Tuesday, September 13, 2005


4-0 to the Cockney Boys!

Marlon Harewood has burst out of the doldrums in style with a well-deserved hattrick that inspired West Ham to a resounding 4-0 victory over visiting Aston Villa.

Marlon Harewood scores against Aston Villa
Marlon Harewood celebrates his opening goal against Aston Villa

Naming an unchanged teamsheet for his 100th match in charge, Alan Pardew showed faith in the 26-year-old striker, putting him up front with Teddy Sheringham despite calls for Harewood to be dropped from the team after some poor displays in recent matches. However, Marlon repaid this small debt with substantial interest and is now West Ham's top scorer so far this season. I wonder if the golden boots he wore had something to do with it?

Carroll, Repka, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Konchesky, Benayoun, Reo-Coker, Mullins, and Etherington rounded out the remainder of the team.

The match was an open one, with plenty of shots on goal and frantic goalmouth scrambles. Villa were unlucky not to get onto the scoresheet but the result was nevertheless a fair representation of the match. West Ham took their chances and Villa didn't take theirs.

Early in the match there was a few chances for the home side, with Matty Etherington shooting wide from long range, and Yossi Benayoun failing to keep his shot on target after being given a good chance by Teddy Sheringham.

Harewood got his first when Sheringham nodded the ball on, allowing the former Norwich hitman a one-on-one with Aston Villa keeper Sorensen, and Marlon made no mistake with a clinical finish. His celebration - holding a finger to his mouth to silence his critics - left no doubt that the goal was a vital one for his confidence. But if his critics weren't silenced by that effort, they certainly were within the next five minutes after Harewood cleverly flicked Anton Ferdinand's shot over the former Sunderland keeper to get his brace.

Villa had a few dangerous attacks, mostly utilising former West Ham target Milan Baros and his pace. Baros and Phillips managed to get around the West Ham defence once or twice but was always denied by good covering work, while Konchesky managed to keep the Villa winger quiet. The visitors only had one notable chance but hard-working Milner's shot was saved by Carroll.
At the other end, Harewood was denied a crystal clear penalty after being rugby tackled in the box by Ridgewell when clear on goal. The referee must have had cataracts because he also missed the same player attempting to kick Harewood in the head. If the ref had brandished a card of either colour after one of these incidents, perhaps the scoreline would have been even more one-sided. I don't like to criticise a referee in a match like this, but I think a report on this bloke is in order for at least the first of these incidents.

At any rate, the Hammers went into the half time break on a high. As expected, Villa came out of the blocks early in the second half with a flurry of attacks, but West Ham held out with some desperate defending and some good fortune. Carroll failed to deal with Milner's attempted cross, which miraculously rebounded off both posts and fell to Phillips, who inexplicably shot wide.

Soon afterwards, Sorensen misjudged a Matty Etherington corner and failed to reach the ball after coming off his line. In doing so, he distracted a Villa defender who was about to head the ball clear. Who else should the ball fall to but Mr. Golden Boots himself, who easily slid the ball in between the two defenders on the line to complete his hattrick.

Later, Etherington got a slight knock and was replaced by Shaun "10K" Newton. Bobby Zamora came on soon afterwards on to allow the hattrick hero a well-earned rest, coming off to a standing ovation.

A period of keep-ball (and a laughable miss by Ridgewell) was followed by a moment of brilliance from our two-footed Israeli star. Yossi Benayoun dazzled the Aston Villa defence with some marvellous touches, before performing his favourite "shape to shoot but cut the ball inside" manoeuvre, firing a low left-footed shot into the far post to complete the rout. We all knew Yossi was capable of this sort of goal - he had been threatening to pull something like this off all season - and the diminutive Israeli will be pleased to get his first goal for his new club.

That was the 89th minute and Aston Villa were completely becalmed and West Ham easily kept them scoreless as the clock ran out. Mullins went off for Christian Dailly in order to waste a bit of time. Almost immediately the final whistle went, triggering a stirring rendition of a little ditty called "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" by the West Ham faithful.

