Saturday, 11th February 2017
It was a bit nippy and snowy on the walk up to the Olympic Stadium. Not the sort of weather one would want to be playing in with any sort of muscular strain. By the time I arrived at the ground I had convinced myself that the nearest Andy Carroll would get to the pitch would be from the warmth of the posh seats. And so it turned out to be with the no.9 not being risked even on the bench. Lanzini, who had been a tad under the weather prior to the Southampton match, returned to the starting line-up and Antonio went up front in his bid to break the world record for the biggest number of different starting positions in a season. Team: Randoplh, Kouyate, Cresswell, Reid, Fonte, Noble, Obiang, Snodgrass, Feghouli, Lanzini, Antonio.
Well the game started pretty much as it continued for the rest of the match. Clearly the visitors, in not atypical style for a side managed by Pulis, came to play with eleven men behind the ball with referee Oliver playing the role of twelfth man to the best of his ability. They showed little attacking intent save that they might pinch one on a rare foray forward. And that’s exactly what happened.
Feghouli was played into trouble by Noble and was promptly fouled by Brunt. The world stopped for the free-kick – including Brunt who spent a second or two moaning about being penalised to Oliver before the penny dropped that Oliver had given the laws of the game a day off and allowed play to continue. Chadli nutmegged Kouyate and promptly repeated the feat past Randolph to send the visitors into a 1-0 lead on 6 minutes.
The die was cast for the remainder of the game. We enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but toiled against a team that was clearly set up to frustrate. Snodgrass went close on 12 minutes with a free-kick that eluded everyone but Foster saved well. Bizarrely, given our dominance, we might have gone two behind on 15 minutes when Rondon hit a dipping volley onto the top of the bar. However, tellingly, after 15 minutes that was pretty much their last attack of any note until the end.
Our most difficult opponents were the officials. A free-kick from Snodgrass was punched out by Foster. As is the wont of any side managed by Pulis Dawson went down – and let there be no doubt about this – feigned injury in order to break up play. The ball was played in and Feghouli tapped in to equalise. Only to be flagged offside by the linesman who clearly had not seen Dawson playing Feghouli offside.
Subsequent replays showed Antonio had impeded Foster slightly and, no doubt, as a PGMOL employee Oliver will lie through his teeth and claim that he spotted the infringement in order to cover up his error. Right result but owly thanks to yet more dishonesty from a group of people who would have the Serious Fraud Office all over them if they did any other job. Jurcevic was sent to the stand for enquiring of the linesman as to whether he had ever read the offside law. Since his decisions throughout the day suggested that it may have been a while since he read anything that didn’t require colouring-in it was a fair question.
Dawson had taken three minutes to have non-existent treatment for his non-existent injury which had come about only when he had seen there was still danger in the box. After that delay we moved onto Oliver’s next blunder. Antonio challenged for a Snodgrass corner and went to put the loose ball in. He found it rather difficult to do so with Foster hauling him to the floor by a tackle that involved grabbing the striker around the neck. Odd that that particular tackle has been outlawed in rugby but not, apparently, Association Football. The difference being that in Rugby the officials by and large know and apply the laws of their particular game.
Snodgrass was the next to fall foul of Oliver’s idiosyncratic approach to the game. Chasing on to a through ball from Feghouli Livermore pushed him with both hands and clipped the back of his leg for good measure. No penalty apparently in this new modern era which states that in addition to the usual criteria a spot kick shall only be given if the referee really feels like it.
You can tell a opponents’ intentions when they start time wasting and Foster was given a “hurry-up” chat by Oliver on two occasions in the first half. So with the Dawson “breather” and another stoppage for a non-existent injury quite why as few as three minutes were added to the first half was baffling but that is what we got.
Half Time: West Ham United 0 West Bromwich Albion 1
We made a change for the second half. Cresswell was withdrawn and Calleri introduced meaning a switch to the left for Antonio and three at the back.
It was pretty much more of the same. West Brom sat back with everyone behind the ball and it was up to us to break them down. Something that they made abundantly clear on 53 minutes when Chadli came off to be replaced by Evans, the only surprise being that Pulis hadn’t made the swap in the first half immediately after Chadli had scored. It was always going to be hard work but to be fair we applied ourselves well and kept plugging.
Justice finally decided to take part in proceedings in the 63rd minute. A Snodgrass cross came back to him so he squared it to Lanzini who made a bit of room for himself before shooting. Foster managed to tip the ball onto the bar but Feghouli was first to react to prod the ball home, thankfully pulling rank on Antonio in the process who, had he touched the ball, might have been offside.
Well the visitors were still happy with the point they looked like getting. Foster’s time wasting was getting more and more embarrassing – note Mr Oliver if you have to talk to a player about time wasting FOUR times in a match you stand a chance of being rightly accused of not knowing what your cards are for.
