Saturday, 24th September 2005
The anticipation in the run-up to this match was something else. With all due respect to the likes of Blackburn and Bolton (i.e. none whatsoever) the true test of how far we’ve come since relegation was always going to be how well we dealt with the teams that perennially qualify for the so-called Champions’ League.
The line-up was as expected. Having given most of his first choice a day off for the League Cup AP brought everyone back to give what is rapidly becoming , whisper it, a strong and settled starting XI of Carroll, Repka, Konchesky, Gabbidon, Ferdinand, Reo-Coker, Etherington, Mullins, Benayoun, Sheringham, Harewood. Arsenal, though they had injuries to one or two players were, not for the first time, able to call on a fully fit Mike Dean.
Both sides started brightly and there were half-chances at both ends. Van Persie’s effort from distance was about as on target as a Gordon Brown budget growth forecast. Yossi’s followed this with a clever bit of play that made Ashley “Chelsea Reject” Cole looking very foolish. Yossi’s cross went towards Matty who, on his own admission, probably isn’t the best in the air. Mind you he might have done better had Lauren not been leaning all over him. Meanwhile another low shot from Van Persie brought out what was I think, the only save Carroll had to make all game, gathering comfortably low to his right.
Our closest chance of the first half came on 12 minutes. A quick interchange of ended up with Matty being upended outside the box. Amazingly Dean got a decision right – the coin presumably having come down tails. Teddy’s free-kick from just outside the box went about a foot wide with Lehmann nowhere.
Arsenal’s best moment of the half came from the otherwise anonymous Reyes. Konchesky cleared well from the left hand side of the box but the ball eventually came back to Reyes on our right. Finding himself closed down he did well to get in a clipped shot with no backlift that crept just wide. Carroll was scurrying a bit but would probably have got there.
Of course no game without Mike Dean in the middle is complete without refereeing that is off the scale of mere human comprehension and this match was no exception. A short corner move between Matty and Yossi saw Yossi brought down in full view of Dean. In fact Dean’s view of the incident couldn’t have been better. So why he turned down the appeal I can only guess. Of course given his history of incompetence and outright corruptness one might speculate that his continued deliberate flouting of the laws of the game might have something to so with his need to promote the betting website he is involved in. This was something that prompted a suspension by the authorities last season. I just wish those same authorities would investigate this idiot’s refereeing.
This moron is a complete and utter disgrace to the game who continually goes out of his way to be the centre of attention. The standard of refereeing in the league would be improved 100% at a stroke simply by sacking this buffoon – and making him pay compensation for each game he’s ruined in his career might with any luck bankrupt the moron. As if that wasn’t bad enough Dean then missed missed Cole’s blatant handball on the edge of the box – though I have absolutely no confidence that he’d have given the free-kick if he’d seen it.
At half time we were treated – if that’s the word – to a badly synchronised dance routine in celebration of the Olympics coming to London. It was slightly tacky to be honest and one or two around me questioned the choice of music – “Welcome To The Jungle” given the ethnic mix of the kids involved. Perhaps we’re all being a little too sensitive these days. My main complaint that the opening to Guns N’ Roses was replaced by an appalling chunk of crap novelty act Madness.
Back to the action and, having been quiet for at least nine minutes Dean felt the need to make his presence felt again. Yossi, who has an impressive line in long throws for one of so slight a build, slung one into the box. Anton beat Lehmann to the ball and flicked back to Reo-Coker who hooked the ball goalwards only to see Fabregas block the ball with his arm. The ball got played out and as they broke away the ball was palmed away by the breaking Arsenal player. Incredibly Dean gave the free-kick Arsenal’s way.
This was too much for Teddy who was incensed at Dean’s incompetence. Dean of course needs no invitation to make a name for himself by cautioning the famous and promptly cautioned Sheringham, though neither of the two Arsenal players who pushed Teddy were considered famous enough to be booked. As for the penalty shout. Well let’s put it this way. At the start of the season referees tell managers what they’re going to do each season. This year managers were told that if players make themselves bigger with their arms and the ball hits the arm a penalty would be given. Presumably Dean was at that meeting – or was at least aware of the contents - so why did he choose to ignore the instructions from his own bosses, something that would get you or me the sack. I have no idea but it became yet another in a long catalogue of appalling decisions from this pathetic excuse of an official.
