David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 3, Everton 1. Love That Rear View Mirror.

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.

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West Ham 1
Everton 0

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.

Halftime
West Ham 1
Everton 0

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.

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West Ham 2
Everton 0

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
Everton 1

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.

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West Ham 3
Everton 1

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.

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Final Score
West Ham 3
Everton 1

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.

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David Hautzig's Match Report

Leicester City 0, West Ham 2. Deep Breath In, And Noooow Breathe Out.

This is kind of off topic. But the truth is I wasn’t too bothered to think about today’s monumental match when I woke up this morning. I don’t know why, either. I think maybe the last few weeks have brought a clarity to my frustration and fury, and I couldn’t get past that. It started with the Burnley match when I was over there for work. And the match itself wasn’t the seminal moment for me. It was the early lunch at Nathan’s with Nigel, his son in law, and one of my bosses, followed by the wonderful West Ham Way event at the East Ham Working Men’s Social Club, ending with a walk up Green Street to the train. I live in upstate New York for gods sake, and I felt palpably sad. I couldn’t shake it for days, even though I had a great rest of my stay in my favorite city in the world. Thankfully my wife, she of two Masters Degrees, was able to sum it up for me. She had been to Upton Park twice, including a game on our honeymoon, and other than Paolo Dicanio couldn’t name a single player that has ever worn our shirt.

“You can live with lousy players and bad teams. But what these owners did was destroy a community and fabric of life. For that they should never be forgiven.”

Amen.

Then, in what could only be described as spooky, I took a break from writing the paragraphs above to scan some fan sites, only to read the horrible news that Nathan’s would close later this month. If Liquor were blood, our board would have plenty on their shameful little hands.

So as we began what could end up being our last week in the Premier League for the foreseeable future, I tried to be excited about the starting eleven names as they were released on Twitter. Unfortunately when I saw them excitement is not how I would describe my reaction.

Overall we started the brighter side. But when you have chances to take an early lead in a match of such importance you simply have to take them. Lanzini found himself in the box after some decent interplay in the 6th minute, but his shot was deflected wide into the path of Arnautovic. He tried to play it back to Noble in the box, but Leicester were able to clear the ball from danger. A few moments later Arnautovic tried to chase down a sloppy back pass to Hamer. The Leicester keeper lost control momentarily but Arnautovic was unable to capitalize. Minutes later Lanzini got on the end of a Masuaku cross but his low shot was deflected out by Arnautovic for a goal kick.

Leicester looked a lot like us the last few months in the first twenty minutes or so. They sat back, barely moved, and allowed us to have as much of the ball in midfield as we wanted. It wasn’t so much that we bossed the center of the pitch. Leicester conceded it. Yet my mate Jon texted me and predicted a Leicester City goal against the run of play, and every nerve in my body felt obliged to agree.

West Ham had another opportunity in the 32nd minute when Lanzini ran past Morgan and rolled a pass to Arnautovic in the box. Hamer came out to cut down the angle, and Arnautovic had nowhere to shoot so he tried to get the ball through the keepers legs but Hamer played it well. Moments later the West Ham leader got a quick shot off in the box that clanged off the crossbar. Just as the fear of missed chances started to overwhelm me, Masuaku sent another cross that Arnautovic played back in front of goal, and that’s where Mario was to put it in the back of the net.

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Leicester City 0
West Ham 1

Leicester gave the visitor section a scare in the 39th minute when Zabaleta tried to intercept a pass to Diabate and missed, giving Diabate some space to move forward and have a go. But his low shot rolled wide, with Adrian watching it the whole time. Minutes later a similar theme played out when Cresswell made a terrible mistake when he tried to grab a pass to Mahrez on the right side of the West Ham box and missed by a time zone. Or two. Mahrez marches into the box but his cross was deflected to safety by Ogbonna.

Halftime
Leicester City 0
West Ham 1

I never liked that movie Forrest Gump. In fact, I’ve always been bitter about the awards it won. That year also had Shawshank Redemption, Pulp Fiction, and Paul Newman’s epic performance in Nobody’s Fool. And Gump was judged to be the best? Really?

