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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David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 1, Hull 0. Lady Luck Smiled On Us Today.

It’s not the same as an important world event, but I remember where I was when we beat Hull 2-1 at Upton Park. The ear cupping match. It was before I started these reports, a time I’m guessing some refer to as “the good ol’days”. It must have been mid week, because I was in my car streaming the audio in between work appointments. I didn’t realize how poor we were that day until that evening when I decided to watch the match on DVR. I guess that match ran through my mind all morning because despite the three points against Burnley, I thought we were downright fortunate to get those points. And while we needed all three points desperately again today, we needed to look better collecting them as well. We got the points. We did not get the performance we wanted.

In the opening minutes I was impressed with the pressing and energy shown. By Hull, unfortunately. But in the 8th minute, after good work by Carroll near the corner to keep possession, Payet won a free kick. But his delivery was easily cleared, yet right back to Payet for a second chance. His second delivery wasn’t any better, floating directly into the welcoming arms of Marshall.

The Hammers started to show some energy of their own around the 10th minute. First with a long pass to Carroll, then a Lanzini run into the box that Hull were lucky to clear. Then Antonio won a corner after a good run down the right. The set piece didn’t amount to anything, but Payet broke into the box and tried a left footed shot that was deflected out for another corner. In the 18th minute, Payet got on the end of a Carroll flick on and won yet another corner. For all of the possession in and around the Hull penalty area, Marshall wasn’t asked a single question.

In the 19th minute, Noble gave up the ball in midfield and Hull were able to launch a counter. Mbokani got the ball in the West Ham area and tried to attack Reid before attempting a low shot that went wide. The Hull striker was given another opportunity minutes later when Cresswell’s backpass looked like it was in mud. Mbokani ran onto it, and tried to chip over Randolph. Ninety nine times out of one hundred that would have been an opening goal for Hull. Instead it hit the post and skipped across the goalmouth. Moments later, Hull won their first corner of the match. This time it was Randolph instead of lumber that saved West Ham when his left hand stopped Maguire’s header from hitting the back of the net.

After Antonio won a corner in the 29th minute, it was Hull that took advantage and launched a counter. Snodgrass fed Mbokani, who then rolled a pass to Clucas but his attempt went over the bar. A minute later, Carroll won a free kick thirty yards from goal. West Ham have scored half their goals this season from set pieces, so hopes probably lifted for a moment. The moment died as the ball sailed straight to Marshall.

In the 35th minute, Obiang was shown a yellow card for a studs up challenge. The Hull free kick was flicked on by Dawson to Mbokani, but his volley went over the bar. Moments later Maguire sent a low shot through a crowded West Ham penalty area, forcing Randolph to make the save.

As the first half wound down, Lanzini gave up possession in midfield and Hull broke on yet another counter. The ball ended up at the feet of Livermore in the box, but his shot went wide. Minutes later Maguire was sent running into the West Ham box on the end of a well-weighted long pass. He didn’t get a shot off, but Obiang almost sent it in for him tracking back. Thankfully for West Ham the ball rolled just wide. In added time, after yet another giveaway by the Hammers Snodgrass stepped over the ball to try a free kick from thirty yards out. Hull were whistled for being offside, but the fact remained that West Ham were utterly awful in the opening forty five minutes and heard more than a few jeers as they walked off the pitch.

Halftime.
West Ham 0.
Hull 0.

The criticism on social media was pretty consistent. Not just for today, but in years past. The manager only knows one way to play, and once that has been found out we are doomed. Bilic did make two changes to start the second half with Ayew and Fernandes replacing Obiang and Lanzini. My guess was Obiang would have stayed on if it weren’t for the yellow card in the first half that will see him miss the Boxing Day clash with Swansea. That move allowed Antonio to move forward into a more attacking position. At least in the opening minutes of the second half, the home side looked no better than they had in the first half. Incapable of retaining the ball, while they allowed Hull to break into the midfield and points forward.

Lady Luck let West Ham off the hook again in the 59th minute when Hull worked the ball down the left. Snodgrass rolled the ball for Maguire, who tried a cross that Noble thought he was heading clear. Instead he headed it onto the post and out for a corner. Minutes later, in what can only be attributed to God wearing Claret and Blue, Robertson fired a shot off the same post. Three saves by the woodwork or else this match, and possibly other things, would be done and dusted.

West Ham at least gave the home supporters something to lean forward for in the 62nd minute when Noble sent a cross into the box. Carroll got to it first, but Marshall was able gather it before Antonio could get his famous noggin on it.

