Birmingham City 0 West Ham United 2
Saturday, 5th January 2019
by Chris Wilkerson
West Ham are through to the fourth round of the FA Cup after a 2-0 lunchtime win over Birmingham City.It was goals after two minutes and another in stoppage time at the end of the game that secured West Ham?EUR(TM)s safe passage through.
But the 90 minutes in between were less convincing than the two-gol cushion suggests, with Birmingham threatening throughout and West Ham struggling to create many chances.
Full debuts for Samir Nasri and Xande Silva, Pellegrini adopting a 4-2-3-1 with Marko Arnautovic somewhat a surprise inclusion up front.
In the end, The Hammers did little more than get the job done, and the big story of the game may well be the substitution of Arnautovic after only 20 minutes. It appears a bit of a mystery, with the Austrian angry as he left the pitch, remonstrating with his manager, and appeared to not have let it go as he sat on the bench to watch the rest of the game. Any injury was hard to spot, so hopes are that it was a extremely cautious precautionary measure.
It was Arnautovic who set West Ham on their way. A Diangana corner was headed towards goal by Ogbonna, a fine header but at a comfortable height for ?EUR~keeper Lee Camp. His save, however, was tame and flicked only yards in front of him. The ball lopped softly in front of Arnautovic, who had turned quicker than his marker and nodded in an easy opener and his third goal in three games since coming back from injury.
It gave the home side a level of comfort in what looked a tricky tie when drawn. Certainly, the game was played with the Premier League side in complete control in the early periods, Rice, Obiang and Nasri controlling the ball and the game.
But then Arnautovic was taken off. Pellegrini withdrew him to much consternation from the forward, who had not moments before sprinted quite comfortably after a long ball behind the Birmingham defence.
Andy Carroll came on, and the difference between the two was notable. The movement up front was suddenly very limited, with little threat in behind. Birmingham?EUR(TM)s defence was comfortable dealing with Carroll, who never looked fully fit and still doesn?EUR(TM)t seem to be propelling off the ground like he used to.
West Ham did threaten from a set-piece, but it was a header from Diop rather than the towering Geordie striker. A lovely whipped in ball by Nasri was met at full sprint by Diop, forcing a good save. Birmingham broke, and they will feel they should have done better as a chance in a good position was blocked by Masuaku.
Birmingham?EUR(TM)s confidence was growing, clearly causing concern for West Ham with inswinging corners, something that caused huge problems for the home side against Brighton too.
It was from one of these corners that Birmingham thought they must have levelled the game. Swinging to the back-post, where again West Ham couldn?EUR(TM)t win the header. Adrian was beaten, but Andy Carroll wasn?EUR(TM)t, moving off the front post to swing round and head the ball clear and save a certain goal.
There were half chances being made at both ends. Nasri and Diangana combined neatly to give Diangana an opening, but his shot was powered wide. The pair were passing and taking the ball on in tight areas, a positive sign for those looking to how Nasri can fit it at West Ham.
The half ended with Birmingham unsure how they were still behind, and they had made the chances to deserve to be level at half-time.
Masuaku was squared up and beaten far too easily down the left, with Mahoney free to drive into the area. He powered the ball across the face of goal only yards out, through Adrian?EUR(TM)s legs at the front post. Fortunately for West Ham, it was Antonio who got to the ball first, hooking it behind under pressure.
From the resulting corner, Carroll headed away only to a blue shirt on the edge of the box, but unlike Wednesday, West Ham were not punished for allowing space from 20 yards after a corner, the shot blazed wide.
Both sides went in at half-time aware they were in a game, with both sides having seen they could score just as easily as they could concede.
The second half was a little more flat.
Poor defending that gave Birmingham their first glimpse of goal in the second half. Nothing more than a simple, long ball over the top of Ogbonna and Masuaku, which Masuaku tried to volley clear, only looping it softly towards the area. Jutkiewicz ran onto the chance, but a poor volley floated harmlessly wide.
West Ham?EUR(TM)s left had been exposed numerous times by Birmingham, Masuaku looking suspect under pressure. Masuaku allowed crosses in on too many occasions, although any met by Birmingham attackers were thankfully of little threat.
As the half wore on, West Ham were able to keep a threat on the counter attack. Xande Silva, withdrawn late on for Anderson, was finding pockets of space and promising moments.
Whilst Carroll had been good defending corners, his work on the counter was static at best. Yet soon he had a chance.
