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Premier League
Saturday, 18th March 2017

West Ham United 2
Leicester City 3

by Gordon Thrower


Remember the good old days when it was letting in goals at the END of matches that we had to worry about?

First the good news. As usual pre-match I was greeted by Ray the door guy who has been doing press room duties for as long as I can remember. He's had a bit of a health score and has been waiting for some result tests for a few weeks. Thankfully the results were all clear for one of the nicer guys you’ll get to meet about the club.

Team news was that, thankfully, the rumour circulating in the press-room that Lanzini had pulled up lame in the warm-up proved to be false. After an uninspiring trip to Bournemouth Feghouli’s run of starts in the team came to an end. Ayew came in to replace. Noble was also on a much-publicised injury and holiday break, partly instigated by the sort of keyboard warrior that gives the rest of us a bad name. Team: Randolph; Byram, Cresswell, Reid, Fonte, Kouyate, Ogbonna, Ayew, Lanzini, Antonio, Carroll.

The start made you wonder if somebody has painted a big target on our feet and handed the players a loaded pistol. There appeared to be no danger as Mahrez received the ball wide on their right. Mahrez put in a poor cross. However, possibly put off by the runners in front of him, Randolph misjudged the flight of the ball to let in a soft goal.

It got worse a mere two minutes later. Okazaki spent the whole of the 90 diving and ref East, showing why he doesn’t get too many top flight matches, bought it. Incidentally a quick review of the game showed that Okazaki hit double figures for the number of times he went to ground. It must be very tiring for him. No wonder they usually take him off after an hour. They went into a free-kick routine that left Huth completely unmarked in the middle to score from close range.

2-0 down to a poor team who haven’t won away all season. What else could go wrong? Plenty as it happened. Reid pulled up sharply with an injury that looked a bit serious. Ginge ran up and down the touchline looking hopeful but it’s probably an indicator of how he is viewed by the manager that he elected to bring on Snodgrass, pushing Kouyate back into defence instead.

Things started to look up a bit. A typical powerful run from Antonio was brought to an unceremonious end by Drinkwater in dangerous territory. Perhaps indicative of how he is emerging from the shadow of that muppet who went to Marseilles, Lanzini placed a perfect free-kick into the corner leaving at anything Schmeichel stranded.

So a game on our hands. The visitors’ propensity to fall over a lot is, of course, well-known but it remains a mystery as to why referees fail to deal with things as written in the laws. I appreciate that not every time a player goes to ground represents a dive but when the referee waves play on and makes a “diving” hand gesture to Vardy in explanation as to why his latest tumble didn’t earn anything, it does make you wonder if referees work from a different copy of the laws to the one made public. It would sure as hell explain a lot.

We had half chances over the next 20 minutes or so. Antonio and Ayew both had efforts blocked or go wide but just when it looked as if we might be beginning to get the upper hand that self-inflicted pistol to foot interaction thing happened again. We failed to deal with a corner and Vardy stabbed the loose ball into the net to restore the visitors two goal advantage. Vardy provocatively ran towards the home support making the sort of gesture one expects from the sort of ignorant twat who will bravely gesture at people from 50 yards away. Nobody will be surprised when the inevitable Deeney-style headlines appear of Vardy getting a kicking in a nightclub incident. And nobody will be that upset.

Lanzini was doing his damnedest to pull us back into the game and had an effort go narrowly wide when cutting in but despite a correct five minutes of stoppage, largely the result of the Reid injury, we couldn’t pull the one back that might have made the second half a bit easier.

Half Time; West Ham United 1 Leicester City 3

The second half started with Leicester setting out theirs stall. “We’re not quite sure how but we have three goals so we’ll sit back and see if you can break us down” seemed to be the gist of their message. Okazaki went down so often it looked like he was trying to get one of those gymnastic moves named after him: “He followed his Tsukahara in the first vault with a triple Okazaki”. However despite the patience of our build-up we were struggling to break down a side who had clearly done all their attacking for the afternoon. Until just after the hour.

Okazaki took time out from all the tumbling to bring down Lanzini. Buoyed by his earlier effort he took the responsibility and forced a save out of Schmeichel, though from our angle it looked as if the effort might have been going just wide. Whatever. Lanzini’s corner found Carroll in a lot of space at the back post/ The striker’s header back across goal was met by Ayew who headed in from six yards. Game on.

We were forced into our second enforced change of the day when Obiang appeared to roll his ankle in a collision with Mahrez. Always worrying to see the stretcher/canoe thing in use, especially when the player is so close to the touchline. Fernandes came on to replace. Our final change came with about 17 left when Masuaku replaced Cresswell.

Well to say the second half was one-way traffic is something of an understatement. It was as if the pitch had been jacked up at one end. The attacks were coming in waves and we had finally worked out how to pass to eachother. Masuaku’s runs down the left were also bringing something new to the game. The question was whether we could convert the chances that were beginning to arrive.

