David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 2, West Brom 2. Mixed Emotions.

Before I begin my usual ramblings, I’d like to thank those of you who posted kind words about the loss of my dad last week. I particularly liked the cricket reference, noting that at the age of 95 he posted a “good innings”. I’d never heard that, and it certainly made me smile at a time that smiles were hard to come by. Football is special in many ways, and the sense of community it engenders amongst its family members is unlike anything known in other sports. Thanks again.

Talk about feeling out of place. Looking up at not only a Tony Pulis team, but a Tony Pulis team that at times have played some sparkling football to go along with the usual iron wall organizing that is his calling card. When you added the injury to Carroll (do NOT act surprised or indignant, we all knew it would happen), a point looked like a good result when I woke up this morning. Yet when I turn in tonight, I won’t be happy with that point. Not by a long shot.

Despite The Baggies solid shape in midfield, the Hammers makeshift right back Kouyate was able to break through the defense in the third minute to create space on the right side of the West Brom penalty area. He sent a cross into the area but Snodgrass couldn’t connect and the threat was gone.

At times this season it has looked like West Ham have actually rehearsed a kind of Keystone Cops routine of bad passing and defending. You can almost hear that Benny Hill music in the background. In the fifth minute, Noble and Feghouli tried to pass their way out of the West Ham area. Brunt may have fouled Feghouli just as he sent a pass that was intended for Noble. But it was weak regardless, and Morrison jumped right in to intercept. That wasn’t the worst of it. Morrison rolled a pass to Chadli, who nutmegged Kouyate before sending the ball through Randolph’s legs and into the net. Foul? Maybe. Weak defending? Absolutely.

West Ham 0
West Brom 1

When Snodgrass was courted and then signed, his free kick ability was listed prominently in the plus column. In the 12th minute, West Ham won a free kick 25 yards from goal, and while he didn’t score he showed his ability by forcing a good save by Foster. Two minutes later, West Brom broke on a long ball to Phillips. Rondon got on the end of Phillips lay off and sent a superb looping strike that beat Randolph but couldn’t beat the crossbar. West Ham were fortunate not to be two nil down and possibly out of the match before it started.

In the 18th minute, EPL officiating was once again the focus of attention. And scorn. Snodgrass stepped up to take another free kick and curled it into the box. Foster came out to get it but couldn’t control it. At the same time, he crashed into Dawson, pushing him into Antonio. Which likely felt like granite to the West Brom defender. He went down like a duck in a skeet shoot as the ball popped out to Lanzini. His low shot was deflected into the net by Feghouli. Goal, right? No. The linesman’s flag was up. But with Dawson down there couldn’t be offside, right? And no foul was called on anybody for Dawson’s predicament. So it’s a goal, right? Of course not. Why? No clue.

In the 30th minute, West Ham came inches away from an equalizer that would have counted when Snodgrass sent a corner into the box. Antonio attacked it and when Foster wasn’t able to gather it up the ball floated down right in front of Antonio. Any touch at all and it would have been 1-1. But Antonio hit nothing but air and West Brom were able to clear the ball off the line.

West Ham continued to move the ball well through the midfield, but without a recognized striker to finish the work done by Obiang, Lanzini, Snodgrass and company it looked destined to end the same way again and again. West Brom kept their shape and cleared the ball from any semblance of danger. The 40th minute exemplified that issue when Antonio made a run down the left and sent a cross into the box. The issue there was that Antonio, the best aerial threat in the side, wasn’t fast enough to get on the end of his own pass. Snodgrass and Lanzini in the box against large central defenders wasn’t a useful idea.

In first half injury time, after some good footwork near the top of the Baggies penalty area Snodgrass tried a nifty little pass off the outside of his right foot that Antonio couldn’t quite reach and it went out for a goal kick. Moments later Feghouli tried to roll a through ball in the box for Snodgrass. The Scottish international went down, screaming for a penalty. Michael Oliver did not agree, and the half was over.

Halftime.
West Ham 0
West Brom 1

One of the hardest things to do when you write these reports, even as a hobby, is to watch any part of a match after you know the result. Due to my desire not to see my son drown, with my wife at a work conference it was my job to get him to his swimming lesson today. I followed the match on my IPhone, and with seconds to go I shared the same elation as all of you. Only to see that turn to despondency. I was able to contain myself enough not to hurl my 6S Plus at an innocent child, or worse into the pool. So after getting home, making lunch for myself and the kids, I sat down to watch the second half knowing full well what I would see.

