Saturday, 25th October 2014
I still hate lunchtime kick-offs mind. You never know quite when to get up and leave for the match in quite the same way as you do when it's a good old-fashioned 3pm kick-off. And the mixture of beer and toothpaste is one that played havoc with the tastebuds. However, a few more matches like this may get me reconsidering.
There was a slight surprise in the team selection. All week it had been suggested that Tomkins would be fit and would e replacing Collins alongside Reid in defence. In the event the selection decision was made for the boss by virtue of Tomkins' failure to recover from his problems leaving Ginge to remain in what was an unchanged starting line-up of Adrian, Jenkinson, Cresswell, Reid, Collins, Noble, Song, Amalfitano, Downing, Valencia, Sakho.
It seemed that the early k.o. had caught a few people by surprise with many patrons still making their way to their seats as our opponents kicked off. After an early sighter for Valencia and a deflected Augero effort that saw Adrian save well down at his right hand post the game settled down a bit.
The visitors, sad to say, seem to have picked u the football equivalent of the Ebola virus. Liverpool Syndrome, as the doctors call it, is that strange affliction that sees players throwing themselves to the floor at every opportunity. Aguero went down after a mildly threatening look from Noble and lo and behold ref Atkinson bought it. A tad worryingly Silva lined up the free-kick but thankfully he failed to get enough dip on the ball which cleared the bar by a foot or so.
Atkinson seemed to be wearing those strange varifocals that referees wear when dealing with some clubs. You know those glasses that cause them to see identical incidents completely differently depending on the colours worn by the offender. Amalfitano became the first victim of this chromatic aberration, It was bad enough that a foul was given for his challenge on Navas which seemed to get the ball. To be given a yellow card was really taking the mickey though, particularly in the context of the blue murder that Kompany was allowed to get away with throughout the match.
On 20 minutes we had a good chance to take the lead when a Sakho knocked down a free kick. Valencia got in behind and blasted the ball straight at Hart, whose intervention left him requiring the services of the physio, much to the amusement of the STB whose chant of “wash his hair” was not the last witty chant of the afternoon.
We took the lead a minute or so later. Song's ball inside the full back was, well I'm struggling for a superlative to describe it. Valencia tied Clichy up in knots. His pull-back looked slightly awkward but was good enough to fool the defence and Amaltifano had an easy tap-in at the far post. Pandemonium ensued as Valencia lost his bearings and, possibly confused by the bits of sky blue in the STB, somehow ended up in the City section of the stand.
Slightly more worryingly given his earlier yellow card, Amalfitano jumped in after his team mate, seemingly to haul him out. It was a somewhat unwise move, relying as it did on an English Premier League official to utilise common sense, a commodity as rare as a decent lyric on a Smiths album. However, whether by accident or design – and my money is on the former – Atkinson ignored the incident and play resumed with all 22 players on the pitch.
We could have doubled the lead on the half hour when Downing ran on to a partially cleared cross only to see his header clear the bar. If Downing's run had been a fraction of a second later he'd probably have had a goal to his name but it was not to be.
Liverpool syndrome kicked in again with Aguero throwing himself down ater losing control of the ball on a run across the 18 yard box. Reid being the nearest player to Aguero was adjudged to have sinned. Toure lined up the free-kick and, not for the first or last time in the match, Collins stood firm, taking a powerful free-kick in what the commentators no doubt referred to as his “midriff” and the rest of us referred to as his orchestras. There's probably a joke containing the words “ginger nuts” in there somewhere but, in common with the male proportion of the crowd, I'm too busy wincing to complete the thought process.
We were still the dominant force and Kompany finally picked up a yellow for a foul on Valencia for what was far from being his first, last or worse foul of the afternoon. The resulting free-kick was a clever and marvellously-executed pre-set routine that saw the ball flash across goal with neither Sakho or Ginge being able to get the touch on the ball that would have capped the move with the goal it deserved.
Shortly before the interval Aguero got away with an ugly looking challenge on Noble for which a red card might have been given rather than the “play on” signal that occurred. Varifocals again.
