David Hautzig's Match Report
This is supposed to be fun, isn’t it? Not a weekly argument over who should manage, who should play, who’s a supporter and who isn’t. So as we all waited for today’s finale, which could be a finale on so many fronts, I’d be hard pressed to believe anybody isn’t thrilled this interminable, poisoned season is finally in the rear view mirror.
It’s so rare that West Ham do anything noteworthy in the opening minute of a match….at least on the pitch….that one could be forgiven for not being settled when Lanzini was fed in the box 45 seconds into the match. Had he not slipped at the last moment he might have had a real chance to give the home side an early lead.
West Ham looked energetic yet calm in the opening ten minutes. Masuaku set up Arnautovic in the area but his shot was blocked by Jagielka. Seconds after that, Arnautovic turned into the supplier when he rolled a pass to Noble in the box. The captain was six yards out when he sent a hard, low shot that four times out of five would have been a goal. But today was the fifth time I guess because Pickford got a hand to it for a fine save.
It’s hard to ignore a simple fact of life this season. When Masuaku played and played well, we were a decent outfit. When he missed six matches due to his overactive salivary gland, we were abject. So when Funes Mori scissor tackled him from behind in the 15th minute, which forced him off, the only saving grace was that it was the last match of the season. Everton must practice scissor tackles when they prepare to play us.
West Ham came inches away, maybe even one single inch, from taking the lead in the 27th minute when Lanzini sent a through ball from near the center circle that found Mario in full stride. The Inter Milan loanee had Arnautovic in the box but decided to let a low shot go and it almost found the far corner but rolled just wide.
Ogbonna has had a truly fine season for us. But in the 31st minute he should have had to hang his head from making a mistake that led to an opening goal by Niasse. Ogbonna tried to head a Sam Special away and just made a mess of it. Niasse jumped on the error and was in alone on Adrian. But the on again, off again West Ham number one made a very good save with his leg and won a meal, not just a drink, from his central defender.
It’s rare a mistake by a West Ham player turns out benefitting West Ham. But in the 39th minute, Mario tried to find Arnautovic with a pass near the top of the Everton eighteen yard box. He just missed that pass, but then again so did about four Everton players. The ball rolled into the path of Lanzini, who took a few more steps into the box and fired a low shot past Pickford and into the back of the net.
West Ham 1
There is one thing about my second favorite sport, ice hockey, I occasionally long for in football. A few minutes after the Lanzini goal, Arnautovic tried to chase down a long ball. Pickford gathered it up before Arnie could get there. The England keeper decided to greet the West Ham frontman with a knee in the thigh. Intentionally. In hockey, I can all but guarantee that at some point later in the game Pickford would have paid for that. At worse, a two minute penalty would have ensued for the player exacting justice. In football the punishments are far more serious. Rightfully. But I would have loved to see someone skate through Pickford’s crease with a high elbow as a little reminder not to pull that s*#t again.
West Ham 1
Everton came out for the second half with more energy, not to mention an extra body in midfield due to a tactical change, and caused the home side to fall back on their heels. While we waited for Moyes to adjust, which prompted visions of the Vogons in Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, Everton won a corner and kept West Ham in their own end.
By all accounts, Michael Keane has had a good season for the Toffees. But in the span of a couple of minutes he made two mistakes that led to two opportunities for West Ham. First he gave up a corner when his attempted clearance went the wrong direction, and then a minute later he was called for a foul on Kouyate at the edge of the Everton penalty area. Cresswell took both set pieces, and neither amounted to much. But at least the action was on their end of the pitch for a little bit.
What makes a great goal? Stunning bits of skill have delivered West Ham fans that goal by DiCanio, that free kick by Tevez, and recent blasts by Obiang and Noble. But in the 64th minute, I’d argue we saw a goal of equal greatness. Just for different reasons. The way Arnautovic went around Keane like the English defender wasn’t even there. The way the shot was right at Pickford….almost on a line to his forehead….yet he couldn’t even fathom how to stop it. Maybe I’m overstating it. But I was awestruck by that Arniestrike.
West Ham 2
Everton almost got back into the match in the 73rd minute when Niasse got on the end of a long ball on the right side of penalty area. His blast went off Adrian’s hands and off the post for a corner. Moments later, Everton won a second corner and this time they capitalized. Declan Rice tried to clear the area, but his header went back into the danger area and after an initial attempt was blocked Niasse did very well to split the West Ham defense with a little flick to himself and his shot from point blank range gave Adrian no chance.
West Ham 2
The Hammers came back reasonably strong after the Everton goal. First, Arnautovic tried to feed Mario inside the Everton penalty area but Keane got a foot in and sent it out for a corner. The home side won a second corner seconds later but again Mario didn’t find a teammate in the box.
Remember what I said above about Arnautovic’s goal? Well, I won’t wax as poetic but in the 82nd minute we were treated to another wonderful bit of football. Zabaleta sent a long, cross field pass for Lanzini to run onto. The man they call The Jewel gathered the ball and took a few steps towards the edge of the area. Then, he let loose with a curling right footed shot that Pickford got a hand to. Not that it mattered. The Everton keeper should be thankful he didn’t lose a finger as the ball flew into the back of the net.
West Ham 3
Everton might have made the final minutes as nervy as a meaningless game can be in the 85th minute when Walcott went in on Adrian alone on the right side of the box, but the West Ham keeper made a good stop with his right foot. The ball flew into the air and landed at the feet of Niasse on the left side of the box. His shot bounced off the turf and headed towards goal but Adrian made a diving stop to his left and pushed the ball out for a corner.
You cannot buy class. Nor can it be overstated. In my world, the way I try to raise my two kids, the same can be said for kindness. When James Collins was announced as a sub, I thought it was a class move by Moyes. It has been widely reported that not only has the club not offered him a new deal, they haven’t even had the courtesy to tell him they won’t. Total radio silence. When Noble embraced Ginge and handed him the Captains Armband, I was overcome by the moment. It was one of the classiest, kindest, most Captain like moments I have seen in my many years on this orb watching men and women play games.
West Ham 3
42 points. 13th place. Considering how precarious our position was eight days ago it doesn’t look so awful. But of course it was. Fans turning on fans, the Burnley game, the shambolic play at times, the behavior and words of the board at times. Yet I believe the ethos and the heart of the club will always prevail because those things don’t reside in Stratford or with the board. They live within the supporters. Millions of them. So regardless of who our manager is, or which players come or go, it will always be West Ham United. The club I inexplicably latched onto about 25 years ago.
Have a good summer.