Filed: Saturday, 11th August 2007
By: Matthew O'Greel
Whilst the players were from from their best today Alan Curbishley's key decisions cost the Hammers dear writes Matthew O'Greel.
The decision to go with Bobby Zamora instead of Dean Ashton was a brave one and Curbs may have been hailed as a master tactician had it worked out - but it didn't.
Zamora had one of those Teflon days when simply nothing would stick and the supporters - admittedly no longer a patient lot (were they ever?) - were baying for Ashton as early as midway through the first half.
His eventual introduction in the 62nd minute came too late to make a real difference, and the decision to replace George McCartney (who had probably been the pick of the back four) proved to be United's - and Curbishley's - undoing.
The first fifteen minutes of the second half had seen City under some serious pressure, with the Hammers profiting on both flanks (although slightly more so on the left).
McCartney's substitution - which on paper appeared sound given City's reluctance by that point to leave their own half - totally unbalanced the side as Matthew Etherington was forced to play more defensively with no back-up behind him.
With the Hammers now predictably aiming every ball at Ashton's head - as opposed to using the flanks which had looked to be their best way of getting back into the game, City coped with consummate ease and began to control the game once again.
That they did for the final half-hour; Curbishley had played all his cards by bringing on Etherington and Mullins for Boa Morte and Bowyer respectively at the break, and the game petered out thereafter (although it could have been worse but for the acrobatics of Rob Green late on).
What was perhaps more worring however was the basic lack of enthusiasm shown by the Hammers in the opening 20 minutes. It was in that period that the game was lost, and even more unexpected given that buzz that has been around Upton Park the last week or so following the win against Serie A runners-up Roma last weekend.
Also bizarre was Curbishley's/United's insistance on playing so narrowly - Freddie Ljungberg had been expected to play wide right, but for large parts of the first half he appeared to be playing more as a third striker, sitting behind the front two.
Meanwhile Luis Boa Morte was conspicuously absent from the left flank on several occasions, giving George McCartney, playing behind him, no outlet.
That was also the case for the entire back four who often had nothing more than a punt upfield as an option given the lack of width, and City's policy of keeping ten men behind the ball.
Sven Goran Eriksson may not have set foot on the pitch today but he played a blinder by producing a well-organised City side which blew away any pre-match conceptions regarding their lack of unity.
Meanwhile it's back to the drawing board for Alan Curbishley as he ponders next weekend's visit to newly-promoted Birmingham City.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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