David Hautzig's Match Report

Leicester City 1, West Ham 1. 90th Minute Annoyance

“Listening to game. Heart is not really into it this morning with what is happening to our country.” That’s the text I got from my best mate, Jon right before kickoff. I was out all morning, completely unaware of what had happened in Pittsburgh, and found it hard not to switch to news websites. I didn’t because I couldn’t handle watching real life. There was also a nasty storm called a Nor’easter where I live, with heavy winds and rain. Power and satellite signal were intermittent.

When power came back on, the first thing I saw was the cross that Balbuena tried to head away but instead caused Fabianski to dive to his left and punch the ball over the bar for a Leicester corner. The announcers here said West Ham needed some possession to take the pressure off. That gave me the distinct impression that I could be thankful for the lack of satellite signal during the opening minutes of the match.

But West Ham sprang to life for a few seconds, with a some time on the ball in the Leicester half, which culminated with a low shot by Anderson that Schmeichel did well to gobble up. A few minutes later, Snodgrass did well to fake with his left foot and open space for a right footed shot. He didn’t connect well, and the ball fizzled away wide.

West Ham had another opportunity in the 24th minute when Anderson, Hernandez, and Snodgrass did their best to gain control of the ball in the Leicester eighteen yard box. Eventually it was the born again Snodgrass who did much of the work, but his low shot rolled wide.

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And then, the power and satellite went out. When it came back, Balbuena had scored. Yay. Seconds later, Noble saw red. Groan.

The West Ham Way.

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Leicester came as close as you could to an equalizer without scoring when Iborra timed his run perfectly on a Leicester free kick from about 35 yards out, but Fabianski made a stunning save on the header. Masuaku inexplicably looked to pass the rebound back to Fabianski instead of hoofing the ball from danger, but West Ham escaped that lack of brain cells. Minutes later it was Diangana who momentarily lost his mind when he tried to carry the ball out of the West Ham half, ran into a problem in a blue kit, and made an ill timed pass at the top of the West Ham box. The TV flicked and froze, so I don’t know how we got out of trouble but we did.

Halftime
Leicester City 0
West Ham 1

The narrative of the second half started from the opening seconds, with Leicester on the ball and West Ham back in numbers. Chillwell worked down the left and sent various crosses into the box. When West Ham tried to counter, it seemed to break down with one person at fault. Anderson. Whether it was a bad pass, or an ill advised dribble, he was the culprit. That’s not a judgment. It’s an observation.

In the 55th minute, the home side had their first real chance of the half when Albrighton attacked on the right and sent a cross to Vardy in the box. The England international and current Instagram star got a piece of the delivery but his flicked header went wide. Then in the 57th minute Iheanacho got the ball right in front of goal. He turned quickly and tried a left footed shot that glanced the arm of Zabaleta before Fabianski took control. Of course there were shouts for hand ball, but Oliver was right there and waved it away.

In the 62nd minute, it was Fabianski again to the rescue when Chillwell sent a cross from the left that Albrighton caught perfectly on the volley. But the signing so many supporters initially questioned made a superb stop. A minute later it was Albrighton who sent a cross from the right that Vardy leapt to meet but he couldn’t keep his header down and it went over the bar. Moments later Maguire sent a ball goal bound but it clipped the bar and went over for a goal kick.

As the TV flicked on and off while the satellite signal came and went, it was pretty easy to tell that Leicester was in full attack and we were all hands on deck in defense. Nigel texted he was sure we would win. I replied questioning his stability. The addition of Okazaki to the Leicester attack did nothing to dissuade me from my analysis of the situation. He always seemed to score on us, I thought.

West Ham had a good opportunity on a set piece in the 81st minute to add an unlikely second goal when Antonio won a free kick about 35 yards from goal. Snodgrass found Ogbonna with a picture perfect delivery, but the Italian couldn’t put his head on target. Amazingly, Antonio worked himself into a shot on goal in the 86th minute surrounded by three Leicester City defenders.

In the 90th minute, Ndidi did what we all feared. He scored. His shot deflected off of the Man Of The Match, Balbuena, and floated past Fabianski. To add salt to that wound, a minute later West Ham had a four on two break and with nobody in front of him Ogbonna skied his shot after a pass from Snodgrass. My picture became so bad at that point I turned it off, deciding if we did give up a second I wouldn’t have to suffer through it. We didn’t.

