Tuesday, February 14, 2006


West Ham 3-0 Birmingham City

The sky is no longer the limit for the high-flying Hammers, whose 3-0 dominance over Birmingham was enough to see them sitting, for the moment, in a UEFA Cup place on the Premiership table.

Team selection was, as usual, predictable, the only quirk of note being the selection of no less than three strikers on the bench - Zamora, Sheringham, and 100K Katan - to accompany Dailly.

The Irons started very well, passing the ball with aplomb and pulling off some lovely moves. Marlon Harewood made the breakthrough on the 10 minute mark by following up a Reo-Coker shot and lucky bounce, and slotted the ball coolly into the net. The celebrations were a little subdued, and without trying to make any assumptions about what goes through the team's minds, I hope they aren't a little too blasé about scoring goals.

It certainly looked that way for the next 20 minutes or so, as West Ham became too lax on the ball and Birmingham managed to battle their way back into the match, which became perhaps a more even contest. Hayden Mullins did manage to get himself in a prime scoring position but dallied over the ball slightly and was tackled. They had a couple of half chances, and some penalty-area scrambles, but thankfully nothing came of it. West Ham got a little hungrier after that and rounded off the half in relative comfort.

The second period was better for the home side, who virtually dominated the pitch. Yossi Benayoun missed to gilt-edged chances, once firing high after a poor first touch, and then placing a dismal pass across goal when he really should have taken the shot himself.

After a quarter of an hour into the second period the pressure told on Martin Latka, who accidentally handballed in the area. Harewood's penalty was parried but the striker followed up to get his second of the game and his eleventh (or is it twelve?) of the season.

The Irons were now cruising and put the game well out of reach a few minutes later. Scaloni put in a wickedly curling deep cross, which Yossi just barely missed with his head but Dean Ashton was in the right place at the back post and simply nodded the ball into the gaping net for his second goal in as many starts at the Boleyn Ground.

Player ratings:

Hislop 6: Not much to do, but was reliable when asked.
Konchesky 7: Took a while to get Pennant under control but managed it in the end. Overlapped very well but needs to work on his passing.
Gabbidon 7: Occasionally shaky but in general very good.
Ferdinand 7: His consistency is really impressive.
Scaloni 7: Mostly quiet, but a good assist for the third goal. Not much went down his side, which is a good sign.
Etherington 8: Excellent. Consistently a threat, and heavily involved in the match.
Reo-Coker 7: Didn't stamp his authority on the game as much as usual, but tried hard. Had some good moments, including some great passes.
Mullins 7: Off at half time - I didn't hear why.
Benayoun 7: Missed some good chances, but consistently got himself into positions where he could have scored. On another day would have had a hat-trick.
Harewood 8: Two goals, and some hard work as usual. Good support play.
Ashton 8: Class. Some really incisive passing, and stole the ball once or twice. At this rate he's well worth the money.

Dailly (on for Mullins) 7: Worked hard. Had one good crack at goal which was well held by the keeper.
Zamora (on for Ashton) 6: Didn't really get involved.
Katan (on for Etherington) 6: Like Zamora didn't get much time but seems good enough to get a run for most other clubs who don't have 4 first choice strikers!

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