Another clear penalty was turned down when Calleri went down after a full blooded two handed shove in the small of the back. Clearly seen by Oliver. And ignored. Basically on the grounds that Oliver is incompetent and dishonest. Calleri then brought a save out of Foster that was cleared before Lanzini could get the tap in.
We kept piling on the pressure and the lead our efforts deserved came on 86 minutes. Lanzini went forward and they backed off him. His left-foot shot cleverly used the defender as a shield and the unsighted Foster was flat-footed as the ball hit the back of the net.
Fernandes and Collins replaced Snodgrass and Feghouli as we went into what we eventually found out was to be five minutes of stoppage, the complexities of operating the electric scoreboard thing being beyond the intelligence of the fourth official.
It should have finished 2-1 but Oliver had another few surprises up his sleeve. Firstly ha gave a throw-in to the visitors which was actually our throw. I suppose when you are that thick it’s easy to be confused by two teams that both have “West” in their team names. Perhaps the away side should have to have a “change name” as well as a change strip when there’s a clash to spare the hard of thinking like Oliver. Then Oliver made great play of waving the player back to where the throw was supposed to be taken from. The player made great play of totally ignoring the ref and taking it from some 15 yards further forward, the correct punishment for which is to award a foul throw. Oliver can’t lie and say that he didn’t see it because he had been waving the player back all along. It seems we can add “spine” to “brain” on the list of body parts that Oliver lacks.
They got a corner and Evans headed home with Randolph hauled down from behind as the cross went over. The players were understandably apoplectic. Robbed of two points purely because of the incompetence of the officials and because too many people fall for the pathetic “oh it’s a hard job” line every time their lack of professionalism, knowledge and honesty is exposed.
Slav was similarly annoyed, taking his anger out on an innocent effects mike. Oliver, who had spotted nothing all day, somehow saw that and sent Bilic to the stands for his efforts. Frankly I reckon Oliver was lucky. Many people would have done something entirely different with the microphone, something that would have left the useless official at A&E trying to come up with an answer to the question “how did that get up there?”
So an unsatisfactory end to an afternoon from which, nevertheless, there were some positives to be taken. It may have taken a while but we did prove that we can break down teams who come to try and avoid defeat. Carroll’s hopefully minor knock will repair itself in the warmth of Dubai as they make use of the two-week break until the next match and, with Southgate having wasted a trip, he will hopefully not be able to get injured on England duty. Actually, being a traditionalist, nothing would please me more than seeing the lad capped for England.
But there again being a traditionalist I like to see referees do their job properly. I’m learning to cope with the weekly disappointment.
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Click here to view all match reports by Gordon Thrower
Nutmegged for their first. Fouled for their second. Not much to do in between.
Also nutmegged for their first. An otherwise decent runout in the problem right-back slot.
Still not quite back to his best. Sacrificed to change to a three-at-the-back system for the second half.
Like the rest of defence his main duty was to mop up the clearances from the back and send it forward. Did so with his usual efficiency.
See Reid. Close to scoring when he nearly got a touch on the Snodgrass free-kick that Foster saved.
His usual reliable self. Not always catching of the eye but dependable nevertheless.
A willing runner both up front and at wing back. Looked better in the latter position though.
Has often been responsible for halting the momentum of an attack by checking and turning away from an early ball. However, this was much better as he kept looking forward.
Useful dead-ball delivery. Looks to be a useful addition to the side. Watch him get injured for that third world country he plays for.
Beginning to emerge from the shadow of that bloke who used to play for us. Constantly teasing and probing. Unlucky not to notch a double.
Odd sort of game for him really. Went from anonymous to the centre of attention and the goal really seemed to perk him up.
(Replaced Cresswell) Got into good positions occasionally but his decision-making was below standard. Should have had a penalty though.
(Replaced Snodgrass) A late introduction so little chance to influence matters.
(Replaced Feghouli) An even later introduction so even less chance to shine.
Adrian San Miguel Del Castillo
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Manuel Lanzini.
West Ham United
Darren Randolph, Cheikhou Kouyate, Aaron Cresswell, Winston Reid, Jose Fonte, Pedro Obiang, Michail Antonio, Mark Noble, Robert Snodgrass, Manuel Lanzini, Sofiane Feghouli.
Goals: Sofiane Feghouli 63 Manuel Lanzini 86 .
Booked: Pedro Obiang Manuel Lanzini Andy Carroll .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
West Bromwich Albion
Foster, Nyom, Dawson, McAuley, Brunt, Livermore, Fletcher; Chadli (Evans 52), Morrison (Yacob 78), Phillips (Robson-Kanu 67), Rondon.
Subs not used: Myhill, Olsson, M Wilson, McClean.
Goals: Chadli (5), Evans (90+5).
Booked: Rondon, Brunt.
Sent Off: None sent off..