David Hautzig's Match Report
When I heard that before the match, I was stunned. But not for the reason one might think. After five years, the natural reaction would be that a century was a low number. But I was actually surprised the number was that high. Whenever Man Bun suits up for us, I think of it as a footballing unicorn. Not to mention the semi controversy that his health and inclusion has caused. While his presence does indeed cause panic attacks in defenders, it also causes Hernandez to play out left and invite the very kind of football that many supporters loathe. Which is precisely what everyone got.
West Ham had the first good chance for either side in the seventh minute when Antonio passed to Zabaleta on the right, who then sent a looping pass to Carroll at the top of the box. But a poor first touch by our number nine saw the ball roll away before Carroll could even attempt a shot. The Hammers earned a corner moments later but the Baggies cleared easily, forcing Zabaleta into a professional foul and a yellow card to stop a West Brom counter.
The home side might look back at the 11th minute and wonder how they didn’t take the lead. Brunt completely wrong footed Obiang on the right side of the West Ham penalty area and tried to pass to Gibbs in the box. Reid got a foot on that pass, but only enough to slow the ball down on its journey. It still arrived at Gibbs, but so did Reid to get another foot in and send Gibbs shot out for a corner. The ensuing piece came to Barry, but his header went onto the top netting of the goal.
The other day, Joe Hart gave a bit of a warning to supporters of both sides, and possibly even neutrals who might have considered watching the match. It won’t be a contest that will please the purists he said. The middle stretch of the first half made that comment seem tame. Awful deliveries on set pieces by Cresswell, giveaways on seemingly simple passes by center halves on both sides, and sloppy ball handling by all with the possible exception of the ball boys and girls. They were in fine form retrieving the dross on display.
Why do we love….and I mean love….Antonio? The 27th minute put that on display. After receiving the ball from Obiang on the right side of midfield, we went on one of his freight train runs. And then he lost the ball inside the box. And then he won it back. And then he fired it on goal. It was saved rather easily by Foster, but an A+ for effort wouldn’t be an overstatement by any means.
Moments later, Obiang tried an ambitious shot from just inside the West Brom half when he saw Foster off his line. The keeper had that look that said he knew this might not end well for him, but the ball skimmed off the cross bar and Foster was saved from embarrassment. Who could have possibly imagined that it would be the closest thing to a goal we saw all day? Other than West Brom supporters, that is.
West Brom wasted a terrific chance in the 38th minute when Phillips beat Fonte down the left and sent a low cross into the box that Morrison got his head to. But maybe he didn’t expect it to reach him that quickly because he headed it wide of the goal.
West Brom 0
West Ham 0
The Hammers had an early chance when a Cresswell corner found Fonte in the box. But Fonte didn’t find anything but the advertising boards with his header. He made up for it somewhat a minute later with a good tackle on Phillips followed by a pass to Hernandez.
Hernandez. Riiiiight. That striker we signed. Real poacher in the box. Forgot about him.
At the end of the first half, my NBC stream died so I missed the injuries to Collins and Obiang. When Ginge went down in the 57th minute, Tony Gale was kind enough to give me and the other viewers the skinny on the issue. But instead of a like for like substitution with Ogbonna coming on, Arnautovic marked his return from stupidity. Zabaleta was moved to the left so the shape stayed the same. But that’s not his natural side, so Bilic left himself open to even more questions.
In the 66th minute, a long ball to Carroll was flicked to the left and both Hernandez and Foster were off to the races. Foster slid out, got the ball and a piece of Hernandez who went flying. Foster saw yellow, which caused Reid to go into a rage that could have ended worse for the West Ham center back than for the man who committed the foul in question. In the end, the decision was correct and West Ham made nothing of the free kick Hernandez won.
When Bilic took off Hernandez for Ayew against Huddersfield, many supporters not only questioned the move but also thought if it backfired it could cost Bilic his job. It ended well on Monday, but I got into a discussion with Sean Whetstone the other day in which Sean wondered if Ayew had earned himself a start. I didn’t think so, and on this one rare occasion I got it right. But the same substitution today had to ignite not only a similar question as Monday, but also the very nature of how Hernandez has been used. Then Sakho replaced Carroll, which worried me on a defensive level more than anything, and the last ten minutes had a potential new look.
In the 88th minute, my wife said she was going to make her homemade Mac and Cheese for lunch. The key is her Bechamel Sauce. Panko bread crumbs on top. That was by far the most exciting moment in quite a long time. Trust me.
West Brom 0
West Ham 0
I guess considering I predicted a 2-0 loss, I should be satisfied with a point and a second clean sheet. And to a degree I am. But all of the concerns I had after the Newcastle game remain. Other than that, it’s probably best to just say I’m glad those two hours are behind us.