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Premier League
Sunday, 7th December 2014

West Ham United 3
Swansea 1

by Raedwulf


Happy anniversary to me! Sort of. Not a year, but it was our last home game against Swansea, on the 1st Feb, when The Editor decided to promote my comments on a Staff report to the Match Reports section & I've been on the chain-gang ever since. What better way to celebrate than with another two goal win? Apart from freedom, possibly...

I jest, but as with their last visit, the Jacks contributed fully to an entertaining game. Their fans, though, will be none too happy, I'm sure. Having taken the lead yet again and not held it, their side has now given up 16 points from winning positions so far this season.

They will no doubt complain about the one controversial incident of the match - the sending off of Fabianski. There's no doubt, in my mind, that Chris Foy, who had an excellent afternoon, was right. In much the same way that Collins deliberately tried to take out Lukaku against Everton, the Swan's keeper got his angles wrong and was left with no choice but to balk Sakho.

Replays have later shown that Sakho handled the ball just before the foul. And the ref also apparently played advantage, only for Sakho to hit the post, before the red card was produced. How to sort that little lot out?

Go back to the replays. Those who want to quote handball as an argument that Swansea were hard done by would do well to also note that Williams gave Sakho a big nudge in the back immediately before that. Monk, after the game, has done the former, yet the latter appears to have escaped his notice. In addition, the whistle went before Sakho struck his shot.

It would have been interesting to see what Foy's decision would have been had the ball gone in. The correct sequence, as far as I can tell, is Williams nudges Sakho, Sakho accidentally handles with the officials unsighted, Fabianski deliberately balks, Foy whistles, Sakho shoots and hits the post. Had he scored?

Someone, the fourth official I think, has stated that Foy would have disallowed the goal and given the red card. And there simply isn't a good argument that the sending off was wrong. He tried to make it look accidental, but there can be little doubt that Fabianski knew he’d left himself no choice but to block Sakho and that’s exactly what he tried to do.

By that time, Swansea were already 2-1 down and struggling to get into the game. Despite taking the lead, before they scored, they'd done nothing in the game; after, they did have a few chances, and one sustained period of pressure near the end. Aside from that, we were dominant and, unlike the last two fixtures, there was nothing lucky about a well-merited three points. Even Monk concedes that.

Their goal was something to be admired, although there was some dozy defending on our point. After some precise passing, Montero surged past a flat-footed Jenkinson to pull the ball back for Bony. He has more Premier goals in the calendar year even than Aguero, and the first time clipped finish gave neither Reid nor Adrian the slightest chance of stopping it.

Until then, the bulk of the possession had been ours. Both sides passed well when they had the ball, throughout the game. It was in the final third that things tended to break down. Both sides were generally guilty of being too slow to get the ball forwards. The natural consequence was that disciplined defences were able to stifle a great deal, although some wayward passing helped too.

Before the Swans scored, we had a couple of weak penalty shouts. A poor Jenkinson cross hit a defender from close range. The cry went up for handball, but it was clearly ball to arm, with no chance for the defender to avoid it. Britton, formerly on our books, managed to poke the rebound away from Downing, who fell over Britton’s leg in trying to get a challenge in.

We had a much better case shortly after falling behind. Cresswell put a decent ball into the back post, which Carroll nodded back across to Valencia. His effort was deflected over. Downing put a dangerous corner across that managed to go straight through everyone. Part of the reason for that was that Bartley was blatantly holding down Carroll, and a penalty could easily have resulted.

It’s strange, really, because I was under the impression that the officials were supposed to be clamping down on all the bumping and barging and what-not that goes on in the area, but we shouldn’t complain – there was more than a hint of a foul in the Big Man’s second goal of the game.

His first came courtesy of one of the better examples of Jenkinson’s ability to cross the ball. Jenk’s managed to whip it around the full back quite beautifully, when it scarcely looked possible to miss him. Andy rose imperiously to nod head back across the stranded Fabianski, and we were level 5 minutes before half-time.

Valencia, who had not managed to link particularly well with Carroll, was replaced at the interval, with Sakho replacing him. He was lively for the whole half. On 65 minutes, Nolan did well to pinch the ball in midfield. It broke through to Sakho, who put a wicked low ball across the 6 yd box. It was deftly flicked away for a corner before it could reach Carroll.

