David Hautzig's Match Report
The Predictor League for Doncaster Rovers is open. Enter your team HERE. Deadline is today at 1pm on Saturday afternoon.
Today was supposed to be a day of the FotMob app dinging with updates, and short snippets of satellite radio in my car in between customer appointments. But then a project with a deadline that required some immediate attention landed on my phone, and lo and behold I rescheduled my day and sat myself down in front of my Mac. That did allow me to put the game on my IPad, but 100% attention was not in the cards. So hopefully you will all get what you get and not get upset.
Big Sam teams are known for solid defending on set pieces. In the 8th minute, West Ham won a corner. The delivery from Cresswell was excellent, but Dawson put his header wide despite having time and space. Five minutes later it was Albion on the attack after West Ham lost possession. A long ball over the top…..duh, it’s a Sam team…. set Grosicki free behind the West Ham defense. But his control wasn’t good enough and he had to lay the ball back for Pereira, whose shot went high over the bar.
West Ham won a corner in the 22nd minute after some good footwork by Benrahma. He rolled a pass to Cresswell, who put the ball into the box where it met up with Coufal. His shot from inside the box deflected out for the set piece, but Johnstone punched it away from danger. Minutes later Cresswell ran towards the box and cut a pass back to Lanzini, but his shot lacked pace and floated harmlessly into Johnstone’s hands.
Midway through the first half, Tony Gale said that Albion were “beginning to make it horrible” for West Ham. Pressing, defending deep, and being physical enough to be an ice hockey team. But the Hammers had a chance to make life horrible for Sam in the 34th minute when Ajayi took down Antonio just outside the Albion box. But Lanzini’s attempt floated over the wall and hit the top of the net. Close, but no Cohiba.
Benrahma is in the side to do fancy stuff. Yes, he needs to track back and do at least some defensive work. But it’s his ability on the ball, to create an opportunity when none appears to be there, that will have West Ham fork over north of twenty million pounds this summer. In the 41st minute he did a bit of that and at least got off a good shot that Johnstone gathered up. But as the opening half wound down, he did it again and this time the end product was there. After some good footwork to the left of the Albion eighteen yard box, Benrahma sent the ball across to the other side for Coufal. The bargain of the season one timed the ball back in front of goal where Bowen was waiting to direct it into the back of the net.
West Ham 1
West Brom 0
The opening minutes of the second half showed Albion’s best passage of play of the evening to that point, but after being teed up by Pereira in the box Gallagher’s shot fizzled into the arms of Fabianski. But just moments later, West Ham conceded their first goal in over seven hours when Pereira struck the ball beautifully from twenty yards out to beat the West Ham keeper. VAR looked to see if Gallagher impeded Fabianski’s vision of the shot, and determined he had not.
West Ham 1
West Brom 1
Albion did not rest after their equalizer, winning a corner in the 55th minute. Benrahma cleared, but there was a new purpose to Big Sam’s men. But West Ham came close to retaking the lead when Antonio laid a pass for Lanzini inside the Albion box. Lanzini shot from ten yards out, but O’Shea got in front of it for the block. Seconds later Rice tried a long shot that just went wide. Moments after that it was Rice again sliding the ball across the face of goal. It needed just a little nudge. It didn’t get it.
As the clock hit the 66th minute, Tony Gale said West Ham would be annoyed if they couldn’t win against a team in the bottom three at home. Perhaps the players felt something similar. Cresswell started the play with a good delivery into the box that Yarmolenko headed back to Antonio, who whipped the ball past Johnstone with his right foot.
West Ham 2
West Brom 1
In the 73rd minute West Brom won a free kick…and my boss Alex called. I turned the volume down on my IPad, but admitted I had it on. No sense in making some nonsense up if I screamed when all he said was Cabernet, right? To his eternal credit, Alex even offered to enable my paranoia and superstition and stay on the line until the final whistle. As a New Orleans Saints fan, he was still hurting from the other night so it was a grand gesture on his part. It wasn’t needed.
West Ham 2
West Brom 1
32 points. Thirty. Two. Points. We are winning the games we normally think we should win, and we are winning a few we normally think we will lose. As much as I loved the thrill of the final season at Upton Park, something about this season is more endearing. It feels like it’s being built on something, instead of riding that wave of emotion. And the magic feet of that guy who now plays for Marseilles. Whatever. There’s a solidity. A firmness. Maybe even a plan.
That would be different.