Saturday, 15th October 2016
I’ll be honest I wasn’t looking forward to this. It’s a dump of a ground located in an area that’s a sod to get to and my mood was considerably lowered by an earache that even codeine was having problems with numbing. That and the fact that the walk to the ground was marked by the start of rain of biblical proportions meant that your correspondent was grumpier than usual on arrival at the death trap of a stadium that is Selhurst Park.
Team news was that the much-missed Cresswell was back and took his place as a left wing-back as we went to a three-at-the-back formation. Team: Adrian, Kouyate, Reid, Ogbonna, Antonio, Cresswell, Noble, Obiang, Payet, Lanzini, Zaza.
Well we started with a cohesion and nous that has been seriously lacking for most of this season and, pleasingly, we took the game to Palace Cresswell was showing just how much he had been missed, getting down the left and electing to shoot with little up for him in the middle. Side-netting was the result but give it a few weeks and he’ll start getting those on target. Shortly after that Cresswell was involved again, keeping an attack alive and managing to stay on his feet long enough to prod a ball through to Zaza, whose subsequent shot lacked power though he had done well to get the ball out from between his feet to fabricate the effort in the first place.
We were looking, dare I say it, quite good. Some lovely footwork from Payet freed Lanzini who j-ust over-hit his pass inside to Zaza – a slightly softer touch would have seen Uncle Albert through on the ‘keeper. As an attacking force the home side showed little, a shot across goal from Zaha that brought a few oohs from the largely silent home support but caused little concern anywhere else.
There was some decent football being played and Payet was showing signs of becoming more and more influential, skipping past a couple of challenges laying the ball off to Obiang who played it out wide. Antonio’s cross was cut out by Delaney to give a corner. The first corner was scrambled away at the near post. The second found Kouyate whose header was narrowly wide.
We took the lead on 18 minutes. Good goal as well. There were any number of passes before Cresswell and Payet exchanged a one-two. Cresswell played a beaut of a low cross into the box where Lanzini’s first time finish was a fitting conclusion to a fine flowing move.
It was therefore time for the Martin Atkinson show. He issued a yellow card to Noble that, whilst definitely a foul was no worse than any number of offences committed by the home side. Sadly, it was not the last time this official was to display a rather obvious preference for the home side.
Firstly Zaha laughably claimed a free kick after a coming together that saw him foul Antonio. The ball ran loose and Ogbonna missed his clearance, though Benteke nearly forgot to throw himself to the floor theatrically. Atkinson gave it only to no doubt be really disappointed to see Benteke take one of the worst penalties I have ever seen in my life. I’m not sure quite what was funnier, the penalty itself or the sight of Adrian getting a pat on the back from his defenders – presumably he will claim he sent Benteke the wrong way.
Benteke tried to make amends just before the interval with a header that clipped the outside of the post but Adrian probably had it covered and the half time score was a just and proper one. Half time: Crystal Palace 0 West Ham United 1
The home side made a couple of changes at the interval, Cabaye and Freyers replacing Ledley and Kelly respectively. We were unchanged.
The first incident of note was a nasty spiteful kick out by Benteke on Reid. As Atkinson noted it was the third such example of the Belgian leaving his foot in, Benteke benefiting from Atkinson’s tariff of three home fouls equalling one away one.
Things were a little more even in the second half but we were still the team most likely to add to the goal count. Antonio pushed forward with purpose and fed Zaza but the Italian delayed his shot for too long, ending up cutting sideways across the goal before getting in a shot that was blocked.
We had another chance to increase the lead on 55 minutes. Zaza won the ball in the air and combined well with Lanzini. Lanzini burst into the box but his run took him across goal. The ball fell to Payet whose shot was parried away by the ‘keeper.
Atkinson’s dishonesty was giving cause for concern. Tomkins took both Zaza’s legs away without punishment whereas Townsend falling over after zero contact from Obiang was deemed worthy of a free kick. Zaha – always noted for his ability to go to the floor at a moment’s invitation – tripped himself up resulting in a yellow for Ogbonna. The resulting free-kick was put into row z which prompted an hilarious spot of moaning between Cabaye and Ward.
There was pressure but the defence was coping well, despite Zaha’s increasingly pathetic attempts to win a penalty. His dive on 63 minutes was waved away but Atkinson’s decision not to issue the yellow card Zaha so richly deserved was disgraceful, particularly in the light of what was to occur.
Freyers took out Kouyate in a challenge identical to that which had seen Noble cautioned. No yellow of course – wrong colour shirt. But things were about to get a whole lot worse. Obiang won a corner from which Antonio’s header was cleared off the line. Ogbonna and Cresswell kept it live. Antonio was brought down in a challenge identical to that which had been a penalty in the first half and Cresswell was then upended in getting to the loose ball.
