The HamburgHammer Column

Three vital points won in another one of those potential banana skin contests. Fulham gave us an almighty scare or two, especially early on in the game when they could have been up 2:0 within the first ten minutes if it hadn’t been for Fabianski pulling off yet another fantastic save…with his face, so he probably didn’t know a lot about it, but he surely felt it, he took a painful one for the team and that “save” was probably more meaningful in terms of winning this game than the “Hand of Pea” goal, more of that further down.

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I was happy with the win because on another day we could easily have lost that. Fulham are fighting for their lives near the bottom of the league table and what with their abysmal away record coupled with our reputation for being the perfect host in terms of helping out struggling sides, I kind of expected a disaster waiting to happen, especially after the first ten minutes. But credit where it’s due, we created chances, we did play some decent football during several spells along the way and we ultimately secured all three points.

Was it a great performance or anywhere near perfect ? Of course not! But it was an entertaining enough contest with plenty of incident. We have been discussing at length on previous threads the Hernandez goal. Did he really cheat or was it unintentional that the ball went in via a detour off his arm ?

Tricky one for me. Deep in this football romantic’s heart I love to see players showing displays of proper fair play, like Di Canio catching that ball (still in play at that point) all those years ago when the Everton goalkeeper was down injured. That was a proud moment for every Hammer near and far, over land and sea!

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I don’t think it was intentional handball by Hernandez, in my view he meant to head the ball straight into the net, but the header went astray, hitting the arm. There would have been no cause of complaint really if the ref hadn’t given that goal and I can fully appreciate why the Fulham players were unhappy with the decision. VAR will take some of those uncertainties away from next season. Some of them, not all. I understand FIFA are also currently working on clarifying the regulations concerning handball incidents, making it a bit easier for referees to make those calls and of course VAR will also assist in that respect.

What I get the hump with here is the hypocrisy involved, mainly on part of the pundits, the sporting media and some fans. Cheating is a part of the game, it’s always been there and even after the introduction of VAR players will still try to manipulate and fool the referee, there will still be divers, players feigning injury, players trying to get their opposite number sent off.

I don’t condone it. But it should be criticised and punished evenly, regardless of the crest on the shirt of the culprit or the status of the offender as a superstar player.

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To see, hear or read how Sky Sports are reporting certain incidents differently, depending on whether the player is Liverpool or Leicester, Manchester Utd. or West Ham, is neither professional nor fair.

It’s big team bias and the media may think it’s fine because most among their target audience probably do support one of the big teams. But that doesn’t make it right.

I didn’t hear too much talk about cheating when Liverpool’s blatant offside goal against us was allowed to stand. It got brief mentions halfway through match reports, but not in bold headline letters, as in the case of Chicharito’s goal. But again, VAR will take care of the more blatant incidents, and it should take away the element of big team bias somewhat.

My personal highlight of the game, unsurprisingly as most of you will agree, was to see Lanzini back on the pitch again. Not just back on the pitch way earlier than most of us would have anticipated, but back on the pitch with a vengeance, looking hungry, sharp and fearless. Coming back from a knee injury can’t be easy and it must play tricks on a player’s mind when returning to the pitch, but Lanzini in his brief cameo looked as if he had been out there with his teammates all along, picking passes and making runs all season.

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He even got into positions to score which of course would have been the icing on the cake, but we don’t want to get too greedy here. Our squad looks a lot better now in terms of strong options on the bench too, with Lanzini, Balbuena and Nasri back in the frame – and an outside chance of seeing Yarmolenko, Wilshere and Sanchez too returning before the season is over.

Manchester City away next (on the day before I’m flying over to London again, it’s about time!) and another of those “Can’t get anything from this anyway, so why bother travelling oop north at all?” games.

I say: Bring it on! Everyone is expecting a 6:1 thrashing anyway, so what’s the point of worrying or going all rabbit in the headlights ? This game is a free shot for us. Manchester City have the far stronger squad and they are competing for the title whereas we are trying hard to finish in 8th or 7th place.

But the pressure for City to win (with Liverpool and Spurs still breathing down their necks) is immense and with West Ham ANYTHING can happen. Yes, it could be 6:1 to them.

Or 1:0 to us, with a City player getting sent off and us scoring from a penalty. That’s the undying appeal of football: Most of the time we simply don’t know what’s gonna happen.

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So, I shall be flying to London once more on Thursday (last pre-Brexit visit by the look of things), looking forward to the Newcastle game and meeting some of you lovely folks in person again. I have a few plans already (seeing Dawud’s photo exhibition for a start, visiting Newham Bookshop as usual, getting a rib roll covered in hot sauce from The Ribman before the game), but the itinerary is nowhere near written in stone.

Apart from a definite appointment with my three trusted East London friends: Pie & Mash & Liquor. I may even bump into Sir Trevor Brooking along the way if I have a bit of Donald Duck (Cockney alert!)…;-))

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Either way, my trips to London rarely disappoint and that’s not exclusively down to the food or football but to a large extent due to some pretty special people I initially came in contact with on here before later sharing time, banter, laughter and food with me in person.

Kudos to all those salt of the earth Hammers, you all know who you are! All of you have a long-term open invitation to come over to my town whenever you fancy a nice long weekend – I will certainly try to return some of your hospitality and kindness if you do decide to have a butcher’s at how Hamburgers live. COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: The “boys in brown“ of St.Pauli won a fierce contest 1:0 against Ingolstadt and they are staying hot in pursuit of promotion, possibly by way of a two-leg playoff final against the 16th placed side from Bundesliga 1 which is likely to be against one of Stuttgart, Hannover or Reece Oxford’s Augsburg.

Hamburg SV lost 1:2 at bogey team Regensburg after leading 1:0 until late in the second half and had two players sent off. They failed to consolidate their position as league leaders.

Meanwhile the Concordia lads lost their away game 0:5.
I left that game early with my mate (with the score 0:5 after 71 minutes), so we could catch the second half of the Cordi Women’s team’s home game – funnily enough they won 5:0.