Back on topic.

When Cresswell tried to be too cute when a simple back pass to Adrian would have been more than sufficient, the words “stupid is as stupid does” came to mind. Cresswell went to ground, Vardy looked enraged as he tried to go around the fallen defender, and the look on the referee said red card. Thankfully it was yellow. Leicester didn’t do anything with their free kick, but a new tone was set. Leicester started to chase down balls and pressure West Ham, and we looked anxious.

Moments later Mario sent Arnautovic into the box with a rolled pass, but when he had a chance to shoot he looked for the extra pass. That did not end well, and Leicester cleared the area. In the 60th minute Mario waited a moment too long to roll a pass to Arnautovic and the Austrian was flagged offside. A second goal should have arrived from those chanceschances, but did not.

The 63rd minute saw Hammer hearts rise precipitously into the esophagus when Maguire got on the end of a deflected Vardy shot and sent his own from the top of the box that caused Adrian to dive to his left, but the shot went over the bar.

Set pieces are always a reason for the supporters of the side taking them to at least relax for a second or two, if not get a bit excited. When Mario stepped up to send the ball into the Leicester City box, it was in a good enough area for us to pay attention. When Maguire headed the delivery out of the box, another lobbed effort back in was all I was looking for. When Noble struck it on the volley, the angle of the TV camera was perfect. The ball looked tethered to the far post, and quite possibly the best shot I’ve ever seen our captain strike followed that line past the keeper and into the net. Poetic that Noble may end up being the guy that saved our season, don’t you think?

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Leicester City 0
West Ham 2

West Ham thought they had a penalty shout in the 70th minute when Noble went down in the area, but the referee waved it off. Rightfully I might add. A minute later Arnautovic did all the work needed in the box to get a good shot off but Maguire got a crucial touch in to send the ball out for a corner.

So. Moysie. Arnautovic is on the pitch in discomfort. Andy Carroll is going to come on. Obviously for Arnie. But wait. Lanzini came off. Like for like in hair color, or maybe choice of hair gel based on the sheen in the sun. But football? Not that sure. Especially when Arnautovic came off seconds later for Fernandes, a move that made me a little antsy. This had better work or you will need Mel Gibson with blue face to save you from an East London mob.

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Gray had a good chance to get Leicester back in the game when he beat Zabaleta down the flank, but his cross was perfect if Adrian was the intended recipient. Then, ten minutes later, Silva registered the home side’s first shot on target and Adrian handled it well.

Leicester could have made the extra time interesting in the 89th minute when Benlouane got his head to the ball at the far post, which forced Adrian to make either a good save or a crucial interception, depending on whether Benlouane’s header was a shot or an attempt to get the ball in front of goal. Regardless, Adrian smothered it.

Final Score
Leicester City 0
West Ham 2

As the old saying goes, credit where credit is due. West Ham showed up today. The tactics worked. Even the questionable substitutions worked. The players chosen did their jobs and did them well. They gave Leicester City enough of a hard time with every ball that the home side collectively looked to throw in the towel. And at the time of writing, our position in the league looked a million times better than it had three hours earlier. We might even end up mathematically safe by dinnertime. Yet unlike other years when I was naive enough to think the board would learn from their ways and we would not continue this hamster run of relegation fights, I have no such illusions. We may survive this year. We will be promised things. Some may even hope.

And I will still never forgive them.

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David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 1, Manchester City 4. This Could Get Uglier.

You know who would have made good West Ham supporters? The Mayans. Think about it. The Mayan calendar predicted, or at least some readers of it predicted, the end of the world in 2012 when a “Great Cycle” of its Long Count component came to a conclusion. While the world didn’t end in 2012, West Ham became the clear choice to take over the Olympic Stadium. That deal was consummated on March 22nd, my friggin birthday, 2013. So a group of people lived their lives with the end of the world marked on their ancient IPhone Reminders list.

Football wise, I can relate.