Cresswell being removed for Calleri to start the second half was the kind of positive change supporters generally take kindly to. If it wasn’t for most supporters disdain for the Argentine striker it might have been warmly welcomed. I for one still hold some hope for Calleri, so I gave both him and Bilic the benefit of the doubt. Although I’m probably in the minority.

At one point in January, it seemed like Feghouli to Roma was a foregoing conclusion. But thankfully for us, he started to show what he is capable of before the flight to Italy could be booked. In the 50th minute, he made a good run to win a corner, and then moments later picked out Antonio in the box but the human freight train couldn’t get a shot off. Finally, in the 63rd minute, Lanzini made space for himself at the top of the West Brom penalty area and unleashed a viscous shot off the crossbar. It bounced straight out, and Feghouli was quickest to react and put it where it belonged.

West Ham 1
West Brom 1

The sound at the London Stadium suddenly came through the television as if it was a proper football stadium. West Ham pressed all over the pitch, and Feghouli, Antonio, and even Calleri began to make adventurous runs. The latter thought he was fouled in the box and had earned West Ham a penalty in the 69th minute, but the contact wouldn’t have made me go down so I wasn’t surprised Oliver waved it away.

West Ham came close to taking the lead in the 74th minute when Obiang sent a fine through ball into the box for Calleri. The first touch was awful. The second not so bad, and Calleri rolled a shot that Foster had to dive to stop. Lanzini tried to get onto the rebound but just missed and the game stayed level….on my DVR.

Last season, despite all of you know who’s heroics, a friend of mine that works for another EPL club said to me that as good as the Frenchman was, Lanzini was the player he wished his club had. As the second half plowed on, The Jewel looked like he wanted to take hold of the game and own it. He made runs, crosses, and tracked back. Yet there was no end product. Until the 86th minute when he took a pass from Feghouli and fired a low shot from 25 yards that didn’t seem to be going anywhere….until it did. Right past Foster.

West Ham 2
West Brom 1

Then, in the 94th minute, we know what happened. I’m sure other supporters of other clubs probably think they have the worst luck. But I feel like we have lived through more last second heartbreak than every other club on the planet. Combined. Yeah, Slaven thought West Brom shouldn’t have had a throw. He may even face sanctions for pointing out what was indeed awful officiating. Yet that doesn’t explain why Randolph was busy pushing Fernandes in the back when Evans went up for the corner kick. It should not have happened. It did. And what should have been a glorious rest of the weekend became a damp sponge. A moldy one, too.

I guess if we were fighting the drop or chasing a top six spot the two points would eat away at the lining of my stomach far worse than it did at the final whistle. In all probability, we are right about where we will finish. Considering how many of us felt a few months ago, tenth on 32 points in February should be considered a blessing. And if you wanted to take an optimistic view, the club is now undergoing a kind of re-calibration. And the early signs are quite good. Feghouli looks close to undroppable, Lanzini is taking over the position of central midfield creative leader, Snodgrass acts like he’s been here for years, and Bilic is learning and growing on the job. So the intellectual vantage point is solid. It’s just that I’m controlled by the emotional one.

And that side will have me pull what little hair I have left out for a few days.

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David Hautzig's Match Report

Middlesbrough 1, West Ham 3. The Healing Continues.

It was both disappointing and relieving to not write last week. The disappointment came from not being able to be part of the shared experience and joy of the win over Palace and He Who Shall Not Be Named, as well as joining in on the discourse over Payet. It’s pretty rare that West Ham are center stage in the world of football, dominating talk radio and podcasts. The relief came from being able to just experience it like a somewhat normal supporter. I watched most of the match, and then listened to the final twenty minutes in my car while driving to pick up the pizza for my sons tenth birthday party. As the kids watched Diary Of A Wimpy Kid in the party room at a local cinema, I munched on M&M’s and gazed at Carroll’s and Lanzini’s goals on my IPhone. It felt like West Ham were a sick patient who finally found a doctor that made the correct diagnosis, and the second half last week was the start of the healing process.

Yet we wouldn’t be West Ham supporters if we didn’t look at today at The Riverside with the kind of trepidation that has been a hallmark of our club. The Hammers are on a high, the opponent is falling like a stone, and a result is there for the taking. And then we lose, I don’t know, something like 3-0. I hope I’m wrong about that many more times going forward.

West Ham should have taken an early lead in the second minute when Reid found Cresswell with a lovely cross-field pass. The Hammers left back then delivered a superb low cross to Antonio that should have ended up in the back of the net, but for all of the amazing things he has done this season he is entitled to a few miscues. Minutes later, Lanzini and Cresswell tried to combine on the left side of the Boro box but couldn’t find the final ball either as a shot or a pass to Carroll. Then, in the 8th minute, the early hard work paid off when Antonio won a corner. Lanzini put the ball where Carroll wanted it, and then Carroll put the ball where he wanted it.

