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Saturday, 7th July 2012

Austria Wien 3
West Ham United 1

by Ziga Kovac


West Ham United were beaten in their opening pre-season match by Austria Wien in unbearable heat at the Generali Arena.

There were some things that bothered me before the actual kick-off. The away fans received a mixed reception when arriving at the Franz Horr stadium, from people congratulating us on promotion to people saying we're just a cheap version of Tottenham! (no idea what that is supposed to mean)

Temperatures exceeded 30 degrees celsius and the cash turnstiles were supposed to open at 2pm, two hours before the match - but staff said they aren't allowed to open until more Police came to the away end. After some delay, we were sold tickets through a thick metal fence for €10 - while everyone else had free entry to the game.

The away end reminded me of the cage where Hannibal Lector was kept, with Police at the top of the stairs, a metal fence and two or three layers of net at the bottom and sides of the stand.

There were quite a few things that surprised me when our team was warming up. Stephen Henderson and Jussi Jaaskelainen seem really good together; cheering for each other and giving advice. Generally it seemed as if they were really good friends.

I was amazed with Ravel Morrison's ball skills which he demonstrated during his warm-up with Seb Lledget. I didn't notice before, but Sam Baldock is extremely fast; an explosive kind of player.

Moving on to the game, I was very pleased with the starting lineup and was particularly excited to see Henderson between the sticks plus Momo Diame and Morrison in the middle. West Ham lined up as follows:

Henderson, Spence, Tomkins, Reid, Potts, Taylor, Diame, Morrison, Lletget, Cole, Baldock.

It's been almost 24 hours since the game so you'll have to excuse me for not remembering every detail, but there are some things that stood out. Winston Reid had some trouble marking Slovenian striker Dare Vrsic, including his goal in 27th minute. Vrsic also missed a chance as early as the first minute of the game when his shot went wide from close range.

I haven't made up my mind about Henderson just yet. His distribution was great, he commanded the box, made no mistakes and none of the first half goals were his mistake, especially not the second one where he had absolutely no chance.

The first goal was the result of some very shaky defending by Jordan Spence and Lledget and Wien's Roland Linz was all of a sudden in a one-on-one situation with Henderson who allowed the ball to slip through his hands.

James Tomkins was exactly the same as we saw him throughout the whole 2011/12 season. No mistakes in defence, tough in challenges; he intercepted some balls which could have led to dangerous situations and also came close to scoring with a header.

One of the surprises, if not the biggest, was the performance of young Danny Potts. He locked down the left side, worked hard and I think he's a star in the making. He moved to centre back for the second half (shades of his father?) and did fine there as well.

Matt Taylor was pretty much anonymous even though he worked well with Potts on the left side, exchanging a few passes that caused some trouble. Momo Diame is exactly what Sam will expect him to be. He is very tough in duels and he made several important tackles when Wien counter-attacked. He also helped Morrison a lot in organising the attacks.

So what of Ravel Morrison? He wore black and white boots with a number 23 shirt in the first half, red and white boots with a number 22 shirt in the second. He played very different roles in each half.

The first half was all about him. He was the hardest worker on the pitch and always within 10 feet of the ball. From, let's say, 30 attacks we had in the first 45', he started 25. He would run to Tomkins, Reid or Henderson, pick up the ball, sprint with it to the halfway line and then distribute if necessary.

He's all what we've heard about him - great technical skills and great talent. Some of his passes weren't particularly accurate but in a matter of moments he or Diame would win the ball back. He pressured Simkovic in the fourth minute to the degree where he gave the ball away, gifting it to Cole. A few seconds later, Baldock scored (from Cole's cross).

In the second half, Kevin Nolan ordered Morrison to play wider as he and Noble took care of his duties. He wasn't in possession as much but again looked like… I'll say it… Premier League quality. A foul late in the late would, in some cases, be worthy of a red card, but this time it was only yellow.

I didn't think Lletget will be given a chance to play the full match. Wide right in the first half, he played at right back in the second. He was quick and good with the ball - however his error led to the home side scoring a 24th-minute equaliser.

Good old Carlton Cole. In the (good) 20 minutes he played, he made an assist. He was also penalised for five or six fouls in aerial duels, but my opinion is that those sort of duels wouldn't be fouls in the Premier League.

I think Baldock booked himself a Premier League ticket yesterday. Yes, his goal might be
categorised as slightly fortuitous, but he was in the right place at the right time. He jumped higher than the defender covering him to score and by the looks of it, young Sam was at least five inches shorter than him. Good passing, no misplaced balls and he came to the aid of the defence dozen of times.