I don’t know about all of you, but I found it hard to relax and focus on what I was watching. From the opening kick, I looked for distractions. Things to do with only one eye on the television. And at least for the opening thirteen minutes that strategy worked fine. Manchester City had most of the ball, we ran around a lot, and not much happened. Kyle Walker sent a low pass across the face of goal in the ninth minute that could easily have been an opener for the visitors, but rolled away to safety. City won a corner in the 12th minute that Kouyate headed away. The least he could do considering he gave the ball away near midfield moments earlier.

I wasn’t even looking up when I heard the announcers call the opening goal by Sane. His long shot from 25 yards out deflected off the aging head of Evra and rolled behind Adrian.

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West Ham 0
Manchester City 1

It was nice to see West Ham try to fight back moments after the Sane goal. Arnautovic and Lanzini worked the ball on the right side and resulted in a decent ball towards goal that Ederson knocked away before Cresswell could get a touch. Seconds later The Hammers won a free kick from 35 yards out that City dealt with. I immediately wondered if the only hope we had was long balls to a big target in the box. I wonder who that could be?

Manchester City doubled their inevitable lead in the 27th minute when Adrian bravely came out to intercept a through ball before Sterling could get to it. The ball bounced out wide, Adrian scrambled back to his goal, and Ogbonna was able to block the initial shot at a vacant goal. But the ball ended up with deBruyne, who sent a cross from the byline that Adrian got a hand to. But he pushed the ball right at Rice and Zabaleta and bounced off the latter before settling in the back of the net. The only question at that point seemed to be how ugly the day would get.

West Ham 0
Manchester City 2

It could have been three, and maybe it should have been, when Rice tried an ill advised back pass to Adrian that barely travelled ten feet. Thankfully, I guess, Adrian won the battle with Sane to gather the ball.

West Ham were denied a goal in the 39th minute when Ederson mishandled the ball at the top of the box, and Arnautovic won it from him and put it in. The linesman called a foul and the goal was disallowed. It shouldn’t have been. Moments later Fernandes was fouled at the edge of the Manchester City penalty for what should have been a spot kick. But hey. It’s West Ham. And Manchester City. And Swarbrick.

Please.

The football gods showed some mercy to the Claret and Blue when Cresswell stepped up to take the conciliatory free kick from outside the box. Remember a few years ago when he curled one in against Newcastle at Upton Park? I wrote then that it was of such quality that he should take more. Then that French guy came and that thought went away. Well, today was just as good. Cresswell curled it over the wall and behind Ederson.

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Halftime
West Ham 1
Manchester City 2

The second half started the way one would expect. West Ham trying long balls over the City midfield to Arnautovic, and City working the ball on the ground inside the West Ham box. Guess which one worked?

Sterling got the ball inside the right side of the box. He waited for someone to make a run, and that someone was Jesus, who came into the box right down the middle. Sterling rolled the ball into his path, Zabaleta kind of tried to block it, and Jesus tucked it away.

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West Ham 1
Manchester City 3

Stupid is stupid. It just is. When Sterling went down, Cresswell took both of his legs out. It was a stonewall penalty. But Swarbrick gave a foul to West Ham. So if that’s what he and the linesman thought, it should have been a yellow to Sterling, right? No. It was just stupid, awful officiating.

And then in the 65th minute, just as West Ham were planning a double substitution, City just scored again because they wanted to. Sterling to Fernandinho. I decided to go help my son locate a Lego piece he was searching for.

West Ham 1
Manchester City 4

After an unsuccessful search for the particular Lego in question, a bit of a late breakfast, and the reclamation of some cat toys from under a bookshelf, I returned to the match. The carnage hadn’t gotten any worse, so I guess that’s a small relief.

Final Score
West Ham 1
Manchester City 4

I’ve seen more than my share of truly epic collapses in my sporting life. I once saw my college basketball team, Syracuse, lose a game in the NCAA Tournament when our star player called a timeout with seconds left and Syracuse in the lead. If he had done nothing we would have won. Problem was we had no timeouts left, Arkansas got free throws and the ball on that “technical foul” and won the game in overtime. I lived through The New York Mets blowing a seven game lead in their division with seventeen games left in the season. It was awe inspiring in its ineptitude. So West Ham going down this season would not surprise me one bit. Yes, Huddersfield have a worse run in. Yes, Southampton have to play at Everton before playing Swansea. But having lived through this stuff before, you can almost see the storm ahead.

