Saturday, 19th March 2016
I was joined for this one by Maltese and Mrs Hammer whose visit to these shores enabled me to start to repay a billionth of some of the hospitality afforded to me during my visit to their lovely island during for our Europa League match against Birkikara back in July. We joined the Romford boat party where tourists watching us pass under Thames bridges seemed bemused by some of the singing – I just don’t think they understood.
Coming ashore in West London we popped into a Kings Road café for a cup of something non-alcoholic and warming, noting a rather svelte Frank Lampard senior having a cuppa by the door. He looks thinner now than when he was playing. And certainly a lot thinner than his son.
Team news was that Sakho returned to the starting line-up. Antonio continued at right-back despite the potential availability of Byram. Team: Adrian, Antonio, Cresswell, Reid, Ogbonna, Noble, Kouyate, Lanzini, Valencia, Payet, Sakho.
Well although this was a match in which, though we were by far the better of the two sides, the first clearish chance went to the home side as Remy found what was to be a rare bit of space on their right hand side. Adrian stood tall though and saved well with his legs.
Much will be written later in this report (and elsewhere) about referee Madley but it’s worth noting that, quite apart from that which is to come, he had an appalling match from start to finish. Quite early on in the proceedings it transpired it was open season on Sakho with Cahill and Terry being given carte blanche to wrestle the striker to the floor at every opportunity. If you dust Sakho’s neck you’ll find Terry’s fingerprints all over it, such was the brazen nature of the home defence and the spineless incompetence of Madley’s handling of the match.
Despite playing against twelve men we began to settle into the game and it was no surprise when we took the lead on 17 minutes, though, in a season in which we’ve been treated to some sweet goals, this one was a danger to diabetics. Breaking out from deep Valencia won the first header, Sakho the second and we found ourselves with Payet in possession.
Payet fed Lanzini who looked up and curved an absolute beaut over Courtois into the net. How sweet? The government want to stick a tax on it, that’s how sweet. It would have been nice to have seen the goal replayed on the big screen but, although every Chelsea half chance was replayed half a dozen times from twelve different angles in super slo-mo, an actual goal to the opposition didn’t seem worthy of the same consideration. As if proof were needed that you can’t buy class.
It would be over estimating the influence of the home support to say that the goal silenced them, the whistle for the start of the game seemed to do that trick. To be fair they had little to impress them as only a last ditch tackle from Cahill prevented Sakho getting on the end of Payet’s through ball. Kouyate should have done a bit better with a header from a corner then Cresswell got into good position after another fine flowing move, including a sublime backheel from Lanzini. The left back’s low shot was deflected wide by Cahill.
Clearly the home side were not going to get anywhere within the laws of the game so, ably assisted by the gullible Madley, they proceeded to revert to type. Kenedy threw himself to the floor clutching his face after a slight – and accidental – brush on the cheek from Noble. The lengthy spell of “treatment” was more window dressing than of necessity, Chelsea having sacked their last honest medic in favour of individuals willing to sacrifice their Hippocratic oath when told to do so. Willian’s free-kick was wide but we hadn’t seen the end of the home side’s dishonesty.
As the half drew to a close Reid cut out a long ball but slipped in doing so. The defender blocked off Oscar to give away a free-kick and pick up a yellow card in the process. Madley measured out 12 yards and, for bad measure, Fabregas pulled the ball back another yard. Now this was bad enough but when the players pointed out that they were now about 13 yards away from the ball, even when confronted with the evidence Madley shook his head and confirmed that the distance was 10 yards. Predictably Fabregas put away the free-kick. You expect dishonesty from Chelsea – look how their owner made his money. Sadly we’re now getting to the stage where officials routinely lie to protect their own backsides.
There was just about time for Madley to caution Ogbonna for breaking the Official Secrets Act by revealing that he wasn’t fit to referee before the half time whistle. Madley’s contribution to the home side’s cause being underlined by the escort back to the changing room afforded to him by the staff.
At half time there was a kids’ penalty shoot-out to look at. The announcer likened one effort to “John Hollins in the 1970’s against Arsenal – if you remember that”. A laughable comment given the infinitesimally small chance that any of the home “support” had the slightest idea of the club’s existence prior to 2003. In fact so sensitive are they to their lack of historical knowledge they parade a flag up one end suggesting that a club formed as late as 1905 was “London’s First”!
The second half started and, although the home side had a little more of the play we always looked the more likely to score and we should have increased the lead on 57 minutes. Adrian claimed a corner and immediately released Sakho who burst forward before releasing Cresswell on the overlap. Cresswell’s shot sent Courtois the wrong way but was a fraction high, cannoning off the crossbar before running out of play on the far side.
Cresswell, like Sakho, seemed to have offended the moron in the middle, being brought down at both ends but failing to gain the free-kick that even he home side were expecting. On the hour, presumably to give his windpipe a break from Terry’s headlocks, Sakho was withdrawn with Carroll coming on to replace him. We didn’t have to wait long for the no.9 to make an impression.
