The first Saturday of the year was a little busy as I had just flown in from Vegas / via Dallas. BA had lost a bag and I needed to get to the early kick off between the Hammers and Liverpool.
I took my seat just after Liverpool had gone close with a cross goal shot, and seemed to have come out of the gate pretty quickly. WHU, however seems to be shutting them down quickly and efficiently. About 30 seconds later Enner Valencia popped in a cross which was met by Michail Antonio to take lead for West Ham. Nice work Sir. The lad who couldn’t get in the team now has 2 in 2.
Liverpool as you would expect had the lions share of the possession, but no end product. Benteke had a one on one after Collins had misread a ball, but Tomkins came across from his right back birth to shepherd the ball out of danger. As mentioned earlier, WHU were harrying and closing down in numbers , so threats were kept to a minimum . Emre Can hit the bar just before half time, but apart from that , WHU were good for the half time lead.
In the second half West Ham played more forward, with Kouyate winning a lot of ball and bring it forward and the midfield were more fluid and interchangeable. In fact , it Was Mark Noble who popped up on the right flank to cross the ball which was met by Andy Carroll to double the lead, and promote some rather enthusiastic celebrations from the number 9, who was let go by Liverpool having been (and still is) their record signing. Liverpool were left to stream forward looking for something, and Klopp didn’t shirk by replacing defenders with midfielders, probably noting that even though we were 2 up, some lucky deflections and defending was contributing to the score. Not to mention the woeful shooting by Liverpool. I cannot remember the last time a team shot so many balls over the bar.
WHU managed to close out the game to win the first game in 2016 with the same scorers as the last game of 2015, and jumped to 5th being the early game.
Once again WHU win a game which will be reported as poor play by the opposition.
However, WHU played well and were all over the pitch. I think Slaven has realised that letting the opposition have the ball all day is not profitable and quicker teams (such as Liverpool) will cut through us (like Leicester did).
The reintroduction of Payet, was very much welcomed by the home faithful, and I get the feeling he only came on after we were 2 nil up, and his name started to ring around the ground. He played a bit of a cameo, but still managed to set up Carroll, and turn Lucas inside out. Hopefully we hold onto him throughout the transfer window. Other players who deserve a mention are James’ Collins and Tomkins. Both were strong in the tackle, and Tomkins seems to be relishing his right back spot (although some of his bombing down the wing needs some finesse !) . One player who really needs to be looked at and I have mentioned it before is Enner Valencia. We paid over 13m for this guy and he is knocked off the ball at the drop of a hat. Personally I don’t think he is EPL standard and would happily bin him this window.
MOTM today was the much maligned Andy Carroll, who battered Liverpool’s defence today, never gave up and got his desserts with a great goal to seal the game.
Not a massive fan of late kick offs so I dragged myself down to Upton Park for this game which had been moved for our friends on the telly. Having a chat with Angry pre game, and some random turns up and gives us free beer as his mates had disappeared, so the day was looking up. Anyway the bottom line of this chat, was that for us to get anything out of this, Liverpool needed to be having an off day. But at least we have a chance after it appears that Sam’s attacking football ™ is starting to gel, following the Hull game last Monday.
So the game starts in front of a vocal full house and the atmosphere is electric. After 90 seconds it goes to 11 once Winston Reid scores from a Tomkins knock down, the put the hammers into the lead. As everyone was settling into the pattern, of Liverpool attack and WHU counter, when Sakho lofted over Mignolet from the right hand side to double the lead, within 6 minutes. Now, whether it was really a cross or not, I’ll leave for him to answer, but from the Bobby Moore Upper it looked fantastic.
Being a West Ham fan, you know this isn’t enough, so the more Liverpool got the ball, the more concerned for the final result you were. And they got the ball a lot, but Balotelli and Sterling didn’t really offer the threat of a Sturridge and Suarez. One other highlight in the first half was everyones favourite pantomime villain Balotelli, going straight through Adrian, and nearly get a hiding for his trouble, but in the end they both settled for yellow cards. Liverpool got one back just before half time, when a Balotelli shot rebounded off Cresswell onto an onrushing Sterling to fire into the bottom left corner, with a well taken strike. The half time conversation was not as comfortable as you would expect being 2-1 up, and we started the second half waiting for inevitable. Which never came. The scousers battled on and had way more ball. but there was no plan B outside of give it to Sterling. Gerrard wasn’t driving on and Henderson looked like he had regressed two years.
West Ham had the odd counter, but to be fair this period wasn’t as eventful as the first half, unless you count Lovren chasing after Valencia, because Valencia won the ball in the air, but Lovren was convinced he had been butted (he wasn’t, but he had taken a massive bang in the head in first half, so maybe can be forgiven for his reaction). With 2 minutes to go, WHU broke and an improving Downing threaded through a great ball for new boy Amalfitano to slot home the final goal of the game, and end any hope Liverpool had of points today.
I don’t say this very often, but Sam got it right today, keeping Sakho and Valencia up top, and putting in Alex Song with Noble. Alex Song. Now this guy is some player. He doesn’t do any more than anyone else, but everything he does is completed correctly, and without fuss. He makes every pass and sees balls that our other midfielders don’t. And he knows when to put himself out there to pick up a card, just to stop the game. Lets hope he stays. Also something else i don’t say a lot, Downing played well, and seems to be happier in his distribution now we have a quicker frontline. Lets hope Sam allows this midfield to continue to flourish, once Nolan is fit.
Sam also made the right call, by throwing on Collins as soon as Rodgers put in Lambert, to make sure the existing players on the pitch didn’t have to change their style to combat a new offence.
