins was equally wayward from a corner and another fine build-up saw Kouyate head just wide.

With 27 played we got the first bit of controversy of the season. Another corner was met by Reid, the Danish Kiwi's header, finding Nolan who shot on the turn. Naughton had both of his hands up and effectively made a decent save of Nolan's shot. Definitely a penalty, though the communication between ref Foy and his assistant let much to be desired.

Foy seemed to have decided that it was a goal kick, the one possible decision that should not have been the menu. The lino flagged but didn't appear to have made the “flag across chest” signal that indicates a penalty offence has taken place. However Foy jogged across and, having received some sort of indication from his assistant, a twitch of the nose or a subtle wink perhaps, pointed to the spot.

The fun didn't stop there. With the lino taking up residence behind the goal-line in anticipation of the spot-kick, a further conversation took place and, between them, the two officials came to the conclusion that Naughton's effort had prevented an obvious goalscoring opportunity. Not having seen a replay of the incident at the time it was a decision that seemed logical to me.

Having seen it again since, whilst the penalty award was correct there was a bit of “reasonable doubt” over the red card. Although it's by no means certain that Lloris would have saved Nolan's effort,”in the frame” so to speak and there was at least a chance that he would have done so.

On that basis the red was probably incorrect. No doubt a well-known Olympian cycling knight of the realm was given additional grief on twitter by what is probably the world's dimmest group of supporters.

After all the fuss had died down up stepped Noble and, for the first time in years, he missed. About ten minutes earlier he had been hobbling a bit as a rather naughty foot had been left in on him after the ball had gone but he seemed to have run it off so quite why he scuffed the ball in that manner is a mystery. Still the world's dimmest celebrated like they'd won something which, I guess in their eyes they probably had.

Between the penalty and the interval we fashioned a number of chances. Vaz Te was wayward at first then had a header saved. Cole had a couple of effort blocked.. For the visitors a Lennon effort high into the Bobby Moore stand was the most they could muster.

Half Time: West Ham United 0 Tottenham Hotspur 0


No confectionery at half time, our usual purveyor being in Majorca. Unlike Germany there was also no beer at our seats or, probably wisely, no beer (free or otherwise) in the press room.

The second half continued much in the same vein as the first had ended. Kouyate shot weakly wide. Downing was on target but the shot needed to have been better to have beaten Lloris. However, those of us who had seen something of the team in pre-season, will have been aware that Ginge had been in one of his more accident-prone moods of late. This match was no exception.

On 53 minutes Collins found himself neither here nor there as Lamela was able to push the ball one side of the balding one whilst running round the other. Collins' tug to prevent further progress got the yellow it merited.

Just after the hour Joey O'B was replaced by the hitherto missing-in-pre-season Guy Demel and a minute later our numerical advantage had gone. Breaking out from midfield Adebayor pushed the ball past Collins. Had Ginge had a bit of nous about him at that point he might have simply gotten himself out of the way; Adebayor had pushed the ball far too far in front of him and would never have made it.

Collins didn't realise this and stayed put blocking off the striker – who had cleverly jumped towards the defender rather than chasing the lost cause. The second yellow was as predictable as it had been avoidable, especially coming, as it did, so soon after the first.

Shortly after the sending off there was a moment of high farce as an idiot ran on from the Bobby Moore end. Much as one disapproves of such things, one is forced to admit though that seeing a chasing steward falling over is damned funny. Especially when the gentleman in question is, shall we say, one of the club's more portly employees. Such events are only funnier of course when the person falling over is employed by the local constabulary. The invader took the free-kick on behalf of the visitors, pulling a save out of Adrian. Which, tellingly, was more than Eriksen managed when he took the free-kick for real.

The dismissal prompted a reshuffle. Vaz Te, who had been petty ineffective, left to be replaced by Diame, who slotted into the midfield berth vacated by Kouyate, who had retreated into the central defensive slot vacated by the departed Ginge. Please keep up there'll be questions afterwards.

The prevously unemployed Adrian had his powers of concentration tested by an effort from distance from Townsend, the 'keeper making a magnificent one handed tip over. Kouyate then broke out of defence and sent Noble off on an angled run. Losing the attentions of a defender, Noble got a low shot in forcing Lloris to save low down to his right.