Dean was now on a roll. Repka picked up a yellow for the day’s single most innocuous challenge – and it was surprising that Dean did not go one stage further when Tomas queried why he had failed to apply the law on “delaying the restart of play” when an Arsenal player threw the ball away in an act of petulance. I’d quite like to know the answer to that one Mr Dean too. Thankfully Teddy chipped in with words along the line of “Leave it Tomas – he’s not worth it”.
Harewood then got the better of a defender and slipped the ball past Lehmann who handled well outside the box. This would have been a red card but for Dean’s vivid imagination which conjured up a foul from Harewood though there had been absolutely no contact from the forward.
With 10 left on the clock Zamora came on to replace Teddy and with only a few left on the clock Bobby had a chance to win the game. Matty crossed from the left but Zamora glanced his header from close in horribly wide. It could have proved very costly as up the other end Hleb, who was the pick of the visitors, sent a through ball that, had Ljungberg’s touch been better would have seen the Swede through on goal in a great position to get a dive in. Or even score – you never know. Thankfully the ball bounced off the Swede’s shin and went safely through to Carroll.
The final minutes were seen out fairly comfortably with 10K coming on for Etherington for the closing stages and an entertaining match that Dean had tried- but failed – to ruin came to a close. As mentioned this was probably the biggest test we faced to date and it is a measure of the confidence and belief within the side that the boss can select a side to go out and do a job tactically and that they are able to go out and stick to a plan. The defence has looked particularly impressive of late as well and as we sit at the time of writing at the dizzy heights of fourth place the players can be rightly proud of their efforts thus far.
Keep it up lads!
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One decent save in the first half but in truth he was barely tested.
Fairly solid though his distribution was sometimes not at its best. Nearly talked himself into trouble with the idiot Dean.
A fine game. Back on form after a slight blip last week at Fulham.
Impressive. The bloke who discovered both Anton and the other chap drinks in my local and has always maintained that Anton is the better footballer. This statement is beginning to raise fewer eyebrows than it used to.
On a day when there were a number of excellent performances at the back Gabbidon shaded it for the MOTM award for me. A lot of Premiership sides had a look at him at Cardiff and weren’t sure. Their loss!
Recovered from an early tendency to dwell on the ball getting caught in possession to put in another fine effort.
Circumstances dictated a more defensive role for NRC for much of the day today. He stuck to his task and was able to instigate the occasional foray forward.
At the risk of repeating myself, for one so skilful he puts in an amazing amount of work when we haven’t got the ball. Another referee – i.e. one not as corrupt as Dean- would have given the penalty his efforts deserved.
Matty got through a major amount of work. Not as eye-catching as he can be going forward but nevertheless caused the odd problem going forward on occasion.
Battled bravely against the twin opponents of Arsenal’s defence and the idiot Dean. No doubt his lack of a goal will prompt the odd insane moan from those who like to do so but he will rarely work so hard for no reward.
Having had a nice rest young Edward came back in and was unlucky not to get his name on the scoresheet. As usual there was the odd occasion that had one yearning for a pair of younger legs but, on a day when hard work was required he didn’t go missing.
(Replaced Sheringham, 80) Looked lively when replacing young Edward but perhaps ought to have done better with the late header.
(Replaced Etherington, 84) A deceptive player. His main role as sub seems to be to provide a more defensive focus to the right side of midfield and though he does this well, he is surprisingly tricky when going forward too.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Danny Gabbidon.
West Ham United
Roy Carroll, Tomas Repka, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Matthew Etherington, Marlon Harewood, Teddy Sheringham.
Booked: Teddy Sheringham 55 Tomas Repka 61 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Lehmann, Toure, Cole, Campbell, Lauren, Gilberto, Fabregas, Ljungberg, Hleb, Reyes, Van Persie.
Substitutes: Flamini (Gilberto 71), Abeyie (Reyes 73), Cliche (Van Persie 82).
Subs not used: Almunia, Cygan.
Booked: None booked..
Sent Off: None sent off..