David Hautzig's Match Report

The last time I watched a game in my home without a notepad and pen was the 3-1 win last season at Selhurst Park. I was able to jump up and down after Zarate’s volley without taking note on how the ball came to him. Same for Downing and Cole. I was also able to walk away in fear when Palace drew one back. A few days later, Sean and Iain proposed their absurd idea of an American wine salesman writing match reports and here I am. Enjoying another win at Selhurst Park by the same scoreline. Last year’s result took the pressure off the opening week loss to Spurs, when I’m sure many of us saw a relegation battle on the horizon. This year it’s different. Just how different is yet to be determined.

The very idea of West Ham midfielders running at defenders to create chances in recent years has been like the opposing political parties in either of our countries getting together to discuss issues and compromise on solutions. You know it’s a good idea that would often be effective, yet you know it won’t happen. In the opening seconds of the match, Collins intercepted a pass and fed Payet, who then passed to Noble. The captain one timed it to Lanzini down the left side. After a speedy half field run, The Jewel turned toward the box, took on Dann, and found Payet in the box but the pass was slightly in front of Payet and he couldn’t reach it.

The hosts got their first taste of attack in the 6th minute when Cabaye, West Ham’s backup plan to Payet, won a free kick on an interception. The ensuing set piece found Puncheon in the box but his shot went wide.

West Ham came back down the other end minutes later with Sakho winning the ball back at the top of the Crystal Palace penalty area and laying off for Payet. The French Superhero cut to his left and fired a low shot that didn’t trouble Hennessey. I was looking for a Cognac pun there but couldn’t think of anything. Wanted you all to know.

The only name on the starting eleven that made me nervous was Ginge. And to be fair, he had a good game and looked reasonably comfortable on the ball when he needed to play it out. But in the 10th minute, stomachs all over the West Ham universe fluttered when Bolasie surged into the area on the right and sent a low cross into the box that went right through Collins as he attempted to clear. Puncheon was there and tried to get a shot off but it was blocked before Payet was able to release the pressure.

In the 16th minute Hangeland fouled Sakho 25 yards from goal, but Cresswell’s free kick missed by miles. Minutes later Sakho won a corner off Dann, and Payet’s delivery found Tomkins at the far post but his header went wide. JT might have been thinking too much about that missed chance because a minute later Gayle got behind him and a long pass was headed his way. Tomkins turned and pulled Gayle down for a free kick and yellow card. Puncheon sent the free kick into the box but Adrian was able to clear.

I’m not going to get caught up in The West Ham Way conversation. One, I wasn’t around for Greenwood, Lyall or even Bonds. What I will get caught up is the desire to employ players who are good on the ball and can occasionally inspire. We have that now, and it was the reason for the opening goal. Lanzini got the ball on the left and sent a short pass to Payet, who took a few steps to his right before rolling the ball to Moses. Jenkinson made his move around Zaha, and Moses sent a through ball into the box. The pass was gorgeous. The finish was even better as Jenkinson rolled it under Hennessy with the outside of his right foot.

Crystal Palace 0, West Ham 1.

The road from hero to goat was pretty quick for Jenks, because a minute later he took down Gayle at the top of the box and Palace were awarded a penalty. The Backup Plan stepped up and put it past Adrian, but the goal was waved off and the penalty had to be re-taken because Gayle had run into the box six yards ahead of the ball. On the second attempt, Adrian got a hand on it but couldn’t keep it out. Gayle did it again but this time was only a couple of yards in and I guess Clattenburg showed mercy and let the second goal stand.

West Ham went on the attack trying to regain the lead. In the 29th minute, Sakho started a counter on the right and sent a cross into Payet but his shot was blocked by Kelly and out for a corner. The initial set piece was cleared by Dann but only as far as Moses, who raced down the wing and crossed to Sakho but his shot was deflected out for another corner by Hangelaand. The final shot of the barrage came from Moses but it went high and out for a goal kick.

In the 32nd minute, Gayle took down Payet with a nasty challenge and was shown yellow. At the time, I didn’t think it would be noteworthy that an advanced player with pace like Gayle was booked. Ten minutes later, Palace had their best, and last, opportunity to score a second goal. Puncheon got on the end of a long pass and had nothing but green in front of him. With Zaha available unmarked in the box a decent pass would have led to an almost certain goal. But the pass was far less than decent and Palace will look back and see that as a blown chance. Which was made worse two minutes later when Gayle dove in stupidly on Kouyate and was shown red for a second yellow in twelve minutes.

West Ham tried to jump on the man advantage quickly, and in added time Lanzini showed good skill to chest the ball over the defender and set himself up for a volley which went wide. Seconds later Jenkinson sent a hard cross through the goalmouth that Sakho couldn’t get to.

Halftime. Crystal Palace 1, West Ham 1.

To their credit, Palace did not come out for the second half trying to hold on to the point from the get go. In the opening minutes, they enjoyed a good spell of possession in the West Ham half but couldn’t find a way through apart from a long attempt by Bolasie from the top of the box.

In the 57th minute, after Payet sprayed passes around in hope of a finding a breach, Kouyate tried a shot from the top of the box that was blocked by Dann. Minutes later Kouyate started a counter on the left that included chipping the ball over a sliding Dann and then hurdling over him. But his dribbling deserted him and he lost the ball to Hangelaand.

At this part of a match away from home, we had come to expect a defensive substitution with a point in hand. Even with the opposition down to ten men. Instead, we got Andy Carroll for Mark Noble to add a different dimension to the attack, and to give the Palace defenders even more to think about. It almost paid off a minute later when Jenkinson sent a cross into the box, where both Sakho and Carroll were waiting. Sakho got his head on it, but his attempt skimmed off the post and out for a goal kick. Minutes later, a Payet corner found Carroll’s noggin in the box but this one also went out for a goal kick.

The next fifteen minutes shared the same theme. West Ham had the majority of possession, and Palace defended admirably. Cresswell won a corner that went short to Payet, but his cross was awful. Moses and Lanzini combined to win a corner that was cleared by Hangelaand. Lanzini ran at the defense and beat a handful of them but couldn’t get a shot off. Zarate came on and shot when he should have passed. Even Carroll tried a long range blast. I started to count the minutes we played against ten men without a goal and assumed this report would need to address that.

Wrong.

There are those that see our new style of play and think there is no room for an Andy Carroll. I have steadfastly disagreed with that and even went so far as to say the big man will flourish under Bilic. That isn’t what happened in the 88th minute, but to minimize Carroll’s contribution to the winner or even the flow of the game since his entry would be to miss the point entirely. Zarate had the ball on the right and sent a looping cross into the box. The kind of play that was the hallmark of our offense under Allardyce. Now it’s an option, and Carroll made the most of it by winning the header and knocking it down for Lanzini to drill home.

Crystal Palace 1, West Ham 2.

If West Ham hoofed the ball up field the final two minutes plus four minutes of injury time, nobody would have begrudged them for doing it. Except maybe Slaven Bilic. Perhaps that’s why they took another opportunity to counter and score again. Zarate to Lanzini to Payet, finished off with a dummy and a dink over Hennessy. Three players that would never have seen the light of day the past few years.

Final Score. Crystal Palace 1, West Ham 3.

Wins at Arsenal, Liverpool, and City were wonderful moments for us to watch and share. But to my way of thinking, today was more significant. Palace and West Ham are teams trying to rise to the top of the “second” Premier League. And while I know Palace were down a man for over half the match, I don’t remember them testing Adrian before Gayle exited. We will never know if the outcome would have been different had both teams remained at full strength. What I do know is we have players who could win such a match, and a manager who would try to win such a match.