However, that did Swansea little good, as Downing found Andy again from the corner. In acres of space, Carroll thumped his header inside the near post. It seemed to me that Reid had a long arm planted firmly in the chest of Bartley, but the truth is that the Swan’s defender had lost his man and was a good 3 yards away, in no position to challenge. Certainly, the ref saw no more wrong with that than he had with Bartley’s holding of Carroll in the first half, and the goal stood.

Two minutes later, Fabianski was off, and Sakho finished things on 86 minutes. Having survived a spell of Swansea pressure and 4 consecutive corners, Adrian’s goal kick was flicked on by Carroll. Sakho burst past two defenders to latch on to it and lash the ball past substitute Tremmel from 15 yards.

He might have scored a few minutes before. Having beaten Williams, not for the first time, he managed to strike the outside of the far post with a shot across goal. Much to Carroll’s disgust – a slightly easier option would have been to have played the big man in for an simple tap in for his hat-trick.

Sakho himself might have had a hat-trick, mind you. Aside from scoring once and hitting the post twice, he also forced a good save out of Tremmel in stoppage time at the end of a fine move that went from Carroll to Downing to the Senegalese.

All in all, aside from a fifteen minute spell after giving the goal away, it was a pleasing performance. The Jacks only had two further chances worth mentioning. In that fifteen minute spell, Kouyate was robbed rather too easily in midfield, but Bony pulled his shot just wide. Just before the hour, with the game still level, a rare Swansea break ended with Bony, again, pinging the top of the cross bar.

Apart from that, and the 3 minute spell at the end that featured those corners, whilst Swansea passed neatly enough, they threatened little. Indeed, thanks to a hard working midfield performance by the Irons, they had nothing like as much possession as they would have wanted. The stats were 59% in our favour at half-time, and still 56% at the end.

Apart from going to sleep for 20 seconds to concede, we were generally quicker and pressed more all over the pitch all through the game. Something that Monk graciously conceded afterwards.

On the other hand, amongst other bad reasons for why there should have been no red card, "It can't have been a clear goal scoring opportunity because he missed" has to be the worst piece of nonsense I've heard this season. If that seems hard to believe, bear in mind, I've so far managed to successfully ignore Warnock and Mourinho!

Dear Garry, "opportunity" means the same thing as "chance"; not "would have scored", but "could have scored". When the last defender is rightly sent off for felling the forward who has burst clear, there is still the goalkeeper to beat. The forward, if he isn't fouled, does not, by any means, always score. Do you understand what "opportunity" means now?

Besides, the question is WHO should have been sent off, not whether. You can easily argue that Williams could have gone. He pushed Sakho into the handball and into the collision. One or other of your players was more guilty of denying a clear goal scoring oppotunity than Diafra was of handball. And you can't get much closer to a goal scored than hitting the inside of the post!

Downing would be a good candidate for Man of the Match. As far as I could tell, Nolan was nominally still on the point of the midfield, but Downing seemed to have far more licence to roam in this match, and it worked ever so well. He was creative from open play, never mind a deadly supply of dead balls.

Carroll is the more obvious pick. Two goals, a bullied Swansea defence who couldn't cope with him, his best game since his return. Yet his distribution , though better than against WBA, was still somewhat off, more so in the first period when the combination with Valencia was clunky rather classy.

Nope. For, I think, his third consecutive appearance, my Man of the Match today was Alex Song. He won a free-kick against Bony in the first minute, played a good long pass, on five, to Jenkinson right down in the corner. If I go on like that, it will take several paragraphs to finish listing every one of his notable moments in the game. Let a few examples stand for the rest, then.

In the first half, fairly early I think, he played a poor through ball into the box. Had it been read by Valencia (if my memory serves), it would have been sublime. In injury-time at the end of the first 45, he rescued Reid with an excellent challenge after the latter completely missed a challenge.

Half an hour into the second period, a piece of cracking play saw him step inside and almost casually flick it through to Jenkinson. Jenk's failed to beat the keeper to the ball, and was offside anyway, but that takes nothing from the quality of the play and pass.

It feels a little strange to award Alex the accolade yet again. I've criticised his passing several times this season, and again today he was annoyingly just slightly off several times. Yet he has so many touches, so many interventions, so many passes, and just oozes class...