Then began a stretch of five minutes that probably meant sure death to any supporter on either side with a cardiac condition. First, West Ham won a corner. Payet sent the ball into the box where Ayew came inches away from his first goal in a West Ham shirt when his header was cleared off the line by Robertson. Hull broke on a counter straight away, and after a fortunate bounce off Mbokani Clucas was through on goal. But Kouyate found another gear to get back and make a potentially goal saving tackle. Two minutes later, it was West Ham’s turn to clear a ball off the line when Maguire’s header beat Randolph but Fernandes was there to save to day.

For all the years we would lament never being on the good side of penalty decisions, there is an irony that in two must win matches we were awarded two penalties that ultimately decided those matches. After a long, powerful run by Antonio to relieve West Ham from even more Hull pressure, Dawson took one for his team in stopping Antonio. That foul gave Payet another free kick inside his comfort zone. The delivery didn’t cause any direct problems, but the ensuing action did. The ball dropped to Antonio in the box, and he went down after turning smartly on Huddlestone. Mason pointed at the spot.

“Never a pen” said Nigel in a text.

“Gotta call that” said Jon seconds later in a separate, competing message.

I’m with Nigel on that, but beggars can’t be choosy. This time Noble didn’t need the rebound.

West Ham 1
Hull 0

West Ham did search for a second, and they might have found one on another day. In the 80th minute, Antonio was sent through by Ayew before being fouled again by Huddlestone. Payet stepped up to take another free kick but it went over the bar. He was given another chance in the 84th, and that time Marshall had to get a palm on it and send it over the bar himself.

In the 88th, Payet showed why he is capable of things very few players are. With Ayew open on the right, Payet chose to thread a pass through two Hull defenders for Antonio. Most players end up lamenting their decision. Payet found Antonio, and while his first touch sent him clear on goal his need to get the ball to his right foot gave Clucas time to recover and win the ball.

When Cresswell made his awful backpass in the first half, you’d have been right to think that level of absurdity was out of his system for at least a few months. But in the 89th minute, Cresswell botched a clearance near midfield that allowed Hull to break. Snodgrass collected the ball and passed to Maguire on the right. He should have sent the ball back across the face of goal. Instead he shot weakly at Randolph who made the save easily.

In the second minute of extra time, Payet made a run worthy of a hamster’s maze before trying to curl a right footed shot past Marshall that didn’t curl enough or was hard enough to beat the Hull keeper.

Final Score.
West Ham United 1
Hull 0.

If Mike Phelan said in his post match comments that his side were unlucky, I would not argue with him. If Mike Phelan said in his post match comments that his side deserved something from the match, I would not argue with him. If Mike Phelan said in his post match comments that the penalty was soft if not a bad call, I would not argue with him.

If anybody says these six points from the past two matches mean all is well, I would likely argue with them. Not because I want to, but because our performances in the second half on Wednesday and the first half today were so abject that any decent side would have slaughtered us. Yet we showed resilience and determination against tougher opponents in Liverpool and Manchester United. I’m relieved to have some breathing space between us and the drop zone, yet when we desperately need answers we still have so many questions.

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David Hautzig's Match Report

Liverpool 2, West Ham 2. Corner Turned, Or Pleasant Blip?

An hour before kickoff, I half-heartedly checked Twitter for our starting eleven. I was disappointed to see Noble in there, shocked to see Nordtveit, and shrugged my shoulders at the children on the bench. No, I was not looking forward to the match today at all. It’s a feeling I’ve had often over the years. But the premise of the upset this time is different. I’ve never gone into a season with belief that we are over the hump of relegation battles. I was reasonably sure that hopes of another European run were a stretch, fueled by the assumption that last season was simply a pleasant surprise that might be repeated down the road. But I was equally sure that we were solid mid table, and that no run of form could be bad enough with our squad and our intelligent manager to drag us into the mire. And as the icing on the cake, I thought our shiny new home would attract even better players and create an even stronger fortress than Upton Park.

I have felt wrong on all counts, and I expected today to just be an extension of that.

Slaven made some pretty remarkable accusations about his players after the Arsenal massacre. Considering how many West Ham players decided to watch Mane and Lallana combine for Liverpool’s opening goal in the fifth minute instead of….oh, I don’t know…..maybe defend, it’s hard to argue with the man. How much of it comes down to coaching is obviously debatable, but the end result was absurdly predictable.

Liverpool 1
West Ham 0

A few minutes later, West Ham did create a chance when Reid sent a well timed and weighted long pass for Antonio to run on to. If his first touch had been better, getting the ball in front of him as opposed to making him stop his run to control it, he might have leveled the proceedings. Instead his challenged shot was deflected over the bar for a corner.

Speaking of long balls, it wasn’t long ago that the very words “long ball” were treated as if they were a hate crime among Hammers. Yet nobody can deny we have reverted to that recently. I am not saying that to re-write history in order to defend a style of play and a certain manager, but it is interesting that we have failed this season at playing a style we wanted to see and are now dealing with the repercussions.