Middlesbrough 0
West Ham 1

The home side answered the early goal from West Ham with some sustained pressure, including a corner in the 14th minute after Traore worked the ball around Cresswell and lofted it into the box for Negredo. But as valuable as Carroll is in attack, he is equally valuable defending set pieces. He showed that as he headed the ball out of danger.

Remember the days when we couldn’t buy a penalty? It looked like those days returned in the 18th minute when Noble was clearly and blatantly blocked in the box ice hockey body check style. But Atkinson might be auditioning for a spot in the NHL when his EPL days are over. A few minutes later Antonio was fed into the area by Lanzini but he couldn’t control the ball with his first touch and Valdes was able to smother it.

Just as it looked as if West Ham were going to continue to boss the match, Middlesbrough reminded us there were two teams involved. Traore ran the ball down the center and laid the ball off for Chambers, who then sent a perfect low cross to an unmarked Stuani. All the Uruguayan had to do was slip it past Randolph, which he did.

Middlesbrough 1
West Ham 1

West Ham continued to apply pressure, and in the 32nd minute they almost asked another question of Valdes. Antonio was able to get past Bernardo with ease before slipping the ball to Carroll. The Hammer’s number nine was about to shoot but Friend slid in and made a fantastic tackle before Bernardo stepped in to deny Antonio a follow up shot. Middlesbrough came back down with some force a few minutes later, and Traore was at the heart of everything they tried, using his pace and ball handling skills. In the 37th minute he sent a low pass across face of goal that was cleared by Byram. Minutes later, he did it again only this time Negredo couldn’t quite extend himself enough to get a touch.

In the 42nd minute, West Ham began a series of play and for some reason I thought about counting the number of passes we completed. Cannot tell you why. It started with Carroll on the right, with Feghouli pointing to a spot he was running to. But Carroll showed remarkable vision and sent a long pass across the field to Cresswell. Thus began the twenty or so pass sequence that ended with a long, low shot by Antonio that Valdes couldn’t handle. There was Carroll, having as good a half of football on both sides of the pitch as he has had in years, to put in the rebound. He scores. He defends. He passes. Maybe there’s a song there somewhere?

Middlesbrough 1
West Ham 2

As the opening half wound down, West Ham looked to have been denied another valid shout for a penalty when newly born hero Feghouli was taken down in the box by Friend. Replays showed the tackle was anything but friendly (sorry, couldn’t resist) and none of the ball was touched. West Ham were awarded a corner, but that was hardly compensation.

Halftime
Middlesbrough 1
West Ham 2

West Ham had two chances in the opening moments of the second half to double their lead. First, Byram crossed to Antonio in the center of the box but his header went over the bar. Then, Carroll sent Lanzini in on Valdes but the Jewel’s attempt to repeat his stunning chip from last week didn’t ark nearly enough and Valdes was able to make the save.

After those two missed opportunities for West Ham, Boro went on the offensive and had the lions share of possession for the next few minutes. A clearance for a corner by Reid on a long ball for Negredo required the defensive services yet again of Carroll, who cleared the set piece virtually to midfield. Middlesbrough came oh so close in the 56th minute when Traore sent a cross over several West Ham defenders that de Roon was able to attack. Randolph did well to dive to his right and palm de Roon’s powerful header out for a corner.

In the 63rd minute, Middlesbrough equalized. Didn’t they? How did they not? Traore, as he did all day, began the attack with a bit of ball handling that some pretty famous footballers in Spain would have been proud to claim as their own. He rolled a pass to Negredo on the left, who then sent a low cross to…..Cresswell. You know in Pro Wrestling when a good guy switches to bad guy in the middle of a performance? Cresswell switched to Middlesbrough for a second and had Randolph dead to rights. But his left footed effort went off the crossbar. Stuani was right behind him, likely yelling at Cresswell “we had an agreement”!

In the 67th minute, Carroll came off with a twinge in his hamstring, Calleri came on for reasons nobody understood at the time, and Scott Hogan probably began to shop for homes in London.

Based on today, if someone doesn’t come in for Traore with a big money offer I’ll be shocked. In the 70th minute, he made yet another run down the left that made Byram appear to be standing still. His attempted cross hit Reid on the arm just outside the box, but Boro couldn’t take advantage of a set piece from such a dangerous position.