The half drew to a close after two added minutes and with the sound of the “Barcelona we're coming for you” chant still raising a smile throughout the ground we paused for breath as the team left to loud and deserved applause.
For some reason the usual Kit-Kats were replaced by some other form of chocolate biscuit-based confectionery. You'll have to ask Upton Girlie why if you're that bothered.
We started the second half quite well really, though the softest yellow of the day was picked up by Song who, in trying to keep an attack alive slipped and fell on the ball, handling as he did so. Technically a booking, yes, but Kompany was guilty of far worse on far more occasions and remained on the pitch. As if to underline the point, Kompany's scything lunge through the back of Valencia which deserved sanction oth for the nature of the challenge and for the fact that it cynically prevented a promising break got no other sanction than a free-kick.
About the hour mark there was a bit of a sea change in the pattern of the match. The visitors finally twigged that they were less likely to profit from passing the ball through through us as they might actually do by running at players from deep. This meant withdrawing one of the strikers on rotation to go to one up front. The lightbulb moment for them came on the 65th minute when after a spot of running at the defence, Navas's cross found Aguero in space in the box. His shot had drian beat but came back off the crossbar. Toure looked nailed on to bury the rebound but Adrian had recovered to make a fantastic save down to his left.
This prompted our first change. Though Amalfitano had been working his socks off on the defensive side of things, the slight change in City's tactics meant that a more defensively-minded midfielder was requires and on came Kouyate to replace the goalscorer.
Kompany seemed to be trying to set up a new record for the number of yellow card offences a player could get away with in a match not refereed by Graham Poll, going through Valencia yet again without so much as a word in his ear after the free-kick had been given. It was pretty hectic stuff all round and Silva and Aguero combined to set up Toure whose shot clipped the top of the bar.
About this time I said that we would obviously be doubling the lead soon as Sakho hadn't got his goal yet. Obviously this was a proper and analytical prediction, rather than the humorous bit of self-deprecating humour that one might otherwise have taken it for, as borne out by what happened next.
Cresswell, as he had done throughout the match, got forward well down the left and put over one of the wonderful crosses for which he and Jenkinson are rightly becoming noted. Sakho's leap was superb and the header down into the bottom corner was superb. Hart made an attempt at clawing the ball out but Sakho had already began running to the crowd in celebration. The wristy buzzy thing did its job on the ref's arm and we were 2-0 up. Stunning stuff.
The goal marked the end of Valencia's participation. He'd run himself into the ground and the goal celebrations meant that he didn't quite get the applause that his efforts had earned. Carlton Cole came on to replace.
As it happens we needed the goal. Two minutes later Silva cae in from the right and beat a number of players before curling an unstoppable shot in at the far post. Wonderful goal that got a round of applause from me anyway, even if it did set up a tense last fifteen plus stoppage.
It was a bit backs to the wall for the rest of the match. Collins in particular was in one of his more effective “none shall pass” moods, one saving tackle to clear a loose ball in particular epitomising his contribution to the cause.
We had a shout for a penalty as a Sakho burst into the box looked to have been halted by a challenge from Mangala that was, shall we say, a tad clumsy. To add injury to insult the shove pushed Sakho into Hart connecting with the striker's shoulder for a painful injury. Kompany, who had committed enough fouls to have had him dismissed from three matches came in and got in the referee's ear to accuse Sakho of diving, thus bringing his yellow card tally to, well I'd lost count by this time. Sakho continued for a few moments but was soon replaced by Nolan.
Five minutes of stoppage were added, partly because some idiots in the upper tier of the STB (where City's efforts were wont to end up) insisted on hanging on to the ball for ages. Jovetic picked up the ball with his back to goal, turned only to see his goal-bound effort tipped over im wonderful fashion by Adrian.
The remainder of stoppage were tense but in retrospect there was little to raise the blood pressure other than Upton Girie's stoppage time countdown going on every few seconds in my left ear and when Atkinson finally blew for time the roof came off.