The decision to caution Cresswell was an out-and-out disgrace. That decision alone should get Atkinson a lengthy ban. However he and his assistant were about to make things a lo worse. The free kick getting played down our left saw Cresswell and Zaha running together. Any ontact was minimal and Zaha, predictably, went down like a sack of spuds.
This one decision to give Cresswell a second yellow is one that should see referee and linesman sacrifice their match fees and banned from any form of officiating pending an enquiry. Having watched a replay, you KNOW something smells when even a liar like Howard Webb refuses to defend his erstwhile colleague.
So a game which we should have been 2-0 up with the penalty became different. Thankfully Palace were too poor to take advantage of the 12v10 situation, though Atkinson was giving them so much help it was becoming embarrassing. From the resulting ree kick the ball came off Tomkins who knew little about it. Adrian smothered well.
Zaza turned Freyers who hauled the striker down. No yellow – wrong colour shirt. Payet came off on 77 minutes to be replaced by Fernandes. Zaha won another free kick from a dive. Then dived again but didn’t win a free kick. Palace hit crosses into row z and Benteke put a header ten yards over and a shot the yards wide.
Zaza went off with five left, taking two massive clean hand prints from Dann who had spent the whole match shoving the forward. Calleri came on. The final change saw Nordveidt replace Lanzini.
Four minutes of stoppage were added the second of which saw Adrian save superbly from Wickham - one of the few Palace efforts of the day that was actually on target. Eventually, Atkinson decided that no matter how much assistance he gave the home side they weren’t going to score so, with some reluctance he called time with some of us having a My Life Story gig to attend. Full time: Martin Atkinson 0 West Ham United 1
This was a fine victory despite the difficulties caused by the officials. There was a sense of teamwork and shape about the team that bodes well for the future. The only bad point being that the impressive Cresswell will now miss a game with no recourse to appeal.
Still, on my way to the station it had stopped raining and the My Life Story gig was superb (note to editor!) so it ended up being a fine day.
Now if only I could shift this earache…..
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Rarely called into action but more than capable when asked to do so. A nice easy start to the season for one of the RoI's Euro 16 heroes.
Looked accomplished at full back tonight, as he had very little defending to do. Sterner tests will follow for Antonio, as will the inevitable qeustions regarding his suitability for the role.
Sam endured a torried time in the first leg so it was pleasing to see him put in a solid performance tonight in an unfamiliar position.
Calm, assured and willing to put the boot in when required - just what you want from a centre half.
Another youngster to shine on the big night. The Ox was an able partner to the more experienced Reid but also capable of turning defence into attack with some delightful flighted dellveries.
Another player making his debut, the Norwegian had a fairly quiet first half but came alive in the second. He also showed some lovely footwork as the game reached its closing stages; another impressive start.
A classy performance from a very important player. Payet and Noble drew the plaudits last season but it was Kouyate that kept the midfield ticking over. Tonight he takes the acclaim for two goals that steered West Ham into the next round of the competition.
Solid and combative as per usual, his most notable contribution was the superb delivery for Feghouli's goal. Should be a shoo-in for Allarduce's next squad, at this rate.
The big man put himself about well and played an important role in both of Kouyate's goals. He still seems a little of the pace, thought that's not unusual at this stage of the season.
An impressive start for the winger, who may well have taken the Man of the Match award were it not for Kouyate's two-goal haul. He ran at Domzale's defence all night and was finally rewarded with a goal that sealed the win.
Whilst you can certainly question the ability, there can be no doubt that Valencia gave 100 per cent for West Ham tonight - the sort of attitude his former striker partner would do well to take note of.
Long linked with a move away from the club but given a positive reception upon his introduction by the crowd. Another who seems determined to work through his difficulties.
A nice little two-minute caneo to introduce him to the West Ham family.
See above, just for half the time...
Adrian San Miguel Del Castillo
Referee: Mark Clattenburg.
Man of the Match: Cheikhou Kouyate.
West Ham United
Darren Randolph, Michail Antonio, Sam Byram, Winston Reid, Reece Oxford, Havard Nordtveit, Cheikhou Kouyate, Mark Noble, Andy Carroll, Sofiane Feghouli, Enner Valencia.
Goals: Cheikhou Kouyate 8 Cheikhou Kouyate 22 Sofiane Feghouli 81 .
Booked: Michail Antonio Sofiane Feghouli Enner Valencia .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Marava, Brachi, Dobrovoljc, Horic, Balkovec, Morel, Horvat, Majer, Crnic, Alvir, Mance.
Substitutes: Husmani (Horvat 62), Juninho (Majer 77), Brantanovic (Mance 68).
Subs not used: Milic, Vetrih, Repas, Blazic.
Booked: Crnic, Balkovec, Horic.
Sent Off: None sent off..