Boro continued to press for an equalizer, and West Ham dropped further and further back. The pressure of defending deep looked to rattle Byram when a cross into the box was tracked by Randolph for an easy catch but Byram intercepted and chested it out for a corner. West Ham defended well, and created a chance of their own in the 81st minute when Lanzini lifted the ball over the Boro defense for Calleri. Perhaps if the Argentine loanee had confidence he would have taken a touch and finished the game off. Instead he tried to volley it past Valdes at the near post and sent the ball wide.

West Ham hearts fluttered with nerves in the 90th minute when Negredo was able to head a long ball into the path of Gestede. The new signing from Villa tried a bicycle kick volley but missed wide.

Someone wrote recently, I don’t know where, that if Calleri had finished off a chance he had early in the season things might have turned out differently. Based on the final ten minutes of the match, there may be something to that. And despite the stick I may get for even suggesting it, maybe it wouldn’t be such a horrific idea to keep him? His ball control in the corner was very good, and his interplay with Lanzini showed promise. And when he showed such a classy level of selflessness before he scored to roll the ball to Fernandes when he easily could have tried to drill it past Valdes, he won me over a bit. That’s not to say Fernandes wasn’t equally classy when he tried to give a goal to Lanzini but overplayed the pass. It was fitting that Calleri finished it off, deflection or no deflection. As my mate Alex said to me after the match, if we gave Zaza so much time maybe Calleri deserves some benefit of the doubt?

Final Score
Middlesbrough 1
West Ham 3

Conventional wisdom is pretty clear. When you lose your best player, you do not get better as a team. But when that player is so toxic that the very idea of working alongside him turns virtually every stomach within the club, conventional wisdom is thrown out the window. We will likely never know the full story and how the gory details affected Slaven, his staff, the squad, even the board. Nor should we. But the results, not only as shown in the league table but on the effort and commitment we have seen since the news broke, are pretty clear.

We were sick. But we are feeling better.

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David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 0, Manchester United 2. Shame On The Men In Black.

I hate math. Primarily because I’m awful at it. While at University, I even made an “arrangement” with the professors assistant to get the lowest possible passing grade for the one required math class I needed to graduate.

Worked like a charm.

With Zlatan coming to town today, I thought back to the stories on some websites that linked us with him over the summer. The wages flung around in print were in the posh neighborhood of 300 grand per week. But we were also supposed to be spending 25 million pounds or something like that on a star striker of our own. Zlatan was on a free, right? Let’s say we got a striker for 25 million and paid the 65 per week basic we normally do. Those 125 per week wages are always based on a truckload of bonus payments. And yes, I understand the lack of sell on value for a guy who’s about sixty.

Two years of Zlatan at 300 grand is £31,200,000. The man has already scored 17 goals this season. I’m thinking a lot of Zlatan shirts would have been under trees this year, too.

Two years of whomever at 65 grand per week, plus 25 million in fees, comes out to £31,760,000.

Ok. I’m done. On to the match.

The opening five minutes were perfect….for making a third cup of coffee. Bank holiday, fresh heavy cream from a local dairy farm, mmmmm. When I finished making my caffeinated elixir, Payet and Lanzini started to find a bit of space near the top of the Manchester United penalty area. The first two times the end products were weak, low shots that went out for goal kicks. But in the 10th minute, Feghouli started a counter that eventually found its way to Lanzini at the top of the box, and the nimble Argentine fired a hard shot that deGea didn’t have to touch, but he did and it resulted in a West Ham corner.

Much was said on TV over here early on about Feghouli’s lively and positive opening minutes. But in the 15th minute, Mike Dean undid all of that and created a ridiculous rest of the match when he sent the Algerian off for a hard challenge on Phil Jones. Yellow? Maybe. Red? Never. And to make it even more insulting, a minute later Lingard lunged in to challenge Kouyate and saw nothing.

Mike Dean should be ashamed of himself. But like all referees, they are not held accountable in any way for their errors. They are, in a football sense, above the law.

At that point, I figured I knew what kind of evening we were in for. Sit back, defend like hell, and hope we can steal a nil-nil draw. But that didn’t happen. We tried. In the face of injustice and daunting odds, we tried.

Antonio was taken from the center forward position and moved wide, while Lanzini occupied whatever the part of the middle of the pitch we could work with. I made the decision not to comment on every period of possession the visitors had because that would be pointless.

Random comment. Nordtveit continued to look reasonably comfortable and composed at right back.

