David Hautzig's Match Report
With relegation all but impossible, and winning anything actually impossible, many have said the season is for all intent and purpose over. While some may not understand this, I find these kinds of matches kind of enjoyable. We have all spent a large chunk of our lives watching West Ham desperately try to avoid relegation. One eye on the screen watching us hold on for a result against Wigan, or Sunderland, or Manchester United, while looking at the results around us on another screen literally every few seconds. To just be able to watch football, at least for the highly pessimistic and fearful of us (images of Dan Silver slouched in his seat, hands in pockets, chin tucked to his chest come to mind) is a treat to me. And I for one sat content on my basement sofa just watching football. I can’t say I enjoyed much of today’s match. But at least the result won’t send me into panic mode.
Like any Warnock team, Cardiff are a threat from set pieces. They had a chance to show that inside of the opening minute when Anderson brought down Murphy on the right side of the West Ham penalty area. The Hammers dealt with the delivery but Cardiff got the ball back into the box. Gunnarsson took a low shot that Fabianski handled. But moments later Murphy was on the run again on the right. His low pass to Hoilett was treated like a piece of radioactive waste by the entire West Ham defense, so Hoilett had pretty much no problem directing the ball into the back of the net.
West Ham 0
Cardiff kept on the front foot, with Niasse making a run on the left in the 7th minute. Diop made a terrific tackle, and West Ham defended the ensuing corner well. But it didn’t stop the pressure from Cardiff, and West Ham were on their heels hoping for the onslaught to stop. The 13th minute could have brought a second from Cardiff when Fabianski raced Niasse to gather the ball in the West Ham eighteen yard box and lost the race. Niasse tried to loop the ball over the West Ham keeper but his touch was too heavy and the ball went way over the bar.
Midway through the first half, I had a dark thought. Anderson hadn’t completed a pass in what seemed like ages. I wondered if it was time to tell him that no, not even his spot is definite. Not that I had any idea who would replace him, mind you. But I definitely thought about it.
The visitors started to look more comfortable on the ball around the half hour mark. They moved the ball side to side while waiting for someone to make a run. In the 31st minute, the most unlikely of candidates to break on goal did just that. Noble ran behind the Cardiff defense and Anderson came inches away from finding him. It did, however, beg the question of whether or not we had the right lineup up front. Those kinds of balls need a target. We had a petulant one on the bench. Time would tell if he made an appearance.
Having only gone into halftime in front one time this season, Cardiff were hell bent on doubling that number. They kept the pressure up, gave West Ham no time on the ball. There was a steel door across the center of the pitch and West Ham couldn’t go through it. The Hammers looked better, especially down the right side, and they managed to win two corners late in the half. Yet neither produced even a shot off target. Snodgrass had a late attempt from outside the box but it sailed high.
Cardiff asked the final question of the match when Murphy tried a curling strike from 25 yards out, but Fabianski was equal to the task.
Cardiff City 1
West Ham 0
It’s not like I have any clairvoyance or anything, but when Arnautovic came on for Anderson to start the second half, I gotta say I looked back at what I had written and nodded in agreement.
Cardiff had a set piece from a dangerous position in the 50th minute when Diop was a luck boy not to be booked for a tackle on Hoilett just to the left of the West Ham box. The set piece was handled well, but Cardiff kept the pressure on and were rewarded. Hoilett started with a cross that Murphy headed back across the face of goal where Camarasa was there to force it over the line. There was a question of offside, although Fredericks looked to have played Camarasa onside. There was no question, however, of which side was playing better and deserved the lead.
Cardiff City 2
West Ham 0
Cardiff should have scored a third in the 57th minute when Niasse went around Diop as if he were a mannequin and was in on goal alone. Yet somehow, someway, he flubbed the shot and sent it wide. And if that wasn’t the chance to put the lights out, moments later Fabianski came up with a tremendous double save on Niasse and Camarasa to keep the game alive. Life support, mind you. But there was a pulse.
I love Antonio’s enthusiasm and drive. But until they decide to put the goal high up in the lower stands behind the goal, he shouldn’t try any more long range shots.
West Ham had their best chance of the match in the 71st minute when Rice decided to try a low drive from outside the Cardiff eighteen yard box. He beat Etheridge, but the ball bounced off the center of the right post and back out for Cardiff to clear. A few minutes later Arnautovic made a little move to his right and tried to beat Etheridge to the near post but the Cardiff keeper made a good stop. If nothing else, it might have moved Arnie back closer to the starting eleven.
With ten minutes to go, Hoilett did very well to fight off both Fredericks and Snodgrass to win a corner. The delivery came to the shiny head of Gunnarsson but the ball went over the bar. Cardiff kept the ball deep in West Ham territory, and won another free kick in the 84th minute. Hoilett sent a curling ball at goal, and Morrison and Fabianski both went for it. The end result was a high boot and a yellow for the former, and likely bruise for the latter.
West Ham won a corner in the 86th minute when Antonio and Cresswell played an overlapping run that went a bit wonky. The delivery from Nasri wasn’t memorable. Neither were the two throw ins from Antonio moments later. Nor the move in the box from Arnautovic. Or the corner from Snodgrass.
Cardiff City 2
West Ham 0
Don’t get me wrong. Cardiff deserved the win. They worked harder, made no defensive blunders, and took their chances. But they didn’t show a lot of quality. This was a side that had conceded five to Watford in their last home game. In other words, even a neutral would probably say West Ham are a better side and had an off day while Cardiff did what was needed to win. The only thing left on my ledger for the morning or early afternoon was deciding what was for lunch.