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Premier League
Saturday, 28th February 2015

West Ham United 1
Crystal Palace 3

by Raedwulf


There are reasons why Irons fans might feel aggrieved over this defeat. At the least, the score could have been very different. But, on the whole, there's no denying that the Eagles were well worth their win today.

Three goals from three set-pieces did for us. Set-pieces are supposed to be Sam's forte, but this is not about to turn into a Sam-bashing exercise. He started with the same team that did so well at White Hart Lane last round. It's hardly his fault they failed to perform.

In fact, it's difficult to put one's finger on just why it went wrong. What actually went wrong is easier. We had plenty of possession; Palace were more incisive, though. We played a lot of football. But first and second touches were clumsy; passes were a foot to a yard too wide or too heavy. As a consequence, good play, of which there was quite a bit, kept breaking down.

Not until The Eagles were down to 10 men did we consistently manage to put pressure on their goal. Ultimately, I think the problems lay with our midfield. The problem of pass and touch in attack has been highlighted; defensively, the back four were too often left with insufficient cover leading to pressure, to chances, and to the set-pieces from which we conceded.

Would you like to have a moan about the ref? Apart from a dodgy 10-minute spell in the middle of the second half, I thought Read had a fair game today. He let play go on in the middle of the first half when Murray was slightly late on Kouyate in the middle, then came back to book the Palace player afterward, as well as turning down a couple of Palace penalty shouts during the game.

On 35 minutes, after three or four minor fouls that culminated in another one on Kouyate, Read gave Murray a very stern talking to, whilst The Boleyn bayed for a second yellow. It's possible that, had he not already been booked, he might have been carded for having totted up several minor offences in a row.

Truthfully, though, the last foul wasn't worth a yellow, and a red at that point would have been harsh. Of course, when Murray then went late across Reid and left Winston in a heap, Read correctly did the needful.

By that time, the damage had been done, much of it by Murray, part of it by Read in that afore-mentioned 10-minute dodgy spell. There seemed to be a blatant, Maradona-esque handball by McArthur, in the middle of the park, that Dean missed.

I've watched it again on Match of the Day. That's what TV also seems to show, but Dean's view of it was at 90 degrees to the camera. I can only imagine that it actually came off the Palace player's head, rather then his hand, which Dean would have had the angle to see. I've had a hunt round the web this Sunday morning, and I can't even find a mention of the incident, so I don't know!

Ten seconds later Kouyate this time fouled Murray, coming across the back of him and clipping his heels. An evil Puncheon free kick allowed Murray to sneak in front of Tomkins and flick it past Adrian. There is a hint of offside about it, giving two reasons for asking whether it should not have stood, but it did.

Their first, of course, was a fluke. I can't quite see how it's being credited to Murray instead of as a Cresswell o.g. If Aaron had made a slightly worse job of connecting with Murray's not terribly threatening header down from a corner, he would have fresh-aired it completely, leaving Adrian with a routine save. As it was, he sliced it horribly into the left corner.

As for their second, that was just rank bad defending, possibly the worst moment of the game for us. Reid seemed to misread the corner, tried to going forwards to it, realised it was too high, tried to go backwards... The result was a free header for Danns, which he cheerfully buried. Adrian got a good hand behind it, but it had too much power on it for our Spaniard to keep it out.

It took going 3-0 down before we created anything, after Song, poor again, had been replaced by Nene on the hour. Then Murray got himself sent off, and we finally started to create real pressure.

We'd had just one good chance up till then. On the quarter hour Noble, who will shortly beat Reid to Man of the Match, deftly won a free kick on the edge of the Palace area, stepped up, and rapped the crossbar with the free kick. Six inches lower, he'd have beaten the spectating Speroni, and the match may have gone very differently...

A minute before Murray walked, Downing combined with Jenks to perform one of the few noticeable, let alone good, moments of his game. Getting to the by-line, he pulled the ball back beautifully to find Nene on the edge of the box.

Nene was caught out once in his half-an-hour on the pitch. Unsurprisingly, that was probably a matter of not being used to the pace of the Premiership. On this occasion, however, he took Downing's pass and curled a beautiful shot against the base of the far post. Again, six inches the wrong side of a goal.