Substitute Nicky Maynard came on after 25 minutes as Cole limped off. He did score just after the break from Ricardo Vaz Te's header but Nolan was penalised for fouling a defender. Again, I'm pretty sure this wouldn't have been called a foul in England at least eight times out of 10.

In the second half, West Ham lined up thusly:- Jaaskelainen, Lletget, Spence, Potts, McCartney, Morrison, Noble, Nolan, O'Neil, Maynard, Vaz Te.

We started the half with seven changes to the starting lineup. It was a clear
indication of which youngsters are tipped to play a part in the forthcoming league season. Potts at either left back or as cover for centre back; Lletget - who I think is some sort of all-rounder; Spence, who looked shaky at right back but surprisingly good at centre-half and, of course, Morrison in various midfield positions.

Even though I am a fan of younger players, I have to admit that Jaaskelainen was the better goalkeeper yesterday. He has no chance with the third goal but he has made a world-class save around the 70th minute mark. Jun's fierce shot was on it's way into the bottom right corner of the goal but Jussi somehow got to it. It looked a certain goal but the Finn got it somehow. Hats off.

Our most-recent signing (if we can call him that), George McCartney, was his usual self. Solid in defence and he knew when to go forward - as in the 49th minute when he shot narrowly wide. Mark Noble, Gary O'Neil and Nolan repeated their displays of last season; nothing spectacular but they controlled the midfield.

Ricardo Vaz Te was eager to score and went close twice - firstly with an effort similar to the first goal he scored vs. Brighton but this time, the ball flew over the bar, and secondly with a good header that would have hit the post that was redirected into the net by Maynard. Sadly, as mentioned above, a foul by Nolan was called after the ball has crossed the line.

In conclusion, it was a good match but it was clear that Austria Wien were in the final stages of their pre-season whilst we'd only completed a few training sessions prior to it. I think if it were October or November, Wien would have had no chance against our standard XI but yesterday wasn't November, it was a unbelievably hot Saturday in July - so hot that the referee called timeout twice to allow players to take on board refreshements.

The only thing that reminded me of Upton Park, here in Vienna some 1,000 miles away was a serious traffic jam after the match! West Ham's coach left fairly quickly, less than 30 minutes after the final whistly was blown.

So pre-season kicks off with a defeat, but if a bad pre-season means a good Premier League season, I'm all for it.



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 Click here to view all West Ham United vs Austria Wien match reports
 Click here to view all match reports by Ziga Kovac




Player Ratings

Stephen Henderson
Match notes to follow.


Jordan Spence
Match notes to follow.


Danny Potts
Match notes to follow.


James Tomkins
Match notes to follow.


Winston Reid
Match notes to follow.


Mo Diame
Match notes to follow.


Ravel Morrison
Match notes to follow.


Seb Lletget
Match notes to follow.


Matthew Taylor
Match notes to follow.


Carlton Cole
Match notes to follow.


Sam Baldock
Match notes to follow.


Substitutes


Nicky Maynard
(Replaced Cole, 26)
Match notes to follow.


Jussi Jaaskelainen
(Replaced Henderson, 46)
Match notes to follow.


Mark Noble
(Replaced Reid, 46)
Match notes to follow.


Gary O'Neil
(Replaced Taylor, 46)
Match notes to follow.


Kevin Nolan
(Replaced Diame, 46)
Match notes to follow.


George McCartney
(Replaced Tomkins, 46)
Match notes to follow.


Ricardo Vaz Te
(Replaced Baldock, 46)
Match notes to follow.



Match Facts

Referee: tbc.

Attendance: 7,150.

Man of the Match: Ravel Morrison.

West Ham United

Stephen Henderson, Jordan Spence, Danny Potts, James Tomkins, Winston Reid, Mo Diame, Ravel Morrison, Seb Lletget, Matthew Taylor, Carlton Cole, Sam Baldock.

Goals: Sam Baldock 4                  .

Booked: None.

Sent off: None.

Austria Wien

Heinz Lindner, Emir Dilaver, Georg Margreitter, Manuel Ortlechner, Markus Suttner, Alexander Gorgon, Dare Vrsic, James Holland, Tomas Simkovic, Roland Linz, Marko Stankovic.

Substitutes: Mader (Vrsic 59), Murg (Gorgon 68), Spiridonovic (Holland 76), Kienast (Linz 76), Rotpuller (Ortlechner 76), Rogulj (Marg'r 83), Wimmer (Suttner .

Subs not used: None.

Goals: Roland Linz (24), Dare Vrsic (27), Tomas Jun (75).

Booked: None.

Sent Off: None.

 
Ziga Kovac's Man of the Match: Ravel Morrison


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