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Final Score
Leicester City 1
West Ham 1

I guess if we had given up a goal in the 50th minute and held on for the draw, we would have felt pretty good tonight. But it’s impossible to feel good about football when you give up the goal in the 90th minute. Which means today I don’t feel that good about much of anything outside of my wife and kids.


David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 0, Tottenham 1. We Deserved Something.

When we lose, which I know is often, I often shut football out of my life for rest of the weekend. I don’t watch any other matches, I don’t read any blogs or sites (sorry Iain), and I certainly stay off Twitter in terms of West Ham. So a loss on a Friday before an international break gave me a whole extra day to be angry. Definitely not something I needed. You know what I did? I watched baseball. The Red Sox in particular. I’m not a Sox fan per se. I’m a Mets fan. But the enemy of your enemy is your friend, and in that regard I’m a Red Sox guy all the way. And Boston has plowed through the opposition with delicious rage, and it has allowed me to kind of pretend what it feels like to support a team that used to define suffering but now wins. Boy, would that be nice.

The opening minutes were full of energy if not quality. Snodgrass ran like he wanted to show that ground covered was the most important statistic known to man. Arnautovic as always tried to make runs behind the Spurs defense. On the other side Moura showed energy and a willingness to test Zabaleta. The first real opportunity came in the 11th minute when Spurs won a corner from a deflected shot by Sissoko. Fabianski came out to punch the delivery away for a Spurs throw, but eventually it all died down thanks to an offside flag.

Moments later West Ham created a chance of their own. Arnautovic tried to attack inside the box but Sanchez timed his tackle perfectly. Yarmolenko got to the ball and lofted it into the box, and Alderweireld took the safe route and sent it out for a corner. Anderson’s delivery was poor, yet it somehow led to a second corner. Unfortunately the second delivery was worse than the first.

The Cresswell v Masuaku debate isn’t a simple one. Defensively it’s a clear advantage for Cresswell. But Masuaku can be as good on the ball as anyone in Claret and Blue. With Masuaku having supposedly taken a knock, Cresswell was called back into action at left back. In the 21st minute he nutmegged Dier and won a free kick. The delivery found Arnautovic in the box to right of the goal, but Arnie seemed caught in the middle of either a pass or a shot and he did neither as the ball flew over the bar and out for a goal kick.

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And moments later Anderson’s third corner was remarkably worse than the previous two. At that rate he looked destined to eventually score an own goal from a Hammers corner.

Defending can often be overlooked by the media and many supporters during a transfer window. In the 27th minute Kane got the ball near the West Ham eighteen yard box and looked certain to get a clear shot on goal. But then came Diop, and the 21 year old made the kind of tackle and clearance in the box that was as valuable as a goal. The combination of Diop and Balbuena is quite literally the best thing that happened to West Ham over the summer. I think.

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In the 38th minute, West Ham won another corner. I had hoped to be able to make some snide comment about another poor Anderson corner. Pellegrini took that chance away from me when Snodgrass took the set piece, and it was indeed better. Balbuena got his head to it, and it bounced towards Yarmolenko near the far post. The Ukrainian tried to find his feet and the ball, but the former failed him. His right foot looked to collapse under him and he went down. At first I thought ankle, but the word on the street leaned towards achilles. From the look of it, whatever it was we won’t be seeing him anytime soon.

The only semi positive was that Pellegrini chose to give Diangana the spot over Antonio.

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The first 40minutes of the half were fine by our standards. The final five were more typical. The loss of Yarmolenko started it. Then in the 44th minute, Anderson’s horrible day got worse when Sissoko turned him inside out before sending a pass into the box that Lamela guided past Fabianski with his head.

West Ham 0
Tottenham 1

Moments later West Ham were very, very fortunate not to give up a second when Lamela beat Diop on the right side of the box. Fabianski made a great stop, but couldn’t hold onto the ball and pushed it right to Sanchez. But Fabianski was up to the challenge and made another fine save to keep the deficit at one.

Halftime
West Ham 0
Tottenham 1

The second half began with Cresswell giving Pellegrini reason to think he may be a good fit after all when he won the ball deep in the Spurs half and sent a cross into the box that Arnautovic headed towards the top corner. Only a diving Lloris save kept the Hammers off the scoreboard.