Then, on 75, Enner produced another hammer, for his first league goal at Upton Park. Like his goal at Hull, it came with no warning. Unlike his goal at Hull, this had backlift, but he was practically standing still when he smashed it from 22 yds across goal, giving Speroni prcious little chance. How he generates that power with no momentum is beyond me.

Ten minutes later he was at it again, this time on the run and from 30 yds out. Speroni, alas, flew across his goal to make a great save. The Eagles' keeper also did well to charge down the incoming Jenkinson five minutes before. In late, late stoppage time, Nene, like Valencia, had another go... Speroni made sure of it by palming it wide, but it probably already was wide.

If you want a biased claret and blue view, Palace's first had a large slice of luck in it, and there are two reasons why their third might have been disallowed. We hit the bar before they got into the game, let alone scored, and hit the woodwork again later, never mind Speroni.

Palace did also have chances from open play, true, but if they got them on target, they hit them straight at Adrian, which is only half a test for a decent Premiership goalie. Adrian is better than merely decent.

Plus there's the little matter of the penalty we ought to have had. The scoreline and result might have been quite different.

Hmmm? Penalty, what penalty? Sorry, did I forget to mention? Jedinak quickly came out after the game, denying that there was any intent. Guilty conscience? I missed it at the time, as did Mike Dean.

I'm not surprised Dean missed it. In the first place, he'd have needed X-Ray vision to see through Jedinak. In the second, his eyes were following the ball, so he was looking away as the incident happened.

What happened? In the 87th minute, Jedinak, I think it was, lost the ball 10 yards outside the Palace penalty box. It broke to Sakho at the side of the area. He sidestepped past the first defender, but the heavy touch that plagued so many of our players struck again.

Sakho had effectively lost the ball. Jedinak who had, properly, been chasing back, was in the perfect position to twist and whack the ball out. Dean watches the ball fly, and turns his head away from Jedinak...

Who, with his momentum still carrying him straight at the goal-line, slams his right arm forwards and pole-axes our player. No intent? Horseapples! Or bullshit, if The Editor allows such language.

Now, it's being described as an elbow; it wasn't. Elbows are thrown backwards; this was thrown forwards. It was a deliberate forearm smash. It hit at the elbow, true, but it was a forearm smash, all the more dangerous because it had the whole strength of the arm, the rigidity of the upper arm, and most of the bodyweight and momentum of the player behind it.

You watch the replays on Match of the Day on the iPlayer and tell me I'm wrong. It left Sakho prostrate. It's slightly surprising it left him conscious. It could easily, had it landed a few inches differently, have left him with a smashed jaw.

The blessing (apart from the fact that Diafra seems none the worse for wear) is that ALL of the officials seem to have missed it completely. Therefore, one presumes, the FA have free license to review it. If there is any justice in the world, Jedinak will be banned for three games post-haste.

Not really justice for us, of course. It looks to me a deliberate, vicious and, above all, cowardly assault. Yes, assault, and yes, cowardly. It ought to receive rather more than 3 games, although it won't.

More to the point, it was the most obvious red-card and penalty in the world. 87 minutes gone, down to 9 men and only 3-2 ahead? OK, so scoring the penalty wasn't guaranteed, but with 5 minutes of stoppage time to come? Both the scoreline and the result could have been very different.

When all is said and done, however, whatever the detail, the whole is that we were fairly beaten today. The team that performed so well against Spurs played badly today. And it was exactly the same starting line-up. Aweful (not some awe, full awe!) against Man Utd, awful two games later against the Baggies in the Cup? Why?

Dunno. Some boos rang out after the game, the comments are sprouting and, of course, the media are employing hyperbole. All as per usual. We weren't abysmal or dire today, despite some of the comments, though we were poor.

We've lost to Palace at home by the same margin that we lost to Southampton at home. Yet we were worse, as a team, and our opponents were better, as a team, than back at the end of August.

Funny ol' game football, isn't it? The Eagles played better than the Saints, we played worse than against the Saints, and yet if you count up the "might have beens", we might have won!

This result won't have helped Sam's reputation with the fans, despite his honesty and very obvious disappointment afterwards, nor will it have helped his chances of a new contract. On the other hand, crying "Sam Out Now!", as I have already seen, is puerile too.