Last year, when West Ham won a free kick in a dangerous position, we all felt giddy. In the 25th minute, Obiang won a free kick 30 yards out. Jon Champion, who is actually my favorite announcer, likened what has happened to Payet this season with a kind of Harry Potter metaphor. He said our talisman was like a wizard who had lost his powers, but at some point they would return. At least for now, they did, as Payet curled his effort over the wall and into the bottom right hand corner. There’s no question that Karius set himself up too much to his left, giving Payet an ocean of space to aim at. But the ball had so much spin even if Karius had gotten there it might have rolled over his hands and into the net.

Liverpool 1
West Ham 1

A minute later, Liverpool turned on the afterburners in the West Ham penalty area with a series of passes that were too many to follow, and involved too many players with too many touches to count that a second Liverpool goal looked a certainty. But Reid, Cresswell, and even Noble got in the way and cleared the ball from danger.

In the 37th minute, Mane created mayhem in the West Ham box with a bursting run but Reid got in front of his shot. The ball found its way to Firmino, but his low attempt rolled wide.

If bad luck were a skill that could be taught, West Ham would be the poster child for the school that taught it. So when Nordtveit sent his long, hopeful ball into the Liverpool area and it took a deflection off of a Liverpool player, I didn’t flinch. When Matip failed to deal with it and it bounced over his head to Antonio, I didn’t flinch. Even when Antonio flicked it over Karius and towards the goal, I figured it would be cleared off the line. Antonio only scores with his head, right? When it rolled in, I actually pulled my reading glasses down a bit and peered at the TV over the top of them. Silently. Like the shocked aging man I was. It was a picture out of a sitcom.

Liverpool 1
West Ham 2

In the final moments of the first half, West Ham were lucky not once but twice to go into the changing room with the slimmest lead. First, Lallana raced down the right side of the West Ham penalty area and was challenged by Payet. Lallana went down, and to the naked eye it looked like Payet played a pretty large role in that. But Clattenburg did nothing but point to the flag for a corner kick. Henderson found Matip, and his header found the width of the West Ham cross bar and bounced out.

Halftime:
Liverpool 1
West Ham 2

Adrian lost his starting position ostensibly for making too many mistakes. In the opening moments of the second half Randolph showed that West Ham were more than willing to play their part in the battle of mistakes between the woodwork when he simply dropped a cross by Mane and Origi was there to poke it into the open net.

Liverpool 2
West Ham 2

Minutes later, Wijnaldum was given far too much space and far too much time inside the West Ham box to line up a shot, and Randolph and company were lucky it rolled just wide.

In the 62nd minute, I think we saw the most telling reason why Nordtveit was and still is a mistake. Wijnaldum raced down the left flank. You know, the space that Nordtveit was supposed to occupy as a defender. His job. Instead, he was closer to midfield trotting back. Reid did his best to cover, and Wijnaldum put his low shot wide. Reid clearly asked Nordtveit where on earth he was and what on earth he was thinking. I’d ask Slaven the same thing about his choice to pick him.

In the 70th minute, Randolph made up for his calamity at the start of the half with a moment of true brilliance when Henderson launched a missile from 35 yards out that was absolutely heading into the top corner. Randolph dove to his left and quite literally got a fingertip or two on the ball to send it over the bar.

Suffice it to say, the rest of the match was easy to describe. West Ham couldn’t retain possession for more than a few seconds at a time, and Liverpool swarmed forward. The defense did their job, and that ultimately is what secured the valuable and unexpected point. The idea of having Carroll in there to get on the end of crosses to ask questions of a young, anxious keeper was great in theory. In practice, however, that didn’t pan out. In fact, the one time Carroll attacked a ball near the keeper he took a right cross to the head that opened a decent sized gash. If Carroll played ice hockey, he would have gone to the bench and got bandaged up while somebody else hit the ice. Would anything have been more West Ham than giving up the winning goal while down a man who was punched in the head?

Final Score.
Liverpool 2
West Ham 2

After the final whistle, the camera showed Randolph covering his face with his shirt in “shame”. You don’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar to figure out he felt responsible for the second goal and was extending that to not winning the game. As depressive and curmudgeonly as I can be, that’s a bit of self loathing I won’t accept. His save on Henderson was more impressive than the drop was bad. If the drop had happened in the 87th minute, OK. I lay the blame on him and Nordtveit for the disaster at Spurs. But in the 47th minute? Not a chance. There is no way anyone will convince me that we would have definitely won the match had Randolph held onto that cross. So at the end of the day, this was a point we didn’t expect, and one we certainly needed. More importantly, the effort and performance was diametrically opposed to the garbage we saw against Arsenal.

We can enjoy the rest of our day.

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