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Run for cover, folks.

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David Hautzig's Match Report

Arsenal 4, West Ham 1. Thank Goodness For Ashley Barnes.

Since it’s the only thing anyone wants to or is talking about, I’ll chime in about Wenger. First of all, without meaning to sound disrespectful, I really don’t care that he is leaving. If anything, I took a sick satisfaction from watching a club as massive as Arsenal handle something that monumentaly so poorly. You wonder if somehow David Sullivan, David Gold, and Karen Brady had a hand in it. “Hey, Gunners. We screw up all the time. Just do what we do and all will be pear shaped in no time”.

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At the end of the day, the result was pretty much what we expected.

After a few minutes of West Ham having a bit of possession, the likely tone of the match took over. Arsenal had the ball, attacked West Ham, and won two corners. The second came inches away from an opening goal for Arsenal when a Koscielny header went just wide.

West Ham showed a bit of quality in the 11th minute when Mario threaded a ball into the box that Fernandes just missed running on to. Minutes later Mario played the ball through the legs of Mustafi before sending a low shot that Ospina handled easily. West Ham stayed on the front foot with Arnautovic as the focal point. First Mustafi timed his tackle well to stop West Ham’s main man before he could get a shot off. A minute later a long ball was misplayed by Mustafi and landed well for Arnautovic on the left side of the Arsenal penalty area. He tried to curl a shot into the far corner but Ospina made a good save. Moments later Masuaku won a corner down the left. The delivery came to Kouyate but his header went over the top of the bar.

At that same moment I saw that Stoke took an early lead against Burnley and my stomach started to hurt.

If Fernandes has one weakness that keeps him from being a regular started for the long term, it’s his propensity to make dangerous defensive mistakes. In the 26th minute, he won the ball from Monreal but immediately lost it back and slipped while trying to recover. Monreal attacked down the left and found Welbeck at the top of the box. Welbeck unleashed a low shot that just missed the far corner.

Arsenal had a superb opportunity in the 34th minute when Rice was called for a foul on Welbeck. Xhaka took the free kick and curled it over the wall. Miraculously Hart not only punched it away but he didn’t give the ball directly back to an Arsenal player.

Gratuitous derogatory remark at Hart, check.

A minute later, Bellerin sent a cross from the right side that Welbeck did well to get a head on but he had too much to do to give Hart a difficult time and the ball went over the bar.

West Ham ended the half well with two corners. The first was won through hard work by Arnautovic and Masuaku, the second gifted by Lee Mason. When the team that’s been awarded a corner look stunned by the call, it’s a good bet that the official got it wrong. The visitors did nothing with either set piece, and Ramsay ended the half with a shot from just outside the eighteen yard box that went wide.

Halftime
Arsenal 0
West Ham 0

Arsenal opened the second half with a good chance to take the lead. In the 47th minute Lacazette chipped a cross into the West Ham box. Welbeck appeared to give Zabaleta a little shove in the back as he tried to attack the ball. The ball fell to Monreal, but his right footed shot was stopped easily by Hart. But two minutes later another ball fell to Monreal, this time from a corner, and his left footed effort beat Hart at the near post. In fairness to Hart, Masuaku was covering that post but inexplicably moved away as the shot came in. He should have cleared it off the line. Instead he put out the red carpet for it. Criminally bad play from Masuaku.

Come on Burnley….

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Arsenal 1
West Ham 0

Moyes made the move in the 60th minute that supporters screamed for against Stoke when Lanzini and Chicharito came on to replace Fernandes and Mario. Within seconds Hernandez had a chance when he put a header over the bar off a free kick. Two minutes later, Masuaku sent a cross into the box that Ospina punched out but right to Noble. The ball bounced around the area before Lanzini recovered and sent the ball to Arnautovic on the left side of the box and this time he buried it.

