David Hautzig's Match Report
My penchant for metaphors will take a slightly dark turn today.
Pain and discomfort. What makes those unpleasant feelings and moments bearable is the unbelievable relief and catharsis one feels after those episodes are done. This season has been like a horrible case of bedspins, whether the result of the flu or far too many beverages that I sell for a living. You roll around in bed, the room rolling like you’re on a cruise from hell, promising your maker that you will be eternally grateful if he/she will simply allow you to find a single position where the world will just stop moving. Finally, after you’ve resigned yourself to being sick and miserable until rapture, it stops. The sweat that had been pouring out of you as if your skin was a colander draining pasta dries up. You stop groaning. Your heart rate calms down. You feel…..OK.
That was Friday night.
Today brought us something that I don’t recall feeling too many times this season. The ability to simply watch and enjoy a bit of West Ham football. At least for me it did. That was, however, before the match actually started.
For all of our lifetime pain against Liverpool, we came into today unbeaten in five against them. That collective optimism was on display in the opening minutes. The home side looked to have its tail up, and in the 7th minute Calleri continued his relatively decent form of late when he spotted Byram streaking down the right and laid a well timed ball for the young right back to run onto. But instead of opening his East London account his shot went wide.
Moments later, Liverpool came inches away from taking an early lead when Coutinho delivered a corner kick onto Matip’s hairline. The ball bounced in front of Adrian and off the crossbar before going out for a second corner. A couple of minutes later, signing of the season Fernandes (a dubious honor if there ever was one) sent a long low shot that nobody expected. Certainly not Mignolet. But the Liverpool keeper reacted just on time to push the ball out for a corner.
I was slightly annoyed at the early action because I was also needed to cook a Mothers Day breakfast. Bacon, egg and cheese soft tacos. Made Carnitas de Puerco last night for dinner and we had leftover, homemade tortillas. Man, they were good. Running back and forth between bacon and an IPad is a tough job on a Sunday morning.
What makes the EPL so much different than other leagues? In the 20th minute, Lanzini danced his way to the top of the Liverpool penalty area but looked to have been pushed over. He wanted a foul, Swarbrick wanted him to get up. A moment later, Lanzini gave a little shoulder love to Coutinho on the other end of the pitch to regain possession. The lesson there, Mr. Calleri, is that if you don’t like the officiating you are better off taking matters into your own hands than moaning about it.
Coutinho is a very clever player. His cheeky free kick under the jumping wall last season in the FA Cup replay at Upton Park allowed me to see that up close and personal. In the 35th minute, he cleverly threaded a ball through the West Ham defense. I wasn’t the only one watching the ball head to Sturridge. Fonte watched as well, instead of having any awareness of what was going on. If he hadn’t gazed, he might have stepped up and put Sturridge offside. Nigel texted me from the stadium to see if the linesman got it right, and he wasn’t surprised when I told him yes.
West Ham 0
The goal galvanized and energized Liverpool, while West Ham looked more like the lost souls they had been for much of the season. In the 41st minute Matip again had a free header off a corner but this time it went over the bar instead of into it. Thank heavens for small favors.
If we hadn’t assured ourselves safety by now, I might have done some serious harm to myself in the 45th minute. West Ham won a corner when Clyne played it safe and sent a looping cross behind the net. Lanzini’s inswinger made its way to Ayew alone in front of the net. Two feet, max. He hit the base of the post. And if that wasn’t surreal enough, he got another chance while sitting on his arse. The second shot again hit the bar and rolled across the line before Mignolet smothered it.
West Ham 0
As the second half got underway, the visitors looked intent on increasing their lead as opposed to protecting it. West Ham still looked shocked that Ayew didn’t level the match. First, Origi sent a powerful shot from the edge of the area that forced Adrian to make a good save. That was followed by saves on Lallana and Wijnaldum. Is there such a thing as a hat trick on saves?
Liverpool continued to ask the only questions of the second forty five when Wjinaldum tried to find Sturridge with a cross. Fonte put it out for a corner, but it was a comically sloppy slice. Maybe that was the moment Bilic decided he had seen enough and made a double switch. Calleri out for Fletcher and Fonte out for Feghouli.
Two minutes after the substitutions that we hoped would galvanize our side, the job got twice as hard. Wijnaldum fired a shot from 25 yards out that bounced off the crossbar. Reid tried to clear the ball from danger, but his backwards header fell right to Coutinho. A move to his left, a wiggle to his right, and the ball in the back of the net.
West Ham 0
To his credit, Feghouli made a bit of an impact right away. Not on the scoresheet, obviously, but he did move the ball well. He sent Byram down the right on an overlapping run that ended in a cross that Mignolet had to punch out. Seconds later, he sent a shot towards goal that was deflected out for a corner.
On that corner, Wijnaldum caught Reid in the face with an unintentional forearm. Reid went down in the Liverpool box, clutching his face. The ball also looked to have struck Wijnaldum’s aforementioned forearm. Head injury, hand ball. Two reasons for Swarbrick to blow the whistle. Nope. Play continued, and Coutinho scored again. We will never know if anything would have changed had Swarbrick not made a mockery of the situation. But it was a stunningly bad bit of refereeing in my opinion.
West Ham 0
I can’t really tell you how Liverpool scored their fourth. By the look of it, neither could many of the supporters who had already left Stratford. I was busy making coffee for me and my daughter. 15 years old and she likes a good cup of coffee. You know, Origi sounds like it could be a type of coffee, doesn’t it? I’ll have a cup of the Nicaraguan Origi, please. Cream and sugar. Cheers.
West Ham 0
It would have been nice to at least look a little useful on the back of the fantastic result against Spurs last week. Instead, we were reminded of how forgettable this season was and how lucky we are to have another shot in the top flight next year.
Time to start planning Mothers Day dinner.