Diame and Downing both got into good positions. Both were off target.With ten left we made our final change as Cole, who had worked hard but whose touch had varied between good and bloody awful, was replaced by Enner Valencia. Valencia was infinitely more mobile than Cole had been and instantly endeared himself to the crowd by chasing down a couple of lost causes. Downing combined well with Nolan and looked set to score but Lloris rode his luck and got the block in.

So, with three minutes of stoppage added the visitors nicked it. Kane's through ball found Dier onside and he was able to round Adrian to slot home to give a very average team three more points than they deserved. Their supporters – who as ever had spent 90 minutes in silence – were in raptures of course, presumably in recognition that they had gone to a far superior club and managed to escape with something.

Full Time: Wet Ham United 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1


On the plus side the performance was more than encouraging – not that I expect the papers gave us much credit for it but we played a decent amount of football and, for the fourth time in a row, had made this particular opponent look every inch the overrated and overpriced bunch of individuals that they are.

The new boys that started looked good – both Cresswell and Kouyate had impresive debuts, and Valencia's cameo also boded well for the future. Of course in a few months time we may look back and start ruing the points dropped against such poor opposition but hey, it's the start of the season. Let's be optimistic.



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Player Ratings

Adrian
Pretty much one of his easier days – saved well on the few occasions he was roused from his slumber.


Joey O Brien
Steady if unspectacular before being replaced in the second half.


Aaron Cresswell
Good in defence. Good going forward. Good cal by the sponsors for MOTM.


James Collins
When you want a block put in he's your man. Unfortunately, his limitations in other scenarios were all to evident in this one.


Winston Reid
Classy as ever. Could do with some quality alongside him.


Mark Noble
Didn't let the penalty affect him, though such was the game-changing nature of the miss Ive docked him a point.


Cheikhou Kouyate
Another fine debut – just missed out on my MOTM award by virtue of his having to play out of position for the lat half hour thanks to Ginge.


Ricardo Vaz Te
Got into some positions which he failed to convert to goals. The problem is that all those arose from the efforts of others. I don't recall him actually making anything happen.


Stewart Downing
Good but... He had us banging our heads against brick walls with his refusal to take his man on, a reluctance that made his movement a bit predictable. Ought to have scored as well.


Kevin Nolan
Most of his efforts came off the ball – stuff that generally goes unnoticed. I'd hve referred him to have been a little closer to Cole though.


Carlton Cole
Frustrating. When his first touch was good his second was usually poor. And vice-versa.


Substitutes


Guy Demel
(Replaced O'Brien) As unspectacular as O'Brien, who he had replaced had been.


Mo Diame
(Replaced Vaz Te) Like for like in the middle as Kouyate moved back. Not as effective as the man he replaced.


Enner Valencia
(Replaced Cole) Not that it would have been difficult but he was a hell of a lot more mobile than Cole. Made a nuisance of himself and I look forward to seeing a bit more of him.


Jussi Jaaskelainen
Did not play.


Reece Burke
Did not play.


Diego Poyet
Did not play.


Mauro Zarate
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Chris Foy.

Attendance: 34,977.

Man of the Match: Aaron Cresswell.

West Ham United

Adrian, Joey O Brien, Aaron Cresswell, James Collins, Winston Reid, Mark Noble, Cheikhou Kouyate, Ricardo Vaz Te, Stewart Downing, Kevin Nolan, Carlton Cole.

Goals: None.

Booked: James Collins 54 Cheikhou Kouyate 90        .

Sent Off: James Collins 63    .

Tottenham Hotspur

Hugo Lloris, Danny Rose, Younes Kaboul, Aaron Lennon, Emmanuel Adebayor, Erik Lamela, Eric Dier, Kyle Naughton, Christian Eriksen, Etienne Capoue, Nabil Bentaleb .

Substitutes: Andros Townsend (Aaron Lennon 61), Harry Kane (Emmanuel Adebayor 83), Lewis Holtby (Erik Lamela 61).

Subs not used:  Brad Friedel, Roverto Soldado, Michael Dawson, Ben Davies .

Goals: Dier (90+3).

Booked: None booked..

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Aaron Cresswell


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