Hey Baros, what's the score?


Roy Carroll (6) - Hot and cold, did some good work but wasn't as reliable as in previous matches. Made one or two errors but importantly didn't concede.
Tomas Repka (7) - Very good. Did everything well.
Anton Ferdinand (7) - Allowed Villa (and Baros in particular) through occasionally but always recovered well. Looks good, as always.
Danny Gabbidon (7) - Same as Anton.
Paul Konchesky (8) - Great performance. Got very involved in defence, which is normally considered his weak point, but also went forward and linked with Matty. Well done Konchy.
Yossi Benayoun (7) - Good display, occasionally choosing the wrong option but tried his little heart out. Got a sublime goal which he's deserved on the basis of his season so far.
Nigel Reo-Coker (8) - Awesome. Made a single error when he took a long range shot instead of feeding Zamora in on goal, but otherwise a great display in the middle of the park. Hardly put a foot wrong all night.
Hayden Mullins (8) - A commanding performance. What a fantastic midfield pairing we've got here. Hayden showed so much guts, winning the ball all the time, but also some tricky footwork. Well done Hayden and Nigel.
Matty Etherington (7) - A good performance but came off with a slight knock. Hopefully he'll recover for Fulham.
Marlon Harewood (9) - Unlucky not to get four. What more can you say. Top work there Marlon.
Teddy Sheringham (5) - Despite what other reports say, I thought Teddy had an awful match by his standards. He got an assist for Marlon's first but was slow mentally and physically for this one. Really should have been substituted at half time to give Zamora a chance, but surprisingly stayed on for the full 90+ minutes.

Shaun Newton (7) - On for Matty. Can't remember much of what he did, so I guess a 7 is fair.
Bobby Zamora (7) - Mature performance and could have had a goal when Reo-Coker neglected the easy pass. Deserves more time on the pitch.
Christian Dailly (6) - Came in for Mullins to kill some time.

Alan Pardew (7) - We won, and by a good margin. However, there is still work to do. Surprisingly allowed Sheringham to play a full game.

Pardew said, "It was a perfect night, nothing went wrong, the back four were terrific and the goals were the icing on the cake. Marlon's always scored goals in his career, he deserved them because his all-round performance was very good. We looked quicker and jumped higher, we've got to keep this enthusiasm going and see what happens."

Harewood said, "To just score just my first goal of the season was great, but to come away with three goals and the match ball is just brilliant. I was desperate to score, but I knew that if I kept working hard, kept believing in myself then it would come. I wasn't worried about it, but I was determined to get off the mark. I never imagined it would be with a hat-trick though.

Of the team performance, Marlon added, "It was a great performance. Every player was important, everyone played well and we showed what we can do against Villa. They are a strong side with plenty of Premier League experience. But we came out, attacked them right from the first whistle and they just couldn't handle us. There is a fantastic atmosphere around the squad. The feeling is great and I think it's showing on the pitch in the way we are playing. It was a tremendous performance, I'm delighted to have taken home the match ball and helped win the team what could prove to be a really good three points. We knew that Aston Villa were a team that we should beat at home, but we're confident going into every game because at this level you have to be. It was a great night and the fans were magnificent. They inspire us in every game, so to score three goals in front of them in such a good performance is just fantastic. It was definitely our strongest performance since coming back to the Premier League. But we've played well in all four games and it's been a great start. I think we've probably surprised a few people at the way we've played, but we were confident going into the season and things have started well. After losing against Bolton it was important for us to get back to winning ways, and it was a fantastic result. Now we just need to focus on keeping this form going. We'll enjoy the result and then it's back to work to prepare for the trip to Fulham this weekend."

I must say it's pleasing to hear the West Ham team talk of Aston Villa - a stalwart of the Premiership - being a "team they should beat at home".

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