In the 52nd minute, it looked almost certain Anderson could do nothing well this afternoon. So when he ran the ball out for a Spurs throw, with nobody around him, I decided the only way to deal with the Brazilian today was to embrace the horror and hope for better down the road. He was replaced by Chicharito, who hadn’t played for seven weeks due to a viral infection. That kind of said it all.

For Snodgrass to come back to us after his loan spell at Villa, with all of the inappropriate nonsense thrown at him by our de facto DOF owner, and work his socks off the way he has says a lot about his character. In the 57th minute he won a corner by sheer will. Minutes later, West Ham won a second after Lloris made another diving save on a low shot by Arnautovic. The set piece delivery by the Scot was good enough to land on the head of Balbuena but the attempt went wide.

West Ham won their 8th corner of the afternoon in the 71st minute, once again due to the hard work of Snodgrass. The delivery hit Diop in the box but his header went wide. The relevant point there was the number 8. And less than half of them led to even an attempt on goal, let alone on target. Needless to say, we need to do far better on set pieces.

As the game wound down, West Ham continued to work hard, close down, and make Spurs work to keep their advantage. But they didn’t have enough at the very end to find the equalizer. The offside goal worked by Arnautovic and Hernandez showed what could be, but so often isn’t. Then in added time Arnautovic was sent in by Hernandez and Lloris made an exceptional save to keep Spurs on top. In the final seconds Antonio fired a long shot that went over the bar. It was both terribly frustrating and not entirely surprising.

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Final Score
West Ham 0
Tottenham 1

We probably don’t have as many points so far as we deserve. But isn’t that also The West Ham Way? The next twelve league matches will come against teams outside the top six. In all likelihood those matches will give us all a better idea of where we deserve to be in the table.

Back to baseball.


David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 3, Manchester United 1. The Better Team Won. Deal With It, World.

I like to start these reports with a fun anecdote or passage. Maybe a feeble attempt at being clever. But after having to pick my daughter up from an event at her college at around 11pm, then waking up a few minutes before kickoff to inhale a coffee, I’m too damned tired. So here’s all I have;

Diangana got a place on the bench. That’s nice.
Whoa. No Cresswell.
And Arnie’s back.

More coffee please.

While this might sound a bit odd, for the first few minutes of the match we actually looked like the home side. We dominated possession, we pushed forward, and we asked a few questions. That has rarely happened at home against top sides of late. In the sixth minute, it all came together when Zabaleta saved the ball from going out for a Manchester United throw and got the ball to Noble. The Captain immediately sent the ball forward for Zabaleta, who got back up like he had springs in his boots. The steady as a rock right back sent a low cross to Anderson, who guided the ball behind deGea with the heel of his right foot. If a goal could be described as Brazilian, that was one. Replays showed a possibility of offside, but Nolan was onside at Old Trafford a few years ago so I really don’t give a toss.

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West Ham 1
Manchester United 0

So many of us, me included, have predicted the end of Mark Noble. So in the 16th minute when Martial started a run that could have been the start of something dangerous a perfectly timed tackle by Noble put a stop to that. A minute later, West Ham’s ultimate nemesis Lukaku began one of his freight train runs at the Hammers defense. But the thing about freight trains is that if they hit a wall, they stop. We have a wall named Diop, and he stopped the train.

The fact was, however, that the visitors were coming into the game. And it was down the left at the expense of Masuaku. In the 23rd minute a cross from Young made it to Lukaku, but his header just missed off the outside of the post.

After the bright start, West Ham looked to revert to attempted balls over the top. Unfortunately they were no more than wings and prayers that ended up back in the possession of Manchester United. While our defense has looked solid of late, the flow of the match at the half hour mark was not something we would have wanted to live with for the last hour.

Manchester United won their first corner of the match in the 38th when a long shot by Pogba went off Balbuena. The delivery did nothing but create a second corner, and that one was eventually cleared by Masuaku despite a rather feeble attempt by Shaw to win a penalty.

Hey. I like flicks, trick, and dips as much as anyone. But to my eye, West Ham have tried too many of them this season in and around the eighteen yard box. And they have rarely if ever led to a shot on target. That lesson might have been learned in the 43rd minute when Arnautovic and Anderson tried a good old fashioned one-two in the box. The ball to Anderson was just inches off, but it led to a corner. Anderson’s delivery curled into the box like it was drawn on a telestrator. Diop’s header didn’t have anything on it, but the ball went to Yarmolenko. Despite the entire Western World knowing that unlike George Castanza (I wonder who will get that specific American TV reference) he only goes left, he moved to his left. His shot deflected off Lindelof and into the back of the net.