In the 36th minute, Manchester United guaranteed a spot on the end of the season highlight film for Miss Of The Season. Zlatan sent a ball from the right side of the area to Mkhitaryan at the left post. Mkhitaryan squared the ball to Valencia in front of goal, with Randolph committed to his right. With the whole net open, a few feet away, Valencia directed the ball towards the net for a sure fire opening goal. But somehow, against everything we know about the capacity of the human body, Randolph got his left leg back to make a save. The ball bounced to Lingard, who had an equally open net in front of him, but his shot went off the post and right to Randolph.

Against the run of play, as well as the odds, West Ham came close to a goal of their own in the 44th minute when Antonio did well to pick out Lanzini near the top of the Manchester United eighteen yard box. After a short cut to his right he sent a curling effort on goal that deGea did quite well to palm wide for a corner. Then, in the final minute of added time, West Ham won a free kick to the left of the Manchester United penalty area. Payet swung his effort in, and despite West Ham protestations about a hand ball Mike Dean blew the whistle to end the first half.

Mike Dean and blow are words that seem appropriate in the same breath today.

Halftime
West Ham 0
Manchester United 0

Mourinho understandably started the second half with an attacking substitute, inserting Mata and removing Darmian. I was disappointed to see the once booked Darmian leave, along with the hope of a make-good sending off.

West Ham had a chance in the 53rd minute when Payet stood over a free kick on the right side of the visitors box. His delivery was good, and Antonio was the first to get to it but his header went wide.

In the 60th minute, West Ham broke on a counter with numbers. Lanzini got the ball in the center of the pitch and rolled a lovely through ball to Antonio, who timed his run perfectly. Antonio took his shot right away when he had time to make another touch or even two, and deGea was able to come out and make the save. Moments later, Rashford made a run down the left and forced any number of West Ham defenders to commit. He then calmly found Mata in the box, and the second half substitute broke the deadlock.

West Ham 0
Manchester United 1

Despite surrendering an almost inevitable goal, West Ham showed admirable spirit and energy. Carroll replaced Payet, and almost immediately did what a center forward does. Created a set piece chance by drawing a foul. Unfortunately the delivery was poor and Manchester United got the ball out their area.

In the 74th, it was Rashford on the left again. This time he found Pogba alone in the box, but the one hundred million pound man curled his right footed effort wide. A minute later, Valencia fouled Lanzini to give West Ham a free kick. Even a wine salesman knew that was what we needed to create a chance to level the affair. But for some reason, Ogbonna took the free kick short and West Ham didn’t even get the ball into the area.

In the 79th minute, the officiating continued their shameful display. Herrera had a shot from the top of the area blocked. For some reason, Obiang tried a stylish pass out of danger instead of putting his boot through it. The ball ricochet to Zlatan in an offside position, but the flag stayed down when the towering Swede rifled the ball past Randolph.

Final Score
West Ham 0
Manchester United 2

Most of us likely expected nothing from today, considering Manchester United had won five straight and were unbeaten in ten. The fact that Mike Dean ruined what had the look of a tasty affair, and then the linesman missed what was about as easy an offside call as he will ever have, should only be a negative on them. Not on West Ham.

Shame on you, Men In Black.

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David Hautzig's Match Report

Leicester City 1, West Ham United 0. Slight Reality Check To Ring In New Year.

“Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you”.

So said Satchel Paige, a star pitcher in Negro League baseball who eventually, at the age of 42, became the youngest rookie in the history of the Major Leagues. He played until he was 47.

For the vast majority of my time in Claret & Blue, I’ve looked back. Or shall I say down, because the distance between us and the relegation zone has been the measure of our success. Last year was a wonderful, notable exception, and other than the first month I enjoyed it immensely. With the recent accumulation of points, it would be tempting to have a glance up. But I can’t do it. Because if I do, if I start wondering how high we can fly as opposed to staying concerned about our dreams fading and dying, then things will start to go wrong. And it will be my fault for tempting the football gods.

Bilic named an unchanged starting eleven from the win at Swansea, and while it’s understandable it’s equally harsh on Obiang. Who would sit to make room for the Spaniard?

I’m not going there…..

Leicester turned the art of counter attacking football into a title last season, and even with Vardy suspended their modus operandi was front and center in the second minute when a long ball to Slimani was fed into the box for Mahrez who forced a good save from Randolph. Two minutes later, the Man Of The Match against Hull came through again when Albrighton raced down the right and sent a cross to Slimani, whose header clanged off the post. It should be noted, I think, that Payet was supposed to mark the run of Albrighton but chose to watch him instead.