So well played Sam, well played West Ham, and well played Alex Song (MOTM). Going back to my pre game chat, I don’t think Liverpool had an off day, I think they are just at that level without Sturridge. They better enjoy the CL this year, because I don’t think they will be in it next year. Also, If Sterling and Borini would like to stop the diving, that would be nice as well.
Not having won here for 50 years, I wasn’t expecting WHU to tear up any trees here today at Anfield.
We started minus Andy Carroll for loan condition reasons, and drafted in Carlton Cole to lead the line. It was telling that after 10 minutes the commentator pointed out that WHU were playing with a back six! We were defending a constant stream of Liverpool attacks. This seemed to get even more intense when Sturridge replaced and injured Downing after 25 minutes.
Collins and Tomkins (in for the injured Reid) seemed to be blocking and tackling everywhere.
Diame for WHU was making to odd forage forward but Cole’s lacks of recent games seem to be showing with poor touches and non-existent passing. Towards the end of the half a loose pass from Liverpool led to Cole being straight on goal and his shot rebounded from Agger when it should of at least made the goal. WHU made some reasonable attacks towards half time but it was Liverpool on points at half time.
The second half was more of the same, but with WHU having a little more of the ball. Collins seem to have moved man to man on Suarez, which worked most of the time. Jarvis was seeing a lot more of the ball and seem to be breaking down the Liverpool defence, especially Carragher. Liverpool had countless attacks repelled, and a good shout for a penalty when Gerrad was taken down by Tomkins. The replay to me, showed it was a blatant pen.
In the last 10 mins Pogatetz had to come on for the now injured Tomkins (get well soon Reidy 🙂 ). Collison had a great header cleared off the line by Lucas for an unlikely first goal. In the absence of Tompkins, James Collins was immense in the last few minutes of the game.
No one will deny that this game was Liverpool’s to lose, and with a point today they will feel they have. However it is another step for WHU towards premiership continuity, which is needed even more with the extra money coming into the league next year and the impending move to our new stadium.
James Collins gets the nod for MOTM as he was immense, but Jussi, Diame, Jarvis, O’Brien, and Tomka all put a shift in.
All in all a frustrating game for both sides fan’s to watch, but for different reasons.
After last weeks amazing result against Chelsea, my return to the Boleyn after missing a couple of games, was full of promise. I was under the assumption that bearing in mind the form Liverpool found themselves in, we should be more than favourite to take all 3 points and cement our position in the top half of the table.
I should counter this with my record, which is following me into this season,of missing all the good games and witnessing the throwaways and boring old nil nils in the cold.
The cold was in attendance and the first 10 mins followed suit with Liverpool dominating the early exchanges. Hammers old boy Glen Johnson seemed to have a free reign down the Liverpool right. He capitalised on this in the 11th minute with an absolute cracker of a shot into the top corner to put the Scousers in the lead. A bit like last week against Chelsea, this seemed to wake West Ham up and the midfield of Nolan, Noble and Diame started to carve apart Gerrard, Lucas, and Allen. Diame again was dynamic in his running.
Demel seemed to be getting the better of Liverpool on the right and in an uncharacteristically forward move, had a shot hit Allen on the arm and WHU got a penalty. Noble stepped up and put it Reinas right to equalise. Then WHU really piled on the pressure and were rewarded (!), when Sir Steven Gerrard of Huyton headed a WHU corner into his own net, like Shearer in his pomp.
To be up at the break was probably a fair score even if the goals were from strange sources.
WHU started the second half with Demel off for McCartney, presumably to counter Johnson. This seemed to change nothing, as WHU were easily on top in the early exchanges. Carlton Cole was playing a blinder, accepting passes from everywhere and bringing people into play. Maybe all that time on the bench, has made him study the best parts of Carroll’s game.
With about 20 mins to go, disaster struck. Diame pulled up on another rampage down the right. His substitution was always going to affect WHU, but it also seemed to provide impetus to Liverpool, as the main WHU threat / blocker was leaving the field. Within 3 minutes Joe Cole (ex Hammer) pounced on a ball from Sterling to pull the Pool level.
They then pushed on and got the job done, as Shelvey and Collins got stuck in, and the ball came off Collins to make it 3-2 Liverpool. Turns out Shelvey was a WHU schoolboy as well. Great.
That was that.
Whether they deserved the win or not, I’m probably not the best to comment, but my opinion is no. They were all over the place at times, but fairs fair, they smelt blood and went for it.
So Diame then. Talk about the club shooting itself in the foot. He has a good game that makes the headlines (Chelsea), and all of a sudden our best secret is leaving for Liverpool, Newcastle or Arsenal. And the club are the only ones discussing it. Surely a simple no, would be better than bandying around contract details. This all might be mute though, as he might be out for 12 weeks , easily seeing out the transfer window (thanks to T-C for my ricket regarding the ACN). Apparently he came to WHU for the contract, so up it and get a resign, simples. Irrespective of Diame leaving we need more midfielders in Jan, as Tomkins cannot keep filling in, in this league.
In other news, another WHU old boy was in the headlines, as Rio got coined in the Manchester derby. Bearing in mind how slow he moves these days, you could of hit him with a fiver from 30 yards !
Todays MOTM, purely for taking his chance back in the first team, and having about the best game i’ve seen him have in over a year, was the cult hero of Upton Park, Carlton Cole. Talk about a confidence player, 2 weeks ago I wanted him out of East London ! Fickle football fan, me ?
PS We also this week, won some Olympic thing or other. More news on that in about 5 or 10 years when all the legal wranglings stop !