Saturday, 23rd April 2011
An horrific start for Avram Grant's side saw them go two goals behind after just quarter-of-an-hour - a margin that, despite a spirited effort thereafter, proved too much to eradicate.
As if the task in hand wasn't hard enough to begin with, manager Grant was forced to field an unfamiliar midfield including Freddie Sears and Luis Boa Morte with Gary O'Neil, Mark Noble and Scott Parker all sidelined through injury.
And it soon got worse for Grant and his side when Nigel De Jong gave the Citizens a 10th minute lead; the Dutch midfielder pouncing on a clearance via a corner to fire home through a crowd of bodies from outside the box. It was the Dutch midfielder's first goal since joining City nearly two years ago - and came just a week after Fernando Torres was allowed to break his Chelsea stalemate against West Ham.
Five minutes later and it looked as if we may be heading for a cricket score when Lars Jacobsen turned the ball into his own net whilst trying to hook clear a goalbound Zabaleta effort. However as City, in possession a two-goal cushion relaxed, West Ham continued to press forward - and Demba Ba profited in the 33rd minute when he fired home from inside the six yard box. Had the Senegalese striker not scored referee Howard Webb would almost certainly have awarded a penalty for a hand ball moments earlier.
City, finally realising that the game may not quite be the walk in the park it had appeared after 15 minutes stepped up the pace as the half ended to finish the stronger. But Avram Grant will no doubt be delighted at the way his team responded after the break as they pretty much matched City - despite failing to find the goal that would have given them a valuable point in the battle to avoid the drop.
The Citizens - for whom the win virtually guarantees Champions League football next season - had the better chances after the break, if not the possession; Mario Balotelli saw one effort crash off the underside of Rob Green's bar whilst Manuel Da Costa - on as a first half replacement for the injured (again) Matthew Upson - was forced to clear another effort off the line. Da Costa's 62nd minute header from a Thomas Hitzlsperger corner was the closest United went to grabbing an equaliser.
So overall it was a reasonable performance from which encouragement should be taken, despite the defeat - and although a disappointing result, with none of the bottom four managing to secure a win this weekend (Wolves drew 1-1 at Birmingham earlire in the day) United go into the final three games of the season just three points away from safety.
A difficult, yet far from insurmountable task. The season begins now.
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A couple of decent saves. He saw the first goal late and couldn't have done anything about the second. Made a bit of a mess of one shot.
Unlucky with the own goal. Not an amazing performance but did some decent defensive work. Would be good for next season, wherever we may be.
Not a bad game, he dealt with Johnson quite well. Did well for an out-of-position player.
Far and away our best defender. A good off-the-line clearance, strong in the tackle and in the air for most of the game.
So Captain Fantastic suffers another 'injury.' While I didn't fully see what happened, I fail to see how he can be running the pitch one minute and running off when he is substituted while he is 'injured'.
Not the same player since the international break for whatever reason. He didn't get to De Jong fast enough for their first goal and many of his passes were overhit.
Solid, gives energy in the midfield and who knew he had an eye for the pass? Not outstanding, but reliable.
Luis Boa Morte
Didn't have too much joy out on the left at the start but harried their players all game and did a sound job when playing in the holding role by tracking their runs.
Gives us energy and never stops running, gave 100 per cent throughout. Can beat his man and pick a pass, we definitely have to keep him.
He caused problems for their defenders and showed good desire for his goal. I would play him in the middle for the Blackburn game. Was not as effective on the left.
Missed a sitter, wasn't very involved in the play but can sometimes be fairly creative. Not sure what's with his finishing lately, but he's not as composed as he once was.
Manuel Da Costa
(Replaced Upson, 26 mins) A decent enough game, he won a fair amount of headers and was unlucky not to score (in a way).
(Replaced Keane, 66 mins) He didn't make too much of an impact but was unlucky with one goalbound shot which was blocked by Lescott.
(Replaced Boa Morte, 79 mins) Little involvement.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Howard Webb.
Man of the Match: James Tomkins.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Lars Jacobsen, Danny Gabbidon, James Tomkins, Matthew Upson, Thomas Hitzlsperger, Jonathan Spector, Luis Boa Morte, Fred Sears, Demba Ba, Robbie Keane.
Goals: Demba Ba 33 .
Booked: Danny Gabbidon 49 .
Sent off: None.
Hart, Kompany, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Lescott, Y Toure, De Jong, Barry, Johnson, Silva, Balotelli.
Substitutes: Milner (De Jong 45), Dzeko (Barry 74), Vieira (Balotelli 86).
Subs not used: Jo, Boyata, Wright-Phillips, Ta .
Goals: De Jong (10), Zabaleta (15).
Booked: Zabaleta, Barry, Johnson.
Sent Off: None.