Antonio was able to give West Ham a respite from the Leicester barrage by winning a free kick thirty yards from goal. The free kick was low, but Antonio was able to win a corner. Payet’s delivery was good, but Carroll mistimed his jump and the ball glanced his Bun as opposed to clanging off his forehead.

West Ham missed a glorious opportunity in the 11th minute when Cresswell sent in a fantastic cross that snaked through three Leicester defenders and right to Antonio. But the Hammers leading goal scorer was more surprised than anyone the ball found him and he shinned his effort over the bar.

For the past few years, we were constantly linked with two players. Tore and Slimani. I’m not going to act like I knew one move would have been better than the other, and today is the first time I’ve ever watched Slimani play. Based on the opening twenty minutes, we had reason for regret. In the 20th minute, with Payet again watching Albrighton speed down the right, the man without an assist so far this season sent a perfect cross to the far post that Slimani headed home, and for only the fifth time all season Leicester City were in the lead.

Leicester City 1
West Ham 0

Right around the 30th minute, West Ham had a few minutes of possession. Lots of passes side to side, a few backwards. Yet nobody moved forward to offer a target for a pass. Eventually, a simple pass from Noble to Payet rolled out and the possession was over.

Despite the disjointed attack and weak defending, West Ham should have gone level in the 37th minute when a broken play came close to landing in the back of the net. A through ball to Antonio was intercepted by Simpson, but right into the path of Payet on the left side of the Leicester eighteen yard box. Payet’s shot was saved by Scmeichel but the rebound rolled to Ayew ten yards in front of goal. The West Ham record signing couldn’t sort out his feet and after some pinball wizardry Leicester cleared. Minutes later, after some superb interplay between Cresswell and Payet, the West Ham left back sent a superb cross that Antonio volleyed off the bar.

Leicester came storming back on one of their trademark counters, and Slimani looked a dead cert to double the Leicester lead when Albrighton sent a cross to the Algerian but Nordtveit timed his defensive challenge so perfectly one would think we was an actual, well, right back.

With the game wide open at that point, West Ham broke with numbers. Antonio charged down the right like a locomotive, with Ayew breaking into the box. Antonio tried to thread a pass to Ayew in front of goal but Simpson put a leg to it and West Ham couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity.

In the final minutes of the opening forty five, the sides traded yellow cards and free kicks. First Huth was booked for a crunching tackle on Payet, and the Frenchman forced a good save from Schmeichel. When Leicester broke on a counter with Gray and Slimani, Ogbonna gave a master class on cynical fouling when he reached back and simply pulled Gray down from behind. Randolph then showed why he has replaced Adrian as the number one keeper when he dove to palm Mahrez’s free kick over the bar. His positioning and reaction were pure quality.

Halftime
Leicester City 1
West Ham 0

In the opening minutes of the second half, Leicester were more than a little lucky to still have their full complement of players on the pitch when Amartey went into a challenge on Noble with his boot closer to our captains nose than the ball before it slammed into his knee. Lanzini was told to get ready, but Noble carried on for a little while before The Jewel entered the match.

At least from a ball possession perspective, West Ham began the second half brightly. Considering that we often have begun second halves slowly, just avoiding a quick second goal by the home side was a bit of a relief. But the lack of movement up front often meant that attacks ended before they could begin.

The addition of Lanzini did signal that West Ham were going to push forward. With Ayew somewhat ineffective, Bilic added Feghouli to the mix in the hope of providing more service to the big man in the middle. Moments after entering the game, Feghouli won a free kick just outside the Leicester eighteen yard box. Cresswell stepped up to take it, and his low drive took a deflection and came an inch away from leveling the match but Schmeichel was able to go low and make the save.

In the 71st minute, referee Anthony Taylor officially lost control of the match when Nordtveit slammed into Chilwell with a move that would have been more than normal in UFC or maybe WWE. But in football, such karate kicks normally see red. And just as Amartey didn’t deserve to still be playing, neither did Nordtveit.

West Ham won two quick corners in the 74th minute. Both taken by Payet, and both utterly useless. The first, like most of the other corners taken by the visitors today, didn’t clear the first man and the second flew like a plane with one wing.

To both managers credit, they made positive changes in the late stages. Bilic added the lively Fernandes, while Ranieri threw on Okazaki and Ulloa in search of a second goal.

West Ham won another free kick in a dangerous area in the 83rd minute when Simpson dragged down Antonio on the left side. Payet stepped up to take the free kick, and yet again it caused Leicester City no bother at all. Moments later Carroll had his only look at goal all day when Cresswell found him in front of Schmeichel. Carroll tried to beat the Leicester keeper to the near post but sent his header wide.

