Premier League
West Ham United 1 Crystal Palace 2

Saturday, 5th October 2019
by Chris Wilkerson

West Ham took defeat from the jaws of victory this evening as a chance to go third was wasted at home to Crystal Palace.

Against a deep and defensive side, two goals from nothing turned over Sebastian Haller's opener and gave the visitors a 2-1 victory.

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Manuel Pellegrini's men were far from their best against a team set out to spoil, and were eventually punished by two sloppy goals and the intervention of VAR.

Manuel Lanzini and Roberto came in for Pablo Fornals and the injured Lukasz Fabianski with a return to the London Stadium for Cheikhou Kouyate in the Palace side, and James Tomkins sat on the bench.

The Hammers started the game in tidy fashion, but soon were so nullified by Crystal Palace's compact and deep defensive play that frustration seemed to take over. From being in control of the ball, the home side were devoid of ideas and let Palace control the game.

They started to control the ball too. It was only Rice and Ogbonna who seemed awake and aware in defence, the midfielder making good and timely interventions in the middle and around his own box, whilst Ogbonna was imperious in the air and alive to danger on the deck.

With that said, West Ham had the first chance of the game, and should have taken the lead.

A beautiful ball down the right channel in behind to Yarmolenko, who ran into the side of the box and fired a ball across goal to an unmarked Haller. Meeting the ball on the six yard line, he met the ball hard on the bounce and hit it right at the moving Guaita, whose positioning was excellent but should have been beaten.

There was another chance minutes later, Anderson meeting a brilliant Fredericks cross at the back post. He ran onto the ball, which was too long for Haller, and met it on the volley, but his connection was poor. Whilst he could have done better, he seemed rushed meeting the ball and trying to get his body into position to shoot. 30 seconds later, he met a cross with a diving header but the effort was tame.

They may have had these chances, but they were not on their game. Lanzini was far too deep, Haller a little isolated and play constantly slowed down, either by design of Palace or just sloppy play out of West Ham's defence.

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Palace were comfortable in their shape and moved together as one whenever they could pounce on the ball. It nearly worked for them, with Zaha dazzling and bamboozling Cresswell in the box, wiggling away on the touchline and pulling the ball back to Jeffrey Schlupp in the six yard box. The ball came too quickly for the winger, who flicked it forward unconvincingly, but was only stopped scoring by Fredericks's awareness to get on the line and volley the ball away.

The team was lethargic and uninspired, whereas Palace were organised and up for it, maybe geed up by the prowling Ray Lewington on the sidelines - a youngster at 63 compared to messrs Pellegrini and Hodgson - with the shorts and swagger of a hardy winter postman.

This was summed up by how easily McCarthy was allowed to run through the midfield and shoot from range under no pressure, thankfully well saved by Roberto.

Still, there were moments, the home side nearly getting lucky from an Anderson cross that the Palace defence cannoned around themselves and nearly into goal, and then a glorious chance for Lanzini on the edge of the box that he should have got on target.

It ended a tame and disappointing half at 0-0, with chances to score evident but general performance low.

The second half was similar, and gave fans a tense but ultimately poor game, especially from the home side.

Initially, the home side looked like coming out with more energy. Five minutes after the restart, Ogbonna was guilty of snapping at a volley eight yards from goal and blazing over after a wonderful header down by Haller.

It seemed to matter little only minutes later when Sebastian Haller finished off a wonderful move to put West Ham in front.

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Anderson, Cresswell and Lanzini played beautifully to move out of defence and down the left wing. The winger was slowed down, but turning inside found Rice, who combined with Yarmolenko to move it across the pitch to Fredericks. The right back drove into the box and, met with a wall of white, took his time to slide the ball across the area where Haller lunged forward and poked it through Guiata and into the back of the net with 35 minutes to go.

It was a glorious team goal, something the game had never threatened to show, and gave hope that the away side may be forced from their cocoon to attack, leaving space to exploit in behind.

Instead, Palace remained resolute and were gifted the goal that brought them level.

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An unnecessary sliding foul from Haller led to a freekick floated to the far post. Kouyate, in as awkward a fashion as a Kouyate can, bounced the ball around then attempted to flick it over Rice. Unfortunately for the young midfielder, his arm was there to meet it, sitting above his head in an unnatural position and giving Palace a chance they had done little to earn.

It was taken gratefully by Patrick Van Aanholt, who swept the ball into the corner as Roberto flew in the wrong direction.

Rice gives away penalty with arm in an unnatural position. Ball is volleyed upwards by Kouyate in the box and from nothing, they have an equaliser through a Van Aanholt penalty. They don't deserve it at all. 62 1-1

From here, West Ham did not or could not come alive once more. It looked like they were sleepwalking to a draw, whilst Palace sensed the lethargy in front of them.