Sadly we found the one Leicester player who is supposed to dive in decent form. Carroll got up well to meet Antonio’s cross only to see Schmeichel claw out his header. It was close enough for the ref to instinctively check the wrist buzzer thing just in case. Masuaku’s shot from the resulting corner was blocked but Antonio fed the ball through to Ayew who really ought to have levelled the scores rather than putting his shot over the top. A sudden rush of blood to the head is the likeliest explanation.

The chances kept coming. Carroll and Kouyate had efforts blocked and Carroll then got into promising space on the left hand side of the box only for his shot to lack power. Not that that stopped Schmeichel from picking the ball up then diving to the ground as if he’d saved a piledriver just to waste a few more seconds.

Six minutes of stoppage were announced. In truth it could have been even more after lengthy injury delays for Obiang and Benalouane. The latter eventually hobbled very slowly over to the touchline, worrying everyone as to whether he would ever walk properly again, before sprinting straight back on to the pitch. If anyone knows what the Leicester physio gave to his player please let me know – my arthritic joints could use such a fast acting painkiller.

Early into stoppage time we got confirmation that it wasn’t to be our day. Ayew was upended on our right-hand side. Snodgrass took over the free-kick duties. It wasn’t the greatest of free-kicks but it deflected its way through the wall and found Carroll who walloped it goalwards only for Schmeichel to save the shot with one of those star jumps that have become something of a family trait over the years.

With us pushing forward so much looking for the equaliser there was always a chance we could be caught on the break and sub Slimani might have done better deep into added time, Randolph saving well to prevent the scoreline assuming an even more flattering complexion than it already had for the visitors. And that was pretty much yer lot.

Full Time: West Ham United 2 Leicester City 3

Well we showed a lot of good stuff in the second half, the annoying thing being that we had had to go 3-1 down to start playing like that. The good thing about the international break is that it will enable a few of the injury cases to heal up. Reid will be spared the effects of having to shuttle between London, Fiji and New Zealand for their World Cup Qualifiers, and Antonio seems to have picked up a hamstring strain which may see him miss out on sitting on the bench while some useless donkey playing for a flavour of the month club gains another undeserved England cap.

The break has come at a good time for us. Form has been patchy of in recent weeks and anything that can spark a change is to be welcomed in advance of the final few games of the season.

And if someone could sort us out a change of luck as well while they’re at it…



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Player Ratings

Darren Randolph
Thought he could have done better for their first.


Sam Byram
A good match – particularly going forward when he kept the pressure on in the second half.


Aaron Cresswell
One for whom the break will do a power of good. Ok-ish defensively but gave the ball away a bit too often which relieved the pressure on the visitors.


Winston Reid
Not quite sure what an abductor is but he has done his. Looked painful.


Jose Fonte
Got lost for their second and third goals. The reshuffle didn’t help but he should have adapted quicker.


Pedro Obiang
Dug in and gave as good as he got against the Leicester midfield. Hope the ankle’s ok.


Michail Antonio
Strong and powerful on the run, always caused problems.


Cheikhou Kouyate
Two positions in the one match. Took him a while to settle in the centre of defence.


Andy Carroll
Gave Leicester a lot to think about when the service was right. Unlucky not to get on the sheet.


Manuel Lanzini
At the heart of all the good stuff that we did. Fine free-kick. MOTM.


Andre Ayew
Decent second half in particular. However he really ought to have added a second.


Substitutes


Robert Snodgrass
(Replaced Reid) Didn’t make much of an impression when on for Reid.


Edimilson Fernandes
(Replaced Obiang) Kept the forward impetus going when replaced Obiang


Arthur Masuaku
(Replaced Carroll) Much better going forward than Cresswell who he replaced. Not really tested defensively. Perhaps we need an Arfur/Cresswell hybrid?


Adrian San Miguel Del Castillo
Did not play.


James Collins
Did not play.


Havard Nordtveit
Did not play.


Sofiane Feghouli
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Roger East.

Attendance: 0.

Man of the Match: Manuel Lanzini.

West Ham United

Darren Randolph, Sam Byram, Aaron Cresswell, Winston Reid, Jose Fonte, Pedro Obiang, Michail Antonio, Cheikhou Kouyate, Andy Carroll, Manuel Lanzini, Andre Ayew.

Goals: Manuel Lanzini 20 Andre Ayew 63                .

Booked: None.

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Leicester City

Schmeichel, Simpson, Huth, Benalouane, Fuchs, Mahrez (Chilwell 86), Ndidi, Drinkwater, Albrighton, Okazaki (Musa 76), Vardy (Slimani 76).

Substitutes: .

Subs not used: Zieler, King, Amartey, Gray.

Goals: Mahrez (5), Huth (7), Vardy (38).

Booked: Drinkwater.

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Manuel Lanzini


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