The hosts came close to doubling their lead in the final minutes of normal time and effectively ending the match but a good defensive header by Nordtveit and then a block by Reid in the box kept West Ham in the game.

In the third of six minutes of added time, Antonio won a corner off of Simpson and this time the delivery at least found a West Ham player in Ogbonna but his header was cleared away by the man who allowed the chance in the first place, Simpson. A minute later, Antonio tried to hit Carroll in the box with a cross but Schmeichel came out to intercept, with a scrape from Carroll’s hand across his face as a reminder of how crazy it is to be a goalkeeper.

Final Score
Leicester City 1
West Ham 0

West Ham showed lots of endeavor and energy after going down a goal, and despite not finishing one of the few chances they created or asking enough difficult questions in general, the performance was far better than the wins against either Burnley or Hull. On another day, Antonio’s shot goes in and Cresswell’s free kick is an inch more to the left. Yes, Leicester could have been up two or three before the twenty minute mark, but overcoming that dominance as well as the goal is still enough of a positive to allow me to enjoy the rest of my day and evening instead of wallowing in defeat. Well, I’ll wallow a bit. It’s what I do best.

Happy New Year.

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David Hautzig's Match Report

Swansea 1, West Ham United 4. A TKO On Boxing Day.

I want Bob Bradley to succeed. Not today, obviously, but in general. In the early nineties I would go to a pub called The Abbey Tavern on Third Avenue in Manhattan, because there was a guy there with the BBC on a short wave radio and he would provide the football results. Later that decade, two barmen from The Abbey broke off and opened McCormacks across the street. It had a satellite dish on the roof, and I’d get to see around half a dozen West Ham matches there each year. Then came Fox, and now NBC, and my Hammers are in my home virtually every match. America has embraced real football. It’s virtually a phenomenon, with kids in school talking about the EPL along with the NFL, NBA, and MLB. If the first ever American manager can succeed in England, the game itself can only benefit. I still hope it happens one day, but it’s looking like Bob Bradley won’t be the beneficiary.

Despite playing against the team that has allowed the most goals this season in the Premier League, the early action was in the West Ham end. Considering that Swansea have scored more goals at home this campaign than Manchester United, that was worthy of some concern. The Hammers continued to easily lose possession, and Swansea turned that into a corner and potentially dangerous cross to Routledge in the West Ham penalty area within the first ten minutes.

In the 11th minute, Antonio lost possession near the top of the Swansea area and the home side countered. With Sigurdsson calling for the ball, Borja found himself in the West Ham box with three things that usually cause concern for a defense. The ball, time, and space. Thankfully for us Borja sent his shot wide.

It’s almost a given in football that when one side doesn’t take advantage of an opportunity they are left to rue the chance moments later. In the 13th minute, Noble sent a long pass to Carroll in the Swansea penalty area. Man Bun, as my daughter loves to call him, did what he does as well as anybody and headed the ball towards goal. Kouyate looked to have gotten a foot to it first and sent it towards goal. Fabianski did a superb imitation of Randolph at Old Trafford and let the ball go through his hands and right to Ayew. Account opened.

Swansea 0
West Ham 1

A few minutes later West Ham looked close to doubling their advantage when Noble found Payet on the left side of the Swansea area. After faking a pass to an overlapping Cresswell, Payet chipped it into the box where Kouyate got a bit of skull on it but Antonio just missed the floating ball near the far post.

West Ham continued to ask a few questions in the 23rd minute when Antonio attacked from deep inside the Swansea area, right along the end line before Swansea could clear. A minute later Noble fed Payet on the left, and after cutting to his right sent a low shot towards Fabianski that the former centerpiece of Arsenal scorn handled easily.

Despite a decent spell in the middle part of the first half, one thing seemed to keep happening when West Ham had the ball. Regardless of who had the ball at their feet, the two or three teammates around them remained virtually stationary. They would pass the ball between them with very little movement, and then lose it entirely. It made me wonder if that was a symptom of the cramp Bilic has talked about.

In the 37th minute, Swansea created a chance of their own and once again let it slip away without Randolph even having to move. Rangel broke down the right and sent a low cross to Sigurdsson, who tried to open his body and guide the ball in with his left foot. His shot went well wide and the chance was gone. Minutes later Swansea were awarded a controversial free kick from a very dangerous area. Ayew looked to have been fouled by Routledge, but Mariner saw things differently. Sigurdsson’s free kick was quite good, and it forced Randolph into a diving save and out for a corner. Near the end of the first forty-five, Routledge ran onto a pass from Sigurdsson down the left and sent a cross into the West Ham penalty area. Cork got to it, but his header sailed over the bar.

