West Ham United 2-2 Manchester City
Saturday’s late afternoon kick off was another chance for the club to show how much we have improved and that we deserve to be where we are in the league table at present.
Playing Manchester City is never going to be easy, despite having already beating them at the Etihad earlier on in the season we knew although at home they would be a stern test.
Slaven Bilic made a few changes to the starting lineup, with Jenkinson, Reid and Song coming in for Tomkins, Ogbonna and Obiang. There was no doubt that once fully fit again Reid would go straight back into the starting team, but having several centre backs playing well is good competition for the place and encourages the players to perform even better.
The first half was a fast paced encounter, West Ham played with great intensity when both attacking and defending. All that was good in the half combined for our first goal, good pressure on the Manchester City players which forced them to give the ball away. Kouyate in midfield who is full of energy made a fantastic powerful driving run behind the City defence where he put a ball across for Enner Valencia to meet and score past a helpless Joe Hart in goal for them with under a minute gone in the game.
Payet was desperately unlucky to not have scored a second in the first half, he struck what looked to be an unstoppable free kick that was heading for the very top corner. However this was not to be as Joe Hart again showed why he is one of the league’s best goalkeepers, with a quite stunning flying save to put the ball behind for a corner, With home and away fans alike puzzled as to how that didn’t go in.
The first half wasn’t all good for the hammers, only 8 minutes later City found themselves level at 1-1. Aguero was played in behind the West Ham back line, where Carl Jenkinson gave away yet another penalty (most in the league this season (3)) with a really sloppy tackle and with the wrong foot which made it easy for the striker to draw the foul. From that tackle Jenkinson injured his knee and was subbed off after getting a rare start. Sam Byram was the player to take his place, his debut for the club having signed in the week from Leeds United. Not expecting to be on so soon, he put together a debut to remember, showing why he is so highly rated. He had a calmness on the ball demonstrated by a breathtaking 1-2 right across the pitch with Payet. and was an all round very mature performance especially in these circumstances.
Overall, West Ham were the better team in the half, had more threatening chances and generally done more with the ball. But neither team really got a proper grip on the game, with possession being shared.
Manchester City were the team to start the half better this time, and put West Ham under a fair bit of pressure that we coped with well and defended against strongly. But these days the team is full of pace which gives us the ability to counter attack and cause the other team problems within seconds of us having to defend.
This is how the second goal was scored, We broke up the pitch dangerously and with speed. Where we won a throw on, in what is now usually a position for Antonio to chance his long throw. Amazingly quick thinking from Antonio as he threw the ball right into the City penalty area over both Demichelis and Otamendi, where Enner Valencia got in behind and poked in his second goal of the game just shy of the hour mark. That’s now 4 goals in 3 games, right in form and playing at striker doing what he should be doing.
However we couldn’t hold onto the 2-1 lead, as Aguero much like in recent times scored against us, also his second goal of the game, after the ball deflected into his path via a West Ham defender for him to finish expertly to drag Man City out of another hole.
West Ham very nearly won it in the very last second with the last touch of the ball, as Payet put in another brilliant pin point cross where Kouyate met but headed agonisingly against the crossbar with Joe Hart stood there watching with all the fans around the stadium.
In the end a tough one to take as I and many others felt we deserved more from the game than just the draw. But it’s a very positive result against one of the best teams in the league who we have taken 4 out of a possible 6 points from this season, also a good way to bounce back from our loss last week up in Newcastle. This leaves us still within touch of the teams above as well as a small gap from the teams below. And as we’ve seen in this unpredictable season, anything can happen.
Adrian 8/10 – Done all he could, certainly helped to get the result.
Byram 8/10 – Calm and promising debut, scouts done well again.
Collins 8/10 – Once again solid at the back, brilliant form continues.
Reid 8/10 – Fantastic to have back, leader at the back and one of our best.
Cresswell 7/10 – Not a bad game, just not as good as he has been.
Song 8/10 – Showed his experience, and shielded the defence well.
Noble 9/10- All over the pitch performance, gave his all as always.
Kouyate 8/10- Fantastic energy, and so important to have in the team.
Antonio 7/10- Apart from the quick thinking and throw on , had a quiet game.
Payet 9/10- Skillful, work ethic all on show again. A simply amazing player to have.
Valencia 8/10 – Took his goals well, linked up nicely. Now about retaining his form.
Man of the match
There is a few players that could be this week’s man of the match. Enner Valencia for his two goals that put us in this good position for the result. Payet for his all round good game, tracked back to help defend, brilliant free kick only denied by a world class save and the skills, quick feet and ability to make even the best look silly.
But I’d like to give this one to Mark Noble, like the other times he’s received this I have said it was a real captain’s performance, and again this applies. This season we have seen him develop his attacking play, he looks to be a better passer and looks to find himself more involved in the attacks. He covered great distance in the game like he always does, kept the ball moving forward and was all round good in every department.
Next week is a break from the Premier League, with West Ham back in FA Cup action away to Liverpool FC. Having already done the double over the men in red this season scoring 5 goals and conceding 0, there is no reason for us to not go into the game thinking we can actually win this and not just hoping for it. A real chance for us to progress in a cup, something we have struggled with over the past few seasons which is a real shame as the FA Cup is so special to the English game.