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West Ham Utd 2-0 Cardiff City

Filed: Saturday, 17th August 2013
By: staff writer

West Ham were top of the Premier League for nine minutes this afternoon as goals from Joe Cole and Kevin Nolan led the Irons to an opening day win against Cardiff.

When Nolan scored the second goal of the afternoon at the Boleyn Ground, it was good enough to put West Ham top of the live Premier League for a whole nine minutes.

However Antonio Luna's 85th minute effort in Aston Villa's shock 3-1 win at Arsenal saw the Hammers slip to second, and then to third when Manchester United usurped everyone win a comprehensive 4-1 at Swansea in the evening game.

Such silliness aside it was the perfect start for Sam Allardyce, whose starting eleven featured not a single one of his summer signings. Andy Carroll's injury precluded his involvement whilst Razvan Rat, Adrian and Stewart Downing had to be content with a place on the bench.

A packed house - many of whom had taken their seats early in order to pay tribute to Club legend Billy Bonds who was present in order to collect his much deserved Lifetime Achievement Award - had to wait just 13 minutes to see their first goal of the 2013/14 campaign when Joe Cole opened both his and the team's account.

Looker fitter and sharper than he has for many a year the midfielder picked up the ball with his back to goal before twisting to his left and firing beneath David Marshall in the Bluebirds' goal, bringing the vast majority of the 35,000 crowd to its feet.

Cardiff, for whom today was their first ever Premier League fixture featured six new signings in their starting eleven - and that lack of familiarity was clearly evident as they provided very little threat. West Ham meanwhile were enjoying the freedom of Upton Park and really should have increased their lead ahead of the half time break.

Joe Cole's lame chip into the hands of Marshall after being sent through one-on-one was followed by a goalbound Mo Diame curler that was deflected inches wide. James Collins (a header narrowly over the bar) and Diame again (good position, wild shot) also squandered good chances ahead of the break.

City, featuring ex-Hammers Craig Bellamy (who received a positive reception when he was substituted later in the game) and Nicky Maynard (on the bench) did manage to show a few brief glimpses of their potential in the final minutes of the half, although in truth Jussi Jaaskelainen had very little to do.

Bellamy's insistance in dropping deep into his own half to collect the ball was a major reason for Cardiff's attacking impotence, as his team were unable to provide a viable outlet or feed someone capable of holding the ball up.

City did enjoy a brief purple patch at the beginning of the second half but all too soon they found themselves on the backfoot once again - and they had their Scottish goalkeeper to thank for keeping them in the game, when he acrobatically tipped Modibo Maiga's on-target effort around the post.

Unfortunately for Marshall, there was nothing he could to prevent Hammers captain Kevin Nolan from putting the game beyond doubt with 14 minutes of normal time remaining.

Take note, those who insist West Ham play only direct football; a fine, flowing move involving five players ended with Mark Noble stroking a pass into the path of Nolan, who found the corner of the net with a perfectly placed shot. Even Billy Bonds would have been proud of that one.

Cardiff ended the half much as they had the first - by threatening to score without providing the necessary finishing touch. Ex-Hammer Maynard saw one effort spoon centimetres over Jaaskelainen's crossbar, whilst another promising situation - a free kick right on the edge of the penalty area - fizzled out into nothing.

From a West Ham perspective, it was almost certainly the best time to face a newly-promoted side packed with new signings and Premier League newcomers. They will have better days between now and May, yet all Sam Allardyce can ask of his (Champions League-placed) squad is more of the same.

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