An Anderson volleyed cross was guided on excellently by Carroll as he fell backwards. It dropped to Snodgrass at the back post, who faked to shoot before turning back onto his right foot. His touch was taken on instead by Carroll, with players in between him and the goal, but his shot was poor, side-footed high and wide.
With West Ham spurning any chance to put the game to bed, Birmingham again got in down West Ham?EUR(TM)s left. It was right back Wes Harding, powering in behind Ogbonna and Masuaku, but a heavy touch into the area took the ball into the six-yard box, where Adrian pounced down to block quickly.
From there, Carroll won a rare header from a long ball and spun into space as Anderson instinctively guided the striker?EUR(TM)s flick-on back into his path.
Carroll delayed to shoot first time, moving into the box and opening his body up to guide the ball in with his right. With the ?EUR~keeper approaching, Carroll instead decided to go round him, but his heavy touch took the ball too far from him and the chance to end the game petered out.
It was the best chance he?EUR(TM)d had, with little to attack in the air, and it was the first time he had really affected play on the floor.
But it soon didn?EUR(TM)t matter.
Obgonna wildly cleared a ball that Diangana did well to control and keep in. He played it inside to Snodgrass, who pushed forward before feeding Antonio out wide.
Finally, a cross came in that Carroll could attack. And he did it perfectly, arrowing towards goal, beating the defender and heading it down powerfully from about eight yards to give West Ham a stoppage time goal and seal their passage into round four.
It had been comfortable without being convincing, West Ham generally controlling the ball, out-passing their Championship opponents by 400 passes, although there can be concern that again build up to attack was slow and laboured.
But Third Round day is about winning, and West Ham had done so without ever really looking like slipping up. The biggest concern will be Arnautovic, with fans hoping his annoyance is a sign that he should be fit for next week?EUR(TM)s match with Arsenal.
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Player RatingsAdrian San Miguel Del Castillo
Smothered the ball well when Birmingham could have scored late on, didn?EUR(TM)t show much command of his area.
Solid defensively, with vital clearance at the end of the first half. Set up Carroll with exactly the kind of cross he had been begging for.
It was all down his side that the real worries came. If he wants his place back, he cannot play anything like this when given the chance.
Calm, rarely pushed out of second gear, but part of a defence that did deserve to concede.
The kind of shaky game that worries fans, and why he isn?EUR(TM)t pushing too hard to be first choice. Looks much more assured with Cresswell to his left.
Neat, calm, controlled. Can be seen across the width of West Ham?EUR(TM)s half making interceptions and winning the ball.
Doesn?EUR(TM)t take control of games when the side needs the ball to be played fast and smart going forward.
He?EUR(TM)s been out of football for a long spell, but he slotted in here very well. In tight spaces, Nasri showed skill and awareness, whilst also delivering some decent crosses. Good 60 minutes, barely gave the ball away, always wants it to feet. Lots of positives.
Lovely little player to watch at times, drifting between lines, quick and clever touches. Lacks a final ball, but good to see his confidence to take more shots on. Could use a little more strength, but he links with players like Anderson, Nasri and Arnautovic well.
Drifted in and out a little, but was clever on the ball out wide, showed lovely touches and beat men well, whilst also offering a threat on the counter and movement for the midfield players to work with.
20 minutes before he was withdrawn with a possible back problem. Seemed to be moving fine and was clearly unhappy to go off. Will rarely score an easier goal, but showed good poacher?EUR(TM)s instinct.
(Replaced (Arnautovic) He still doesn?EUR(TM)t look match fit and spent a lot of the game drifting away from attacks on the floor. But then the big chances all fell to him, and strikers getting into these positions are doing something right. Needs to improve, but a goal and good chances. Saved a certain goal and defended corners better than any of our defenders.
(Replaced Nasri) Settled the midfield a little when he came on, added a defensive edge and more hard work.
(Replaced Silva) For a cameo, Anderson created two big chances. An eye for a pass and a touch of class as space opened up.
Did not play.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Adrian San Miguel Del Castillo, Michail Antonio, Arthur Masuaku, Issa Diop, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Pedro Obiang, Samir Nasri, Grady Diangana, Xande Silva, Marko Arnautovic.
Goals: Marko Arnautovic 2 Andy Carroll 91 .
Booked: Issa Diop .
Sent off: None.
Birmingham City: Camp, Harding, Morrison, Dean, Colin, Mahoney (Otabor 83), G.Gardner (C.Gardner 46), Kieftenbeld, Maghoma, Adams, Jutkiewicz.
Subs not used: .
Sent off: None.
Referee: Roger East.
Man of the Match: Samir Nasri.