David Hautzig's Match Report
Did you know I had magic powers? It’s true. Seriously. The Great Escape with Tevez and friends? All me. The minute I stopped watching us play, choosing to be updated by friends who threatened bodily harm if I even thought of tuning in, we started on that run of winning seven of our last nine. The February under VoldeSam that pulled us up from the drop zone to 10th? Me again. Watching those four matches on an IPad propped up on my dresser while I stood on the opposite side of the bed was all we needed. But such power and responsibility has its downside. Last week I wrote that Roberto should be demoted to third behind Martin after Oxford. I do feel a bit of shame for having put that out in the universe only for a certain thigh muscle to remind me such powers can be dangerous. In the end, Roberto wasn’t the reason for our downfall this evening.
A quick note about age. Manuel Pellegrini is 66. Roy Hodgson is 72. They are the two oldest managers in the Premier League. The Eagles have collected the fourth highest point total in 2019. West Ham have their best start in four years, but a win would give the Hammers their best start in 20 years. Maybe the next time we collectively wonder if the game has passed by our gaffer, we should take a deep breath.
The opening ten minutes were oddly worrying. West Ham had more possession, but offered absolutely no threat near the Crystal Palace eighteen yard box. The visitors didn’t see the ball that much, but their quick counters required Rice to clear the ball right in front of Roberto as well as a long ball out by Ogbonna. Then Ayew got the ball behind the West Ham defense and Yarmolenko did a poor job of clearing. “Palace are looking dangerous” was the comment from the NBC presenter Arlo White. Not exactly the trends we wanted to see at the start of a rather important match.
Diop is either a defensive monster as Jose Mourinho called him last season, or a very inexperienced kid as we have seen on quite a few occasions. In the 22nd minute we saw the latter when a very lazy attempt to get the ball past Ayew led to a Palace free kick. West Ham cleared, but the ball came right back into the West Ham area where Zaha won a corner. A goalmouth scramble could have ended badly for the hosts but Cahill didn’t get good contact and Ogbonna skied the ball away.
West Ham should have taken the lead in the 29th minute when Noble found Yarmolenko after a good run down the right. The winger crossed the ball right to Haller, but with the whole goal in front of him the record signing put the ball directly into the chest of Guaita from point blank range. A few minutes later Fredericks crossed the ball to Anderson but the Brazilian shanked his shot. Seconds after that Fredericks teed up Anderson again but Guaita went down to his right to stop Anderson’s header. At least West Ham looked to have woken up a bit.
Crystal Palace had their moment to look back and rue in the 36th minute when Zaha somehow got the ball around Cresswell just to the left of the West Ham goal. He passed to Schlupp right in front of the West Ham goal, but the shot looped upwards, which gave Fredericks time to get behind Roberto and clear the ball off the line. If anything, it evened out the Haller sitter.
In the 41st minute, when James McCarthy stepped in between Lanzini and Anderson to give himself space for a shot, the reality that Fabianski wasn’t in between the pipes filled me with dread. At first glance, the diving save by Roberto looked terrific. On replay it looked more theatrical. At the end of the day, he made the save. Even if he did drop a shot seconds later, only to be rescued by Diop. Yeah, I’m still very skeptical.
In added time, Yarmolenko sent a sublime pass off the outside of his foot across the box the Anderson, who one touched it to Lanzini at the top of the box. He tried to find space in between the many Palace defenders but in the end the shot went wide.
West Ham 0
Crystal Palace 0
The first moment of interest in the second half come five minutes in, when Ward looked to be auditioning for a spot in the NFL game in North London tomorrow when he dragged Anderson down. A good delivery on the set piece to Haller was headed back into the box to Ogbonna. The center back tried to find his feet but his shot went high over the bar.
West Ham kept the pressure on, and it finally paid off. Starting with the kind of short passing one would expect from the big guns in Spain and Italy, it finally broke to Anderson on the left. Yarmolenko did well to feed Fredericks on the right, who moved forward with his head up and his eyes scanning. A quick roll into the box was directed into the net by Haller. A lovely goal from the first pass to the final moment.
West Ham 1
Crystal Palace 0
Minutes later, West Ham gave all the good work back when Kouyate got the ball inside the West Ham box. He tried to put the ball over Rice, and in a very rare moment he made a significant error when he raised his arm well over his head and blocked the ball. Clear handball. Van Aanholt put it past Roberto, as expected.
West Ham 1
Crystal Palace 1
West Ham kept turning to Anderson on the left to make things happen, and in the 72nd minute he won a corner off of Ward. Guaita did well to get in between the many bodies in the box to punch the ball away, and Palace were out of danger.
I rarely if ever question the substitutions of Mr. Charming, but when Wilshere came on for Yarmolenko I couldn’t see it. By most metrics, Yarmolenko has been our best player the past few matches. He makes things happen. Would the final 12 minutes prove him right?
In the 85th minute, Wilshere was fed into the area by a lovely rolling pass from Anderson. A good touch to his right and he tried to reach Haller at the top of the box. He did, but Van Aanholt made a great interception. A few moments later, VAR did its dirty work against us when Ayew put the ball into the back of the net after a fine ball in from Townsend. The flag went up, but the replay showed the flag was wrong.
West Ham 1
Crystal Palace 2
The Hammers tried to push forward in the six minutes of added time, but there was no final product. Anderson tried to feed Haller in the box a few times, and Zabaleta was fouled outside the box in the 94th minute. The delivery went to the far post and was played back to Diop, but he couldn’t get any power on his header and Guaita he no problem with it.
West Ham 1
Crystal Palace 2
A match at home against a London rival vying for the heights of the EPL table. That kind of match, as opposed to similar matches against similar opponents vying to stay in the damned league, is what we have wanted for so many years. Most pundits put us down for a win. Those same pundits probably haven’t even noticed how well Palace has done under Hodgson. Today adds a lot of perspective as to how hard, how very hard, it is to become a top football club in this league.