Monday, 31st October 2005
You’ll never work again
42 years of going up the M6 – or whatever B road existed in those distant days – to then have to come back miserable as f*ck with the sound of gleeful Micky Mousers in your ears. Am I alone in really hating “You’ll never walk alone”? I’d rather listen to “Glory, glory T*ttenham Hotsp*rs”. After all, that is a comedy tune, given they’ve had about as much glory of late as Saddam Hussein.
Happily, this year’s fixture coincided with school half term, so ESM Jnr and I decided that Tenerife had to be a better option than Merseyside. Come to think of it, just about anywhere is a better option than Scouseland.
Gangsters with a big dish
Strolling down the promenade between Playa de Las Americas and Los Christianos in the blazing sun trying not to think about the match, ESM Jnr spotted a sign in a bar called ‘Goodfellas’ advertising the West Ham game showing live. Surely not.
10 seconds later we are sitting down with cold refreshments in hand awaiting the start of the game courtesy of the Egyptian channel ART. Apparently just about every West Ham 3 p.m. kick off on a Saturday has featured on the North African channel.
No doubt you’ll be nipping down to your local satellite supplier tomorrow morning to find out what NASA-size dish you need in your back garden to receive the transmission from Cairo. Not sure? What if I told you that the whole commentary is in English as well?
Maybe this was the year
Anyway, sitting in the sun, life always looks better and your heart begins to rule your head. Maybe we can do it this year. They’ve been playing crap. They lost to Fulham last week, for f*ck’s sake.
We lined up pretty much as expected although our camel-herding friends mistakenly had Carroll on the team sheet. Shaka was actually out there along with Konch, Gabbers, Anton and Repka across the back; Matty, Reo-Coker, Mullins and Yossi in midfield; and Bellion and Marlon up front.
Liverpool looked like they meant business, adopting a more attacking stance to try and improve on the one win in six that had preceded this game. Morientes (£6.3 million) and Cisse (£14 million) were paired up front, with beanpole Crouch (£7 million) left on the bench. I think everybody knew that the game would hinge on the contribution of Gerrard.
From the outset, the play was very open. On 3 minutes, Riise fouled Repka and Konch hit a dangerous ball in from the free kick which Marlon couldn’t quite reach in the box. A corner was won, but from the clearance Liverpool broke quickly. Cisse got in a good position but his shot was well wide of the goal.
Two minutes later, Tom gave the ball away needlessly and this led to a corner being conceded. The ball came out to Alonso who blasted a wild shot way past the right hand post.
On 7 minutes, Anton had to put a Gerrard cross behind for another corner and we looked really indecisive in the box with a couple of weak attempts to head clear. Garcia picked up the loose ball in the box and weaved his way through. Fortunately Gabbidon was there to step out from the goal line to block.
West Ham’s first real opportunity came on 11 minutes when Yossi was fouled in a promising position on the edge of the box by Gerrard, after the Israeli had pushed the ball past him. Yossi’s free kick caused no danger, though, as it was fired straight at the wall.
Tom went on a good run down the right on 14 minutes after been fed the ball very nicely by Bellion. He hit in a dangerous low cross to the near post, which Hyppia had to turn smartly away for a corner.
Tom deflects in
Three minutes later, and we were behind, after Tom was forced to concede a corner following a Liverpool move down their left. The ball was sent in and Reo Coker only managed to get three quarters of his boot on a volley, sending the ball out centrally. Alonso was waiting gratefully and he hit a powerful shot which got a slight deflection of Tom’s head, leaving Shaka no chance.
Mullins appeared to be having one of his less certain days as he gave the ball away poorly in his own half. Prior to the match, Pardew had been trying to suggest that Hayden would give Gerrard a run for his money. He had even said that he had been West Ham’s best midfielder so far this season (in front of Yossi and Reo-Coker? I don’t think so Alan), but he wasn’t living up to the manager’s pre-match hype.
Spurred on by the goal, Liverpool stepped up a gear, and Morientes, Gerrard and Cisse combined well to create a chance which was spurned by Cisse who looped a shot over the bar from just outside the box.