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Arsenal 1
West Ham 1

Hmmmmm. A goal scorer comes on and creates a chance. Then a minute later we score a goal. Pretty cool, huh?

Arsenal came millimeters away from taking the lead in the 72nd minute when Xhaka tried a long range effort that Hart got him fingertips on to send it around the bar. He did it again in the 79th when Welbeck tried a curling shot from outside the box and again, Hart used those final digits to send the ball wide.

I don’t know what Rice was thinking in the 83rd minute when Ramsay sent a floating corner into the box. He should have calmly headed it away. He could have, too. And for reasons only he knows, he ducked under the ball and it lazily rolled into the back of the net. A reminder, perhaps, that he is still a kid. Kids make mistakes. This kid, I’m reasonably sure, won’t look back at it after he goes to bed tonight.

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Arsenal 2
West Ham 1

Three minutes later, over 100 million pounds worth of strikers combined to give Arsenal a two goal lead when Aubameyan passed to Lacazette in the box and the French striker who was one David Sullivan bit of fiction from being a West Ham player buried it.

Arsenal 3
West Ham 1

Annnnndddd, he did it again a few minutes later. Details irrelevant.

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Final Score
Arsenal 4
West Ham 1

The question I would ponder, if I ponder at all, would be this. Had Rice not made that mistake, would West Ham have held on for a point? Truth be told, I doubt it. Maybe that’s just me rationalizing. West Ham’s defense fell apart after that second goal, and while I doubt it would have collapsed to the degree it did my internal West Ham meter still reads loss. Thankfully Burnley scores an equalizer and that game ended in a draw. So as it stands we are six points above the drop. It should be enough, especially if we can pick up one more point somewhere, to keep us in the Premier League.

Then we can go through this nonsense all over again next season.

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David Hautzig's Match Report

Chelsea 1, West Ham 1. One From The Hart.

I haven’t written about West Ham in quite awhile. I was at he Burnley disaster, and I wasn’t about to run back to my hotel to write about the absurdity on the pitch from players and supporters alike. Besides, my boss was in London, was subjected to that mess, and wanted to hang out afterwards anyway. Who was I to say no?

Southampton saw twenty family members descend on my home for the holidays, so with cooking to be done I was lucky to have the match on at all. To be fair, it was rather nice to just watch a good performance without having to be sure I got the details of the action correct.

For today, I wanted to start with some clever anecdote about the board and papering over the cracks, but the events prior to the match made me think twice. Then stop. After listening to the playback of the TalkSport call from that former soldier Ray Wilkins helped, I wished I had known more about him prior. My friend Neil Barnett, who I’m guessing did the on pitch presentations about him today, always spoke so highly of him. And I know this week has been somber for him and everyone at Chelsea. The world is much meaner place now, so when kind people leave us it’s just a bit colder for the rest of us.

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On to football.

Normally the sight of a grown man rubbing his own thigh would not make me sit up and take notice. So in the third minute when Arnie seemed to strain his hamstring the mood went from hopeful to “oh no” pretty quickly. It helped when Hazard’s low effort moments later skimmed past a diving Hart as well as the post to go wide.

West Ham won a corner in the seventh minute, and the method was exactly what we want to see more of. Masuaku with a cross into the box for the run of Arnautovic. The angle made it tough for the Austrian to get a good flick on it, but the intent, seeming comfort on the ball, and effort were good to see. Ten minutes later, the duo teamed up again with yet another tremendous ball into the box. For a moment I thought Arnie was going to repeat his volley from last week against Southampton. He didn’t, but won a corner nonetheless.

It takes a lot of skill to complete an accurate pass with the outside of your foot. This is a skill that Fernandez does not yet possess. When he gifted Willian with the ball thirty yards from goal with such an attempt, it was due to the good defensive play of Ogbonna and Cresswell that West Ham didn’t pay dearly for the error.