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Halftime
West Ham 2
Manchester United 0

How many times have we seen West Ham win a corner and completely screw it up? To see another team do that, let alone Manchester United, was kind of amusing. In the 50th minute Young gave the ball directly to Noble from a corner in such a way that it even started a West Ham counterattack. With Arnautovic screaming for the ball, Noble gave it to Anderson who then sent it across to Arnautovic. But by that time Arnie looked to have lost the idea he had a second earlier and sent a wayward shot into the crowd.

The 58th minute put West Ham hearts into a defibrillation when Martial seemed to have no problem dancing around any number of West Ham defenders on the end line. He then attempted a pass that deflected off of Rice and across the face of goal before being cleared by Balbuena.

The 60th minute, or thereabouts, is the current witching hour for Arnautovic. That’s the point in recent matches he has grabbed his knee, or his ankle, or his ribs. So when he did it again today nobody could have been very surprised. The fact that he stayed on was possibly as surprising.

Moments later the visitors should have gotten a goal back. Fabianski had other ideas. Young sent a cross into the box that hit Fellaini right in the middle of his furry head. The header was powerful, and it was low. It should have beaten Fabianski. I think it would have beaten Adrian. But our new number one went down with a strong right hand and kept it out of the net.

In the 68th minute West Ham came very close to extending their tenuous lead…..come on, all of our leads tenuous….when Anderson tried to feed Arnautovic in the box but the pass just missed. Three minutes later the Manchester United goal that looked to be coming finally came when a Luke Shaw corner was flicked in by Rashford. While it’s fair to complain from our point of view that nobody was guarding the near post it was still a fine finish.

West Ham 2
Manchester United 1

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The football world will try to kill off Mark Noble until he actually hangs up his boots. Today, he put in a deserved MOTM performance. While I’m not sure why every Manchester United player stood still in the 74th minute when Noble got the ball near the center of the pitch, thankfully Arnautovic kept moving. Noble saw the run, gave him the ball, and Arnie calmly rolled it in. And while I shouldn’t laugh at such things, Arnie thumping deGea on the back of the head after the ball went in definitely made me chuckle. I feel shame.

No. I don’t.

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West Ham 3
Manchester United 1

As balls came into the box over the final 15 minutes, Fabianski came out to grab almost all of them. His command of his area is something we have been lacking for as long as I can remember. Robert Green had a couple of very fine years, but corners and crosses still caused stress. It’s almost as if I haven’t known the calm associated with a goalkeeper like that along with a young, tall, talented pair of central defenders. To me, that spine is what has turned us around and what could power us forward.

In the 93rd minute, Pellegrini rewarded the young Diangana for his exploits on Wednesday with a Premier League debut. I recall another youngster getting his debut against the big red machine at home, and I think it was also in the 93rd minute. He’s gone on to do quite well for us. Maybe history will repeat itself?

Final Score
West Ham 3
Manchester 1

Right before the final whistle, I got a text from my best mate Jon. “This is more about us than them, but the press will obsess about Man U in crisis”. At least here on NBC, that’s exactly what Robbie Mustoe, Robbie Earle and Alan Shearer (no clue why he was there) focused on. Rebecca Lowe even said it outright. But we were the deserved winners. Plain and simple. Maybe even more importantly was something Jon Champion said when he noted that The London Stadium sounded and felt a bit like Upton Park today.

If true, that’s as valuable as the three points.


David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 0, Chelsea 0. Sometimes Decent Is Good.

On the face of it, today didn’t have the feel of disaster like so many weekend mornings do. West Ham apparently have never lost their opening three games at home, which is pretty surprising when you consider how many bad things have happened to the club. Add to that our recent relative success against Chelsea and the day had a rather relaxed feel by our standards. Then, an hour before kickoff, the news we were all afraid of but probably discounted became reality. No Arnie. While I wanted to soothe myself by thinking we had options and that the confidence from last week would make up for it, the fact is that without Arnautovic we don’t score as much. One statistic said of the last 15 goals we have scored the Austrian was involved in 11. Instead, the mercurial Antonio would lead the line today. Like Mercury, that situation could ebb and flow quickly based on the temperature around the pitch. In the end, both side had chances, ours were a bit better, and we can spend the day with one more point than we had when we woke up.