Our highest league position for many years is false. Whatever the result between Southampton and Utd on Monday, one will pass us, one will be behind. But with the Saints having lost to Arsenal in midweek, when Round 15 finishes, we will be 4th again.

There are still 12 points available in December. Effervescent bubbles aside, I don't see us beating Chelsea and Arsenal over Yule. Two or three points maybe;, four perhaps; Arsenal's defense looks very vulnerable this season; all six? I can dream, but cannot see.

First cometh Foxes and Black Cats. Leicester at home on the 20th is preceded by Sunderland away on the 13th. If you exclude the always present possibility of traditional West Ham coupon-busters, Leicester are in moderately dire straits at the moment. A home win, we would all expect.

Sunderland have had three tough games against Chelsea, City, and Liverpool, yet have managed to grind out two nil-nils, either side of losing to the Blues. It might not be a goalfest at the Stadium of Light, but it ought to be interesting. Who knows? We could yet finish the year in the Champions League places!



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Player Ratings

Adrian San Miguel del Castillo
No chance with the goal, little else to do, apart from a couple of comfortable saves.


Carl Jenkinson
At fault for the Swansea goal, terrific cross for the equaliser; pretty much sums up his day.


Aaron Cresswell
Once again, I didn't feel he was tested to the same degree as Jenk's, so no glaring error, but much the same contribution going forwards.


Winston Reid
Once again, a quieter game than Tomkins. Mostly untroubled, though Song had to rescue him after completely missing a challenge at the end of the first half.


James Tomkins
Once again, seemed to have more defending to do than Reid. Happily, didn't have even 3 dodgy minutes today.


Kevin Nolan
Was a little bit in & out of the game, in terms of effectiveness, but did a lot of running, some important defensive work and steals, and played a few nice passes too.


Cheikhou Kouyate
A mixed game. Gave the ball away poorly on the half-hour, but bravely threw himself at a header 5 minutes before the half-time whistle. So a fairly similar game to Jenks!


Alex Song
Ran all over the midfield, ran the midfield. And, occasionally, too clever for his team-mates.


Stewart Downing
Nolan, in theory, still had his place at the point of the diamond, but Downing seemed to have much more licence to roam today. Made good use of it, and good dead ball delivery too.


Andy Carroll
Two goals means he will be most people's MotM, but his distribution was often off again. Great to see him bullying a defence, great to see him on the scoresheet, but Song was the better man today, for me.


Enner Valencia
Didn't seem to combine very well with Andy, and didn't have a great deal of effect on the game. Plenty of effort, but seems a bit out of form.


Substitutes


Diafra Sakho
(replaced Valencia) On at thalf-time for Valencia. Lively the whole time, scored one cracker, might have had another couple, but might also have played Andy in for a hat-trick...


Joey O'Brien
(replaced Jenkinson) Came on when it looked like Jenk's had tweaked a hamstring. By that time, Montero was off, and consequently had very little to deal with.


James Collins
Did what he always does, but only on for 10 minutes.


Jussi Jaaskelainen
Did not play.


Morgan Amalfitano
Did not play.


Mauro Zarate
Did not play.


Carlton Cole
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Chris Foy.

Attendance: 34,125.

Man of the Match: Alex Song.

West Ham United

Adrian San Miguel del Castillo, Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Cresswell, Winston Reid, James Tomkins, Kevin Nolan, Cheikhou Kouyate, Alex Song, Stewart Downing, Andy Carroll, Enner Valencia.

Goals: Andy Carroll 41 Andy Carroll 66 Diafra Sakho 87              .

Booked: None.           .

Sent Off: None.     .

Swansea

Lukasz Fabianski, Angel Rangel, Kyle Bartley, Ashley Williams, Ashley Richards, Leon Britton, Sung-Yeung Ki, Wayne Routledge, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Jefferson Montero, Wilfried Bony.

Substitutes: Gerhard Tremmel (Leon Britton 71), Bafetimbi Gomis (Jefferson Montero 75), Nathan Dyer (Angel Rangel 86).

Subs not used: Jordi Amat, Jonjo Shelvey, Tom Carroll, Dwight Tiendalli.

Goals: Wilfried Bony (19).

Booked: Wayne Routledge (50).

Sent Off: Lukasz Fabianski (68).

 
Raedwulf's Man of the Match: Alex Song