The impressive Kouyate robbed Oscar and fed Lanzini who fed Payet. Payet’s pass split the defenders and the onside Carroll’s slightly less than clean contact was, nevertheless, good enough to beat Courtois at his near post to restore the lead and ensure that at least one corner of the ground continued to make some noise.
The best effort from the home side came with 15 left to play as Oscar’s shot was blocked by Cresswell, Fabregas’s follow-up overhead kick was a couple of feet too high. At this point Eminike came on for Valencia whose efforts had been more defensive in their outlook than usual. It was a replacement of attacking intent.
Eminike moved forward with intend and laid it off to Carroll who played in Payet, whose attempt at a curler into the top corner was thwarted by a deflection. This prompted a succession of corners. Carroll brought a save out of Courtois.
With 8 left on the clock Obiang replaced Lanzini who received generous applause for his efforts. Carroll then found Eminike with a first-time ball down the right. Eminike got to the goal line forcing a corner out of Ivanovic who cleared with Carroll lurking. Payet’s corner was met cleanly by the no. 9 but Traore was able to hook clear from just in front of his own goal-line.
So, with the prospect of Chelsea scoring a legitimate goal on a par with the chances of finding an honest referee in the Premier League they resorted to their usual tactic of relying on the gullibility of the officials.
Willian moved forward and played the ball through to sub Loftus-Cheek. There may have been the tiniest hint of contact by Antonio but it took place well outside of the box. It certainly wasn’t enough to send the sub to the floor as evidenced by the fact that he was then able to take a few steps into the box, whereupon, with Antonio a good couple of feet away, he clipped the back of his own leg. Only a moron would have given a penalty.
Unfortunately, being a moron is considered to be a prime qualification at PGMOL Towers and Madley is a prime example of the sub species. Fabregas dispatched the penalty and Adrian got a yellow for kicking the ball away in protest at one of the worst 90 minuyes from an official I’ve seen in a long while – and this in a season that’s seen refereeing performances plumb new depths.
As if to underline just how little of a clue Madley had, we won a rare free-kick which prompted a load of pushing and shoving. Madley stood in the middle of it all with the air of someone who knew he ought to be doing something but couldn’t quite work out what it was, so he would hang on just in case someone who did have a clue what was happening happened to be passing by.
There was just enough time for Payet to see a free-kick saved and that was it. Madley had four stewards helping him back to the sanctuary of the changing room where, if he bothered to give his performance a second thought at all, it was probably to think that he couldn’t give a toss because no punishment would ever be forthcoming.
Meanwhile it speaks volumes of the gulf in class between the clubs that the rather ignorant home support were happy to praise a performance from their expensively assembled mercenaries that relied totally on the efforts of the man in the middle to save them from a deserved defeat. I suppose it makes a welcome change from their defending racism. Ignorance is indeed bliss.
A bit of a break now before a season-defining run of games coming up. By that time we should be up to full strength in the squad. Let’s hope that, whatever happens between now and the end of the season, our fate lies in our own hands and not those of those imbeciles at PGMOL.
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Adrian San Miguel Del Castillo
No chance with either of the goals. Indulged in some slightly worrying ball juggling in the first half but that was largely due to having to cope with a difficult back pass.
Better going forward than defensively but stuck to the task as best he could.
Fairly sound defensively but perhaps ought to have notched a brace.
Good display from a defender who is becoming a reliable base for the back four.
Not quite back to his best after his injury problems.
Played the sheet anchor in front of the defence. MOTM for me.
Operated further forward than usual but was a bit profligate with the ball on occasion.
Struggled to make an impression going forward but did chip in with some good tracking-back.
Fine goal and some excellent link up play throughout before tiring a bit in the second half.
Another game in which he wasn’t as dominant as he can be. Still played a part in both goals though.
Showed good movement and would have needed to have been shot before gaining a free-kick from the constantly illegal attentions of Terry.
(Replaced Sakho, 59) Well taken goal and brought others into the game well.
(Replaced Valencia, 75) Showed some nice attacking moves down the right.
(Replaced Lanzini 81) Solid cameo in the few minutes he was on.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Bobby Madley.
Man of the Match: Cheikhou Kouyate.
West Ham United
Adrian San Miguel Del Castillo, Michail Antonio, Aaron Cresswell, Angelo Ogbonna, Winston Reid, Cheikhou Kouyate, Mark Noble, Enner Valencia, Manuel Lanzini, Dimitri Payet, Diafra Sakho.
Goals: Manuel Lanzini 17 Andy Carroll 61 .
Booked: Winston Reid 46 Angelo Ogbonna 47 Cheikhou Kouyate 63 Michail Antonio 87 Adrian San Miguel Del Castillo 88 .
Sent off: None.
Courtois, Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Azpilicueta, Fabregas, Mikel, Willian, Oscar, Kenedy, Remy.
Substitutes: Loftus-Cheat (Oscar 82), Pedro (Kenedy 46), Traore (Remy 62).
Subs not used: Begovic, Baba, Pato, Matic.
Goals: Fabregas (45+3, 90).
Booked: Ivanovic, Fabregas, Willian.
Sent Off: .