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The first thing that was noticeable had nothing to do with the action on the pitch, but the inaction around it. The number of empty seats in the lower tiers at The London Athletics Stadium was glaring. I know, it’s pointless to keep saying it. But I did.

West Ham showed better than expected composure on the ball early on, building an attack with short crisp passing. Such things usually end with a bad touch, or a panic stricken hoof upfield. Not that it led to anything, nor was it long lasting, but it was nice to see for a wee bit.

West Ham were let off the hook slightly in the 9th minute when Chelsea won a corner. The delivery into the box found Giroud, but he didn’t get the contact he wanted and the ball bounced harmlessly to Fabianski. The Blues in Yellow kept up the attack, with Rudiger testing the new West Ham Number one keeper with a long shot that posed no real threat. Moments later Willian sent Hazard into the box with a lovely back heel pass but again Fabianski was up to the task.

The home side finally looked like a football team with a notion of attacking in the 20th minute when a long cross field pass found Anderson on the left and his run forced Chelsea to concede a corner. It would have been nice if the delivery into the box had been useful, or if West Ham created something from Luiz’s weak clearance. Alas, it was a mini false dawn.

In the 30th minute West Ham launched their first real counter attack when Anderson showed the ball handling skill he is known for as he worked himself clear down the left. He rolled a ball forward for Antonio to attack, which he did but his shot went over the bar. Minutes later West Ham were back on the front foot with Yarmolenko on the right. The ball found Antonio alone in the box but with such a tight angle he could only try to power the ball past Kepa. He didn’t succeed. At that moment it was hard not to at least wonder what would have happened had Arnautovic been up front in those two counters, because despite the clear advantage in possession to the visitors West Ham had the two clearest scoring chances of the half.

The final minute of the half put West Ham hearts in mouth when Hazard passed to Willian on the right side of the West Ham eighteen yard box. Willian then crossed to Kante but his weak header went weakly wide.

The first half ended with no additional time added. None. I don’t think I have ever seen that.

Halftime
West Ham 0
Chelsea 0

Felipe Anderson did something early in the second half that made me smile. He went shoulder to shoulder to Kante, winning not only a free kick but a yellow card to last years EPL player of the year. It’s as if the reality of life in England is becoming clearer to the clever Brazilian. He even dished it out to Willian a minute later, earning himself a place in Mike Dean’s book.

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Masuaku as a fullback still makes me nervous. Very nervous. In the 55th minute he had the ball inside the West Ham box. He tried to work his way out but instead lost possession over the line for a Chelsea corner. Willian’s delivery hit Luiz in the box but his diving header went over the bar.

I don’t know about you, but I wish Fabianski wouldn’t go for the long ball as often as he does. I cannot recall a single good thing coming from one of them. Mini rant over.

Chelsea had two great chances to score in the 66th minute. First, Hazard was played into the box and laid the ball off for the recently inserted Morata. Diop got a crucial touch to deny the Spaniard, but seconds later Morata found himself alone in front of Fabianski but the West Ham keeper made a point blank stop to keep West Ham on level terms.

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I, for one, did not understand the Snodgrass for Anderson move. At that point of a match, at home, wouldn’t you want someone who can keep possession and possibly create a chance on the pitch? Unless, of course, the mantra of “respect the point” was ringing in your ears. Yet in the 77th minute, it was Snodgrass who created the best chance of the match and may go down as the worst miss of the season when his cross found Yarmolenko all alone in front of Kepa. He simply had to score there. He didn’t even hit the net. It was awful beyond description.

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In the 81st minute Willian left Zabaleta in his fumes on the left before whipping a cross into the box. Kante got on the end of it but his header went over the bar. Nowhere near the level of miss as Yarmolenko, but a miss nonetheless.

Jon Champeon was calling the game over here, and he pointed out that Chelsea had scored beyond the 80th minute in every match this season. Thanks Jon. I really needed that at that time. When Willian lined up for a corner in minute 83 I felt the anxiety of that statistic. However, Fabianski came out confidently and smothered the ball.