Make no mistake, though we rode our luck on a couple of occasions we thoroughly deserved this one and whilst the tv people gave the MotM to Song, hand on heart every single player out there could be proud of his contribution. It was, now I've had time to take a step back from proceedings, one hellova match as well and I came away having been entertained in a manner not seen at the Boleyn for a while – well prior to this season anyway. The early kick off meant that there was plenty of drinking time left in the day and I suspect that there may have been a few sore heads this morning – especially Norwegian ones.
On Friday as part of my media tart duties for the site I did a interview for a Singapore radio station. During the conversation I playfully admonished the presenter for referring to the ”top 4” in a manner that seemed to not refer to us. The “Barcelona” chants shows that we still have a healthy sense of perspective about the whole thing but I should warn Mr Allardyce that if we get spoilt like this much more we in the stands might just have to start start to take it all seriously!
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Adrian San Miguel del Castillo
Needed to be at his best. And was. Made at least three top notch saves at vital moments in the game.
Another superb game. Every now and then you read of someone anonymously returning a library book ten years after they borrowed it with a wad of notes for the fine. Couldn't we do the same with him – I'm sure Arsenal won't notice.
Stuck to a difficult task well and the cross for Sakho's goal proved that last week was no fluke.
Outstanding. This match saw him back to his best.
I admit that I'd have picked Tomkins for this had I been fit. I'd have been totally, utterly and completely wrong. As usual. Hopefully they've dropped back into position after the Toure fee-kick. Came close to getting MOTM but for......
Got at the City midfield throughout. Hodgson probably still thinks Fabian Delph is a better player. He is wrong.
Think of something immense. Really immense. Song was, er, immenser. What I am trying to convey here is the immense-ness of the player despite the silly rolled up shorts thing. The ball for the first goal was a thing of joy. He even had time to do one of those wrong foot things that Spurs (a small mid-table team in north London apparently) fans have been going all soppy over. Only against the current Premier League champions rather than some unknown team with a name that sounds like a brand of throat pastilles. MOTM. Can we do the library book thing with him as well please?
Here's a thing. He's in the side as an attacking force. However, not for the first time this season he got through a prodigious amount of the type of what one might call donkey work of the sort that one would not have thought was his natural game.
Slightly unlucky not to have headed us into a 2-0 lead. Not as dominant as of late but still put in a shift for the team.
Scored as usual. The hoo-ha about the use of the wristy buzzy goal technology thing deflected attention of just what a good header it actually was. Another constant threat. Hopefully that shoulder is ok.
Caused a constant threat to the visiting defence and his destruction of Clichy for the goal was an indication of just what a decent talent we have managed to pick up here.
(Replaced Amalfitano) Came in to shore things up once City changed things around and did well in that respect.
(Replaced Valencia) Not quite the threat presented by Valencia, who he replaced.
(Replaced Sakho) Did well in breaking up, harrying and blocking to use up valuable time towards the end.
Did not play.
Joey O Brien
Did not play.
Did not play.
Ricardo Vaz Te
Did not play.
Referee: Martin Atkinson.
Man of the Match: Alex Song.
West Ham United
Adrian San Miguel del Castillo, Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Cresswell, Winston Reid, James Collins, Mark Noble, Alex Song, Morgan Amalfitano, Stewart Downing, Diafra Sakho, Enner Valencia.
Goals: Morgan Amalfitano 21 Diafra Sakho 75 .
Booked: Morgan Amalfitano 7 Alex Song 47 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Eliaquim Mangala, Gael Clichy, Gonzalez Jesus Navas, Francisco Fernando, Yaya Toure, David Silva, Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero.
Substitutes: Stevan Jovetic (Edin Dzeko 59), Aleksandar Kolarov (Gael Clichy 78), James Milner (Francisco Fernando 78).
Subs not used: Luis Fernandinho, Willy Caballero, Martin Demichelis, Bacary Sagna.
Goals: David Silva (77).
Booked: Vincent Kompany (44).
Sent Off: None sent off..