Halftime
Swansea 0
West Ham 1

The home side started the second half with two attacking substitutions, adding Montero and Llorente. One could only assume width and crosses into the box were the thinking there. Based on the opening moments, with Routledge and Cork attacking on the right before the former was flagged for offside, and Montero breaking down the left before being muscled off the ball by…..yeah, it’s true….Nordtveit, that guess looked correct.

Remember what I said earlier about ruing chances? It happened again when West Ham won a corner on what should have been a play that broke down. Noble got the ball inside the Swansea area, but couldn’t control the ball quickly enough to get a shot off. But Swansea didn’t finish the defensive work and Noble rolled the ball to Carroll. His shot from distance was deflected out for a corner. Payet’s delivery was perfect, finding Reid in a crowd and the West Ham centerback headed it past Fabianski.

Swansea 0
West Ham 2

The home side tried to dig themselves out of the hole they were in shortly after West Ham doubled their advantage. They won a few successive corners, and Sigurdsson had another chance in front of goal that went over the bar.

A few minutes later West Ham looked to have a third when Payet broke towards goal on the left along the endline. He rolled the ball to Noble, whose right footed attempt at the far corner took a deflection and went out for the first of three corners. None produced even an attempt on net. Moments later, Payet fouled Llorente and Swansea had a free kick at the edge of the West Ham eighteen yard box. Carroll was able to use his head to clear the ball from danger, a benefit we sometimes overlook when considering his value in the lineup.

In the 70th minute, Swansea again came very close to making the final minutes of the match interesting when Llorente took advantage of Noble being obstructed in the box and was able to get an uncontested cross to Sigurdsson. But once again, his shot didn’t have enough pace to beat Randolph and the Irish International was able to palm the ball over the bar.

I like Fernandes. It’s not quite a man crush, but I really like the kid. And it all starts with his passes. Not that they are the things of magic and beauty we see from Payet every now and again. What they are is decisive. They are rarely if ever rolled just slow enough for the opposition to intercept. They are quick, and like a drone know where the target is. The same can be said about his runs. He has a good instinct on where to run, and knows what to do with the ball after he gets there. In the 78th minute, a little glance from Payet told the young Swiss where to go. Payet gave him the ball to the left of Fabianski inside the Swansea box. Many players would have been forgiven if they simply attempted a cross at that point. But the 21 year old showed maturity beyond those years and let Dyer slide by him, looked up, and tried to beat Fabianski at the near post. The Swansea keeper punched the ball out, but Nordtveit sent a low shot back into the box that Antonio directed into the box. He won’t even get an assist on the goal, but Fernandes deserves a big serving of credit for it.

Swansea 0
West Ham 3

Swansea didn’t roll over and wave the white flag. They continued to press for something to feel positive about, and in the 82nd minute Randolph was forced into a good save off of Rangel after some good work by Sigurdsson. Cork had a good long range effort two minutes later that had it gone in might have made West Ham a bit twitchy.

Very bad pun warning. Just so you know.

The home side finally broke through in the 89th minute when Dyer split between Cresswell and Noble before feeding Llorente in the box for an easy tap in to soil the sheets.

Swansea 1
West Ham 3

Andy Carroll loves to play Swansea. He had scored five goals in his previous six against the Swans. Too bad that idiot whose name I don’t even remember nor care to isn’t with the club anymore. While it was fun to watch He Who Shall Not Be Named laugh at him, it would have been even better to see Slav just give him a wink or something. In the 90th minute, AC’s time in the Swansea Funhouse continued when Feghouli sent a high and probably more hopeful than purposeful cross back across the face of goal that Carroll volleyed off the pitch and behind Fabianski.

Final Score
Swansea 1
West Ham 4

So. Let’s review. Starting with the surprise of the day. Nordtveit, the much maligned Norwegian, played well. Very well in my opinion. And I’ve crucified him in the past, along with about 93% of West Ham supporters. If he can play like that until an actual right back is brought in, then Kouyate will be allowed to play in a more advanced role. Noble was solid. The defense kept their shape, and the attack looked to be finding theirs. It’s looking better. Maybe we can relax a bit.

All stuff we know. And like me, I bet some of you have been pacing the floor thinking about that since the final whistle. Maybe you’ve even been talking to yourself while gesturing with your hands. While such behavior can frighten children and even spouses, it’s understandable after the start we have endured and the fear it produced.

We are not out of the woods yet. But we are hiking in the right direction.

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