When it was announced that four minutes were added on, I was as surprised as I was at the zero added on for the first half. I was also terrified. Ross Barkley tested Fabianski with a long range shot that the Polish international dove low to his left to put out for a corner. Then Snodgrass gave away a free kick on the right side of the box but Yarmolenko did his defensive work with a bicycle kick clearance.

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Final Score
West Ham 0
Chelsea 0

When Chelsea put the ball out for a goal kick and the clock showed 93:49, I felt relief. I think a draw was to some degree a fair result. Chelsea dominated possession, but we had by far the best chance of the match and Yarmolenko should feel pretty lousy tonight. Two players who should feel rather pleased are Diop and Balbuena. Not only did they earn their first clean sheet of the season, but they likely cemented themselves as the starting center halves for the forseeable future. Maybe longer given their age. In the end, a point against a far better opponent is always a decent day.

And decent might be the best we can hope for currently.


David Hautzig's Match Report

Everton 1, West Ham 3. Unexpected Pleasure.

That didn’t take long. From a summer of excitement to an autumn of discontent. About a month to my reckoning. Me? I’m back to apathy. I find it easier.

I was over for the Wolves debacle. My cat runs more in an average day than our team did. Next to me was a friend and customer, Alex. Two and a half years ago the young Alex adopted West Ham as his EPL club after I started supplying the majority of the wine at his wine bar. While at the FA Cup replay against Liverpool and saying goodbye to Upton Park, Alex texted me a photo of his new Payet kit. He was immediately given a nickname by those in attendance with me at the match, including Nigel Kahn, Dan Silver, my best mate Jon, and our overlord Iain.

“Poor Bastard”.

I had a great meal at Hawksmoor Air Street the other night with Alex, Dan, and my friend Neil Barnett. As we discussed the latest ridiculousness surrounding our club, Dan and I simply couldn’t help but laugh. At times uncontrollably. You really couldn’t make the stuff up. Alex just stared on with a glazed look in his eyes, like Mitchell McDeer in The Firm as he discovers the truth about the law firm he joined. Neil, the former presenter on Chelsea TV, joined more in the laughter than the sympathy Alex clearly needed. Today brought some unexpected smiles to go with the laughs.

Space. In Star Trek it was the final frontier. At West Ham it’s what every team we play has in abundance. In the midfield, in the box, everywhere. In the opening ten minutes Everton looked unbothered on the ball, with space and time to work. The Hammers, on the other hand, looked labored and bereft of ideas. Walcott had a shot inside the box that was blocked by Diop, and later won a corner off of Masuaku. Gana sent a good pass to Calvert Lewis that came inches from a clean breakaway. Meanwhile, any West Ham advance ended in a wayward pass to someone in blue.

And then in the 11th minute, out of nowhere, Balbuena intercepted a pass and fed Obiang. Obiang turned quickly and played a lovely give and go with Arnautovic that sent the Austrian to the races. Heading into the box with only Pickford to beat, he saw Yarmolenko streaking down the center and unselfishly…something Arnie isn’t really known for…rolled the ball into the path of Yarmolenko and the first time starter did what he was purchased to do.

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Everton 0
West Ham 1

The visitors had another chance in the 15th minute when Noble was fouled 25 yards from goal, handing West Ham a free kick. The delivery from Anderson found Diop but the young French defender couldn’t get much power on his shot and Pickford saved it easily.

Everton should have drawn level in the 25th minute when Digne went on an unchallenged run down the left before sending a terrific cross into the box that Cenk Tosun got on the end of right in front of Fabianski. Left, goal. Right, goal. He went straight. Save. Yarmolenko was guiltily of not tracking back and fighting Digne. Deep breath.

When we signed Yarmolenko, Neil Barnett told me he thought 17 million was a bargain. The little I saw of him in pre-season certainly made me take notice. Then, in his first few appearances he looked tired. Quickly. So I wasn’t sure. But on Friday, Neil predicted a West Ham victory on his satellite radio program here. Furthermore, he said Yarmolenko would be the main force behind the prediction. In the 31st minute, Pickford looked like he played for us when he sent an awful ball out that Noble intercepted and was fouled. Atkinson played advantage, and Yarmolenko took full advantage. Working to his left across the top of the eighteen yard box, he finally made enough space for himself to unleash a curling shot that rippled the top corner.