It caused sloppy play, which Palace had bored out of the Irons across the 90 minutes, and they were punished once more with minutes left on the clock.

Fredericks lacked control when taking down Roberto's long pass, gifting the ball to Zaha then hauling him down as the tricky wide man drove at the area.

The freekick was only ever partially cleared, and when Townsend turned onto his left foot on the right side, he was allowed to bend in a cross. Kelly looked offside as he met it, softly heading it down to a free Ayew, who looked offside as he poked it in.

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The flag went up, but VAR came to play.

Both were adjudged to be millimetres onside as the video referee took nearly five minutes to draw lines between moving knees. That VAR, unable to definitively stop when a ball is kicked, can give a decision like that when the linesman has flagged is irksome, but the laws are there and so were the three points for Crystal Palace.

In the battle of the two oldest managers in the league, wise old Roy came out the better against the young Pellegrini.

It was never exciting or ambitious football from Palace, but they fought to stay in, worked hard to frustrate and took the gifts the West Ham defensive effort gave them.

West Ham lacked imagination and lacked energy, an international break looking desperately needed for some, and allowed the game to be won by simple football. Much like games against Brighton in season's past, sitting deep had once again blunted the West Ham football, and once again it resulted in sloppy defending.

It was a missed opportunity to carry the wonderful early season momentum into 4th place for West Ham, the same opportunity grasped gleefully by Crystal Palace. The visitors had escaped with three points thanks to West Ham packaging it up for them.

Pellegrini will have questions for his players, but should also be asking himself why he could do so little to stop them dropping deep and playing so sloppily.

The Hammers head away to Everton in two weeks time, a chance to put this poor display behind them against a fragile side. Anything like this and the early season optimism is over.

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Player Ratings

Roberto Jimenez Gago
Made one decent save, left with little chance for the goals, didn't kick well.


Ryan Fredericks
Was a very good performance until his poor play allowed the late pressure and eventual goal. Not solely to blame, but it was simple stuff executed very poorly. Created multiple chances.


Aaron Cresswell
Did fine against Zaha, had some lovely combination passing with Anderson, but can't say he did any more than just his job.


Issa Diop
Had some sloppy moments combined with good defensive work, but was overshadowed by his partner.


Angelo Ogbonna
Won everything in the air that was anywhere near him, was fast enough and strong enough to silence Zaha and Ayew whenever near them. Only defender awake to the danger in the first half. He was let down by his teammates.


Declan Rice
Had some good first half moments, one of too few alive to Palace's threat, then got lost in the second half with the penalty mistake.


Mark Noble
Appears to be playing too far forward too often, and didn't influence the game enough. One lovely pass not enough to hide a game that we were bullied in. Nice to see him crunch McCarthy though.


Felipe Anderson
Should have scored. Did put in some good crosses and worked hard to protect Cresswell. Was unlucky to keep Ayew "onside." Guilty of being part of a misfiring forward line. Gets some leeway as he tried to make things happen.


Manuel Lanzini
Not on his game, didn't really make anything happen in their half, missed a good chance in a rare foray forward and allowed his game to be forced into our half.


Andriy Yarmolenko
October's start is quite the contrast to September's end. Lacked spark and creativity, not able to get close enough to Haller to be a goal scoring threat.


Sebastien Haller
Did his work well, winning headers, turning defenders with use of the body and scoring a good goal, but should have scored first half.



Substitutes

Pablo Fornals
(Replaced Lanzini) Did little to influence a game that the man he replaced also struggled in.


Jack Wilshere
(Replaced Yarmolenko) One moment nearly opened up the game, lovely footwork and a good pass that Haller was only just stopped shooting from.


Pablo Zabaleta
(Replaced Cresswell) Did his job for what he had to do, really.


David Martin
Did not play.


Fabian Balbuena
Did not play.


Robert Snodgrass
Did not play.


Albian Ajeti
Did not play.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Roberto Jimenez Gago, Ryan Fredericks, Aaron Cresswell, Issa Diop, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Mark Noble, Felipe Anderson, Manuel Lanzini, Andriy Yarmolenko, Sebastien Haller.

Goals: Sebastien Haller 54                  .

Booked: None.

Sent off: None.

Crystal Palace: Guaita, Ward, Kelly, Cahill, van Aanholt, McArthur, Kouyate, Zaha, McCarthy (Townsend 81), Schlupp, Ayew (Benteke 90).

Subs not used: Hennessey, Tomkins, Dann, Meyer, Camarasa.

Goals: van Aanholt (62 pen), Ayew (89).

Booked: Ward, Benteke.

Sent off: None.

Referee: Michael Oliver.

Attendance: 59,912.

Man of the Match: Ryan Fredericks.