Chelsea came close to opening the scoring in the 29th minute when Hazard was kind enough to show Fernandes the skill actually needed to make that outside of the foot pass. After a give and go with Morata, Hazard darted down the left and sent the ball back to Morata with the outside of his right foot. Morata’s little redirection rolled just wide of the far post, but the match was starting to tilt in the direction of Chelsea attack, West Ham defend.

Football can be such a funny and cruel game. In the 36th minute, Hazard sent Willian in on Hart. The embattled loanee from the soon to be crowned EPL Champions slid out and made a superb save and send the ball out for a corner. The corner came to Moses outside the penalty area, and he looped the ball back into the box. Arnautovic was able to just get a foot on the ball. However he couldn’t clear it, and after making that lovely save Hart watched the ball roll slowly past him off the feeble, but effective, second attempt from Azpilicueta after a Morata header.

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Halftime
Chelsea 1
West Ham 0

Moments into the second half, Hazard and Willian again combined with a series of neat, quick passes inside the West Ham box that ended with a Willian shot rolling just wide. A minute later, down the other end, West Ham asked their first question of Curtois. It wasn’t a tough question, but after Fernandes laid the ball off for Arnautovic at the top of the Chelsea eighteen yard box he sent a low shot that the Chelsea keeper at least had to gather up.

Chelsea continued to rampage through the West Ham defense, led by Hazard, Willian, and Morata. The latter should have doubled the hosts advantage from a corner in the 55th when he beat Zabaleta to the ball, but his unchallenged header went over the bar for a goal kick. A few minutes later, after a dreadful giveaway from Masuaku, Morata had a goal disallowed for offside for the second time. At that point the MOTM for West Ham was a dead heat between the linesman and Danny Welbeck.

Soft tissue injuries. West Ham could write the bloody book on them. The 63rd minute removal of Cresswell moments after he landed awkwardly from a jump was stunning in its lack of surprise. We are West Ham. We get injured. Chelsea probably looked at Evra and thought truly terrible things about what they could now do to us.

When Chicharito came on, my best mate Jon texted me. “OMG. Hernandez sighting.” Then the announcer pointed out that Lil Pea has scored more goals against Chelsea than any other EPL club. Well, when Arnautovic got hold of the ball to the right of the Chelsea goal and had the vision to find Hernandez at the top of the box, the Blue Sea opened up and Chicharito’s curling shot found the back of the net. Please, dear lord. Make my club realize they have a goal scorer and instead of telling him to do stuff he doesn’t do, just let him do what he does sooooo well.

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Chelsea 1
West Ham 1

Joe Hart made another superb save in the 79th minute when Willian passed to Alonso at the top of the West Ham eighteen yard box. He turned and fired at goal, and if it wasn’t for Hart’s outstretched hand Chelsea would have been in front again.

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Since I write as I watch, I don’t want to be disingenuous. When Arnautovic went down, I thought penalty right away. When I watched the replay, I wasn’t as sure. But what I am reasonably sure of is this; had Hazard or Morata gone down from a similar challenge from Cresswell or Zabaleta, I would fully expect to see Kevin Friend point at the spot.

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Whatever Joe Hart was thinking about today, be it Russia or simple pride, he had his best game in years. In the 88th minute, Giroud sent a header that looked goal bound. But yet again, his outstretched hand sent the ball around the post and out for a corner.

West Ham won a corner in the 93rd minute, and for the life of me I have no idea what anybody in Claret and Blue were thinking. A short corner, and then a soft roller right to Curtois. If Chelsea had come down and scored a winner, it would have been right up there with Antonio’s blunder at Crystal Palace. But they didn’t.

Final Score
Chelsea 1
West Ham 1

When we got a point away at Spurs this year with the same scoreline, there were those who did not celebrate the point. Cough, cough….Nigel….cough, cough. Their reasoning was that to celebrate a game where we only had one shot on target is as anti West Ham as you can get. I disagreed, but I understood the thought process. Today was decidedly different. We were outplayed for long stretches to be sure. But we went for it when we could. And for that reason it’s a well earned point. We showed endeavor, a bit of skill, and good organization.

And a lot of Hart.

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