Sam isn't at fault for what happened today. Noble aside, the midfield was crap, and Sakho and Valencia played as though they'd never met before. The defence did its best and, along with Adrian, is almost the only part of proceedings that can't be criticised. Nene's debut is the only other bright spot.

Were it not for the bad defending on the second goal, I'd give Man of the Match to Reid. He was brave, putting various parts of his anatomy in the firing line on more than occasion. He had a couple of dodgy moments too, but given how much the back four were exposed by a limp midfield, that's hardly his fault. Had he played worse, we would surely have conceded more.

However, in the week when he signed a new long-term contract, Mr West Ham is my MotM today. Noble, also, did not have a perfect day. But he was involved in much of the good work we did today.

He won the free-kick from which he so nearly scored. He covered the miles, as he always does. If he couldn't lift his lacklustre midfield colleagues to his own level, it wasn't for want of effort.

Whilst our current fixture list becomes no easier; with Chelsea at home on Wednesday, and Arsenal at The Emirates next Saturday; those are, City at The Etihad excepted, the last of our Big Team games. Funnily enough (or perhaps not), I expect our performances to be much better in the those games. It's our performances against our so-called "co-equals" that need looking at.

In those, we do not do well enough...



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Player Ratings

Adrian San Miguel del Castillo
Blameless. Made a couple of sharp, if ultimately routine, stops; couldn't do anything much about any of the goals.


Carl Jenkinson
Didn't do badly, but as with all of the defence, not supported well enough by the midfield.


Aaron Cresswell
Did enough going forwards for the horrible slice to be forgiven (just!), but as exposed as his defensive comrades today.


Winston Reid
Aside from poor marking on their second had a good, brave game. Nearly worth Man of the Match.


James Tomkins
Didn't get close enough to Murray on Palace's 3rd. Caught out once or twice more, too, but given how much space was left in front of him...


Alex Song
Another bad day for Alex. Tried, but passing was always that little bit off today. Always. And as a deeper-lying midfielder, simply didn't give enough protection to the defence.


Cheikhou Kouyate
Surprisingly anonymous, and gave away a bit of a silly free kick for their third.


Mark Noble
Wasn't perfect, did make a couple of errors, but was involved in most of the good things we did.


Stewart Downing
Came into the game more late on, when Palace were down to 10, otherwise it would have been a 4, but mostly was missing today. Particularly disappointing, given that he started at the point of the diamond.


Enner Valencia
Another one of those often guilty of poor touches, but a cracking goal and not far from a second.


Diafra Sakho
Worked hard, but one of those whose control let us all down today.


Substitutes


Nene
(Replaced Song) Got caught out badly once but, in 30 mins showed some good movement, some good vision, some good passing, and a willingness to have a go. No more than a stop-gap, I suspect, but could yet be a very useful one.


Jussi Jaaskelainen
Did not play.


James Collins
Did not play.


Guy Demel
Did not play.


Joey O'Brien
Did not play.


Kevin Nolan
Did not play.


Matt Jarvis
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Mike Dean.

Attendance: 34,857.

Man of the Match: Mark Noble.

West Ham United

Adrian San Miguel del Castillo, Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Cresswell, Winston Reid, James Tomkins, Alex Song, Cheikhou Kouyate, Mark Noble, Stewart Downing, Enner Valencia, Diafra Sakho.

Goals: Enner Valencia 76                  .

Booked: James Tomkins 59 Enner Valencia 65        .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Crystal Palace

Julian Speroni, Joel Ward, Scott Dann, Yannick Bolasie, Wilfried Zaha, Mile Jedinak, Glenn Murray, Jordan Mutch, Damien Delaney, Martin Kelly, Jason Puncheon.

Substitutes: James McArthur (Jordan Mutch 33), Wilfried Zaha (Shola Ameobi 72), Joe Ledley (Yannick Bolasie 83).

Subs not used: Wayne Hennessey, Brede Hangeland, Dwight Gayle, Pape Souare .

Goals: Glenn Murray (41, 63), Scott Dann (51) .

Booked: Glenn Murray (23), Joel Ward (53), Damien Delaney (84).

Sent Off: Glenn Murray 969).

 
Raedwulf's Man of the Match: Mark Noble


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