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Premier League
Saturday, 20th December 2014

West Ham United 2
Leicester City 0

by Staff Writer


West Ham will spend Christmas in the Champions League spots after seeing off struggling Leicester City at the Boleyn this afternoon.

Big Sam's happy Hammers enter the Christmas period a point behind third-placed Manchester United, after goals from Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing secured all three points at a packed Boleyn Ground.

The Foxes, who have mustered just ten points so far this season rarely looked likely to add to their meagre tally on a day when patience proved to be key for the Hammers.

Having set out their stall early on to defend in numbers (and with manager Nigel Pearson holding onto the ball by the touchline in the very first minute), this was clearly going to be a different kind of test for West Ham than that experienced at Sunderland last weekend.

Chances were few and far between in the opening stages and West Ham's cause wasn't helped when Andy Carroll smashed a golden opportunity to open their account well over the bar with 23 minutes on the clock. Fortunately for the in-form striker, he was able to atone for his error just 60 seconds later when West Ham countered with devastating effect.

The goal initiated from a great block by Winston Reid, who threw himself in front of Argentine legend Esteban Cambiasso's shot.

Under pressure, former Hammer Paul Konchesky - who with a full head of hair looks younger now than when he played for West Ham almost a decade ago - tried to find his goalkeeper but the pass was too short, allowing Carroll to nip in and left the ball over Ben Hamer into an empty net.



Leicester responded with a fierce drive from Algerian Riyad Mahrez that required the intervention of Adrian's fingertips before the Foxes picked up a couple of bookings - the latter, by Jamie Vardy, for the second attack on Alex Song's ankles within the space of 60 seconds that left the midfielder (genuinely) writhing in agony.

Fortunately West Ham's playmaker was able to continue and returned for the second half. It began in a similar fashion to the first, with the Hammers largely controlling the game without finding that all-important second goal; entertainment, if it can be called that, briefly reserved for the moment Andy Carroll - with his usual patent disregard for personal safety - launched himself, head first, into the advertising boards.

Like Song, the big striker was eventually able to continue and therefore able to participate in the goal celebrations that followed Stewart Downing's fourth goal of the season only five minutes later. Diafra Sakho may not have scored today, but he earned himself an assist with a downward header that the England international guided expertly into Hamer's far corner.

A host of substitutions followed; three at once for the visitors, with generous applause offered to ex-Hammer Konchesky by the Boleyn - hopefully for his past endeavours in claret and blue, rather than the questionable back-pass that led to the day's opening goal.

The game as a contest petered out with West Ham happy holding a two-goal advantage, although the previously untested Adrian was forced into two stunning stops to preserve his first clean sheet in four games.



Substitute Nugent must have thought he'd halved the deficit when he connected superbly with a cross into the centre from eight yards out, but Adrian threw himself in front of the ball to deny the once-capped England international.

The Spaniard had hardly caught his breath before he was required to intervene once again. An even better save than the first, Ulloa's header was heading into the back of the net before Adrian flung himself acrobatically to his left - and towards the post - to push the ball away from goal.

The win takes West Ham to 31 points for the season (from 17 games); that's just two less than they achieved in the entire 2010/11 relegation season under Avram Grant.

The team's new-found strength and resilience will be fully tested immediately after Christmas, when Premier League leaders Chelsea and sixth-placed Arsenal await. However for now at least, Hammers fans can take great comfort from being in the Champions League spots at Christmas - our best ever Premier League position at this stage of the season.

Merry Christmas, everybody.




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Player Ratings

Adrian San Miguel del Castillo
Went a little too early for the penalty but redeemed himself with a stunning save five minutes from time.


Carl Jenkinson
Got forward as often as possible and could (should?) have scored with one of his two chances in the opening quarter-of-an-hour. defensively sound, for the most.


Aaron Cresswell
Like Jenkinson provided a real threat out wide. Got caught out of position once or twice but that's the flip side to employing attacking full backs.


Winston Reid
Put his body on the line time and time again with someexcellent tackles and interventions. Lucky not to concede a penalty for a clear hand ball, though.


James Tomkins
Since he was forced to apologise for feigning injury against Everton, Tomkins has been excellent. He was solid again today and was unfortunate to be penalised for Johnson's cheating.


Kevin Nolan
A solid if unspectacular shift in the centre of the park. As usual he worked his socks off to protect the back four and help launch attacking forays.


Cheikhou Kouyate
Still struggling to replicate his early season form. A couple of early mistakes could have proved costly, although he grew into the game.


Alex Song
He is the difference between West Ham being fourth or tenth and sees passes no-one else in the squad is capable of. Whether it's cheeky little backheels in midfield or playing his way out of danger from inside his own six yard box, Song is simply a joy to watch.


Stewart Downing
Every counter attack goes through Downing - and there were plenty yesterday. Another great goal identical to his two others this season.


Andy Carroll
Worked like a Trojan for scant reward. Probably no less effective than last week against Swansea, but he missed two great second half chances to score.


Diafra Sakho
Well off the pace today. A bad day at the office for our leading goalscorer, but nothing to be concerned about.


Substitutes


Enner Valencia
(replaced Nolan) Barely had an impact on the game suring his 14 minutes on the pitch. Good to see both him and Sakho back however after recent injury.


Jussi Jaaskelainen
Did not play.


James Collins
Did well shoring up things.


Joey O Brien
Did not play.


Morgan Amalfitano
Did not play.


Mauro Zarate
Did not play.


Carlton Cole
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Martin Atkinson.

Attendance: 0.

Man of the Match: Winston Reid.

West Ham United

Adrian San Miguel del Castillo, Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Cresswell, Winston Reid, James Tomkins, Kevin Nolan, Cheikhou Kouyate, Alex Song, Stewart Downing, Andy Carroll, Diafra Sakho.

Goals: None.

Booked: tbc           .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Leicester City

.

Substitutes: .

Subs not used: .

Goals: .

Booked: .

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
Staff Writer's Man of the Match: Winston Reid


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