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Everton 0
West Ham 2

Yarmolenko almost went from hero to Ukrainian goat in the 36th minute when he lost control of a back pass from Rice, and Cenk Tosun jumped all over it. With Walcott on his right, the Turkish striker chose to go it alone and fired a low shot that Fabianski did well to stop. He couldn’t handle the rebound, but Balbuena was there to hoof it to safety. A minute later, Masuaku was very luck not to see red when he went up to play a long ball intended for Walcott. Instead of the ball, Masuaku played Walcott’s skull. With his studs. Lucky, lucky boy.

The two things that went through my mind as the first half wound down were this. First, 2-0 has always been my least favorite lead. I’ve lost count of the number of times we have watched 2-0 fizzle away. Second, giving up a goal at this juncture could easily be the beginning of a typical West Ham collapse. So when Kenny sent an inch perfect cross to Sigurdsson, and the latter beat Fabianski with a header, all those fears came to the surface.

Halftime
Everton 1
West Ham 2

The opening ten minutes of the second half were similar to many an opening ten minutes of a match. Both sides moved forward, but with trepidation. On defense, everyone looked afraid to make a mistake. In the 57th minute, Kenny made a mistake by leaving the ball unattended. When I saw a West Ham player jump on it, I leaned forward. When I saw it was Noble, I sat back. By the way. I thought Noble had a good game, so I’m not taking a swipe at him. He’s slow. What can you do?

Oh. If Bernard had either scored or set up the equalizer after muscling Yarmolenko off the ball deep in West Ham territory, the man with the brace would have had one large bar tab to pay.

Looking back a few months ago when Obiang was seemingly on his way out, I wondered why. If reports are true, that he wanted to return to Italy but did not make a fuss about it, his professionalism should be lauded. Today, his interplay with Arnautovic will also be lauded. In the 61st minute, much like the setup for the opening goal, Obiang and Arnautovic worked a quick one-two on the outside of the Everton box. This one ended with Arnautovic poking a rolled ball from Obiang behind Pickford. Yet as so many West Ham silver linings, there was a dark cloud as Arnautovic limped off holding the back of his left knee.

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Everton 1
West Ham 3

Everton tried to answer quickly. First, Cenk Tosun got on the end of a pin ball machine period of play right in front of Fabianski but sent his shot over the bar. Then Walcott sent a low cross into the box that nobody got on the end of except Fabianski.

Everton were given a chance in the 76th minute when Walcott went to the races down the center and was pulled down by Rice. The young Irish midfielder saw yellow. Then Yarmolenko saw stars when his face was the part of the wall that stopped the free kick from Sigurdsson.

West Ham showed a desire to go for a fourth when Antonio sent a long cross field pass that Anderson ran down. A bit of skill in the area won the Brazilian a corner. Everton did well to handle it, but the intent showed by the visitors was good considering the predicament at the bottom of the table.

Everton had a golden opportunity to close the gap to one goal when Digne sent a tremendous cross into the box from the left that Niasse got on the end of after timing his run just as perfectly. His volley sounded like a rifle shot as it smashed against the crossbar and flew out. If ever there was a moment that historically had a predictable outcome it was that. Ball goes in, we hold on for dear life. But instead…..

Five minutes of added time did nothing for my confidence, despite the two goal advantage. Snodgrass gave away a free kick in the 92nd minute on the left side of the West Ham eighteen yard box, but despite Digne doing well with the delivery Niasse couldn’t get his shot on target.

There was talk on television here that Perez refused to warm up, and that’s why Antonio replaced Arnautovic. Well, if Perez hoped that move would fail and Pellegrini would crawl back to him asking for forgiveness, he will have to wait past rapture. Antonio reacted brilliantly to his demotion from starter, with outstanding hold up play and clock management.

Final Score
Everton 1
West Ham 3

Was this a glimpse of what Pellegrini is working on? Was all of his lineup shuffling waiting for this moment? Time will tell. But there wasn’t really a weak link today. Everyone did their job well. Diop and Balbuena look to be our center backs for reasonably long time. Anderson, despite a few strolls and one flop that really pissed me off, looked more in tune with the pace of the EPL. And Yarmolenko looked just plain good.

The work part of my trip last week went very well. My new partners in the UK, Red Squirrel Wines, are consummate professionals. Not to mention incredibly nice people. I was starting to wonder if they were the only good team I had in the UK. They may still be the best I’ve got, but hopefully the Hammers can inch their way back in that direction as well.

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