Monday, November 28, 2005
A valiant performance by West Ham was not enough against a Manchester United spurred on by the memory of George Best, as the Red Devils put on a show worthy of the occasion.
As the old saying goes, West Ham started brightly. Man U had the ball for the first 30 seconds from kickoff, then the London club won the ball and Teddy Sheringham sent Matty Etherington sprinting down the wing in enough space to fit a small European province. Anton Ferdinand's brother (Rio, I think his name is) neglected to come across to challenge Matty, and Silvestre also failed to track Marlon Harewood's run. Matty's ball to Marlon was accurate to an angstrom* and perfectly weighted, Marlon didn't waste the chance and slid it past Van Der Sar. The clock read 52 seconds, and the West Ham faithful went bananas.
It was worth spending a paragraph on that lovely goal, because the rest of this report is going to be pretty much all about Manchester United.
Sir Alex's men showed how to pass the ball in very tight spaces as West Ham tried to close them down. Roy Carroll showed his determination against his old club by saving brilliantly from Van Nistelrooy and Scholes. That's not to say West Ham weren't causing problem for the Man U back line, with Silvestre very lucky not to have been sent off after pulling Harewood down just outside the box. However, Bart Simpson's alter ego adjudged the Frenchman not to have been the last man and gave him only a yellow. Yossi's free kick deflected wide.
Man U hit back by forcing another good save from Carroll, pushing away a low shot from Rooney.
Towards the 40 minute mark, Silvestre left the park, having looked very shaky against a fired-up Harewood and being replaced by a funny looking bloke by the name of G. Neville. Wes Brown was given the task of keeping Marlon quiet, and he didn't really achieve that until the big man got weary towards the end.
As the first half would on West Ham had taken the sting out of Man U and were starting to take some shape, and the Irons went into the break a goal to the good.
Early in the second half Repka - who hasn't been exactly world-class lately - gave the ball away and made a fool of himself trying to win it back from the lively Jee-Sung Park. The South Korean fed the ball to Rooney, who twisted past Danny Gabbidon and shot past Carroll.
At some point Harewood had a chance but side-footed tamely to Van Der Sar instead of knocking the skin off the ball. Yossi was also looking lively, winning the ball in tight situations but unable to penetrate enough to provide, or get, a goal.
The Man U pressure paid further dividends later when Carroll somehow failed to punch away a corner, and O'Shea headed in to make it 2-1 to the visitors. Van Nistelrooy almost made it three with a superb chip that came off the underside of the bar, and then Carroll was back to his best to deny the Dutchman by stealing the ball from his feet. It wasn't as though West Ham were playing poorly, but Man U were the better side.
Wayne Rooney should have been sent off after viciously hacking at Gabbidon, but like the irritating little f*cker schoolboy that he is, got away with only a yellow. He followed that up by missing an open goal.
Alan Pardew summed the match up well when he said afterwards, "We came up against a team that was very focused on doing a job with some outstanding players. We had some outstanding performances to lead at half-time but the quick goal knocked a bit out of us. Then we saw the real power of Manchester United. We worked hard and made them play to their maximum so I can't ask for any more. They gave everything they had."
West Ham remain in the top ten on the Premiership table and sit at ninth with a game in hand over eighth-placed Manchester City.
* I bet that's the first time that phrase has ever been used in relation to football.
Carroll 7: His only mistake led to the goal and dropped him a point. Some great saves kept the scoreline reasonable.
Repka 5: Once or twice his enormous experience paid dividends, but he could not keep Park quiet and his distribution and crossing, even when given time and space, was very poor. Indirectly at fault for the first goal.
Ferdinand 7: Better than his brother, who left the club five years ago. Dealt with a difficult attacking force very well and was calm under pressure.
Gabbidon 6: Defended fairly well against a brilliant Rooney but sometimes chose the wrong option. No more long balls please Danny.
Konchesky 7: His usual game, which is a compliment.
Benayoun 7: Showed his silky ball skills but could not get any end product. Fought hard and came into the game more as it went on.
Mullins 6: Won the ball a few times and showed pretty good distribution. The four central midfielders (Mullins, Noble, Fletcher, and Smith) seemed to cancel each other out, which I guess means the West Ham duo played well, but I can't really remember much about it.
Noble 6: Slightly out of his depth here, but seemed to learn and got more involved towards the end. Showed glimpses of what he can do. Needed the early booking to calm down, but that meant that he was quieter in a playing sense too.
Etherington 8: Credit where it's due. Matty played great today and is becoming more of a fighter. Backed himself against a good defence and did not give Brown, Neville, or Rio an easy time of it. Faded in and out but gets an extra point for pure effort. Great assist too.
Sheringham 6: Good distribution but doesn't last more than 45 minutes. Should be used as a super sub. Very unfortunate to be booked.
Harewood 8: Did great in the first half, winning every high ball and causing lots of problems for the Man U defence. Seemed to weary as the game went on and would benefit from a fitter parner, i.e. Mr Zamora.
Dailly (on for Mullins) 6: Did a job.
Zamora (on for Sheringham) 6: Showed some good touches but no real impact. By the time he comes on, the team is tired and can't benefit from his hold-up play.
Newton (on for Etherington) 6: On late.