Yossi was given a surprise opportunity on 22 minutes as Claudio Reina fluffed a goal kick. He hit a first time shot back, but this was comfortably saved. Two minutes later, Tom was on the move again down the right and he managed to thread a ball through to Marlon who was unfortunately found in an offside position in the box with Hyppia having a generous fistful of his shirt.
Gerrard made one his trademark bursts forward on 27 minutes and made a fine pass to find Garcia on the left hand side of the box. He made a poor first touch, but on the second bite of the cherry, he managed to get a shot away which went straight at Shaka.
On 29 minutes, Marlon picked up a pass on the right wing, just outside the box, but his shot lacked control and went well wide of the left hand post. A minute later, Marlon did well to shrug off a Carragher challenge and then made a nice pass to the advancing Tom who won a corner. Unfortunately, Matty’s corner was overhit and eluded the head of Mullins in the box. That was to prove about the sum total of Etherington’s contribution during the first half as he continues to look out of sorts.
Tom got mugged by a Garcia nutmeg on 33 minutes and this led to a corner which was well cleared by the West Ham defence.
Marlon managed another good run forward on 36 minutes but his cross was blocked. He got the ball back again but was then denied a blatant corner as his cross was deflected behind.
The last action of note in the first half was a free kick for West Ham down the right which was hit into the box by Tom to find Anton’s head. The move broke down, however, because Bellion was in an offside position.
Liverpool probably deserved to be ahead on the evidence of the first 45 minutes. Their build up play was quick and their passing very effective in midfield. Our main threat was down the right when Tom got forward, but we had only one shot on target following a poor goalkeeping clearance. The midfield was struggling to handle Liverpool and Gerrard in particular and we had no options, it seemed, down the left. The positive aspect was that we had not conceded a second in the wake of Garcia’s goal.
Yossi taken out
There were no changes on either side at half time, and the first piece of action saw Alonso take out Yossi with a late challenge. The fragile-looking Israeli was already carrying a slight hamstring injury and he took some time to get up.
Another foul followed on 49 minutes as Morientes pulled back Reo Coker as he ran forward. This time the ref, Uriah Rennie, pulled out the yellow card.
Two minutes later, it was then our turn to upend a Liverpool player as Mullins fouled Alonso about 35 yards out. Our defence was alert to the angled pass and it was cut out. Immediately after, Mullins failed to control the ball and allowed Gerrard to find space and shoot, but the ball went well wide.
Konch double save
A clearance from a West Ham corner on 56 minutes allowed Cisse to run dangerously forward, but Tom did well to turn the cross behind for a corner. We were very lucky not to be two down as shots from both Hyppia and Morientes were blocked on the line by Konchesky standing by the right hand post.
On 59 minutes, Aliadiere replaced the largely uninvolved Bellion, and a minute after the change, Tom was off on another run down the right after a nice pass from Yossi. He did well to get into a good crossing position, but his half shot, half cross was gathered comfortably down low by Reina.
Liverpool responded immediately with Gerrard finding plenty of space in a central position. He looked to be lining up a shot but he uncharacteristically chose the wrong option with an overhit pass that Morientes couldn’t reach. Morientes did get hold of the ball in the box on 65 minutes, but Anton made a great tackle.
What a waste of money
The absent Matty was taken off on 66 minutes to be replaced by Teddy, an obvious move given the slender Liverpool lead. A minute later, Morientes had a golden opportunity after Finnan sent over an inch-perfect cross. A free header just outside the six yard box was held down low by Shaka who was surprised not to be taking the ball out of his net. Owen would not have missed that.
Two minutes after the Morientes howler, Garcia found himself in space in a central position just outside the box. He unleashed a powerful swerving shot which Shaka saved magnificently to his left with a strong hand.
On 70 minutes, Finnan was booked for kicking the ball away after a foul on Konch down the left. The free kick was delivered well into the box and Riise had to be on hand to head behind for a corner. The corner was chipped over to Marlon waiting in the box, but he was off balance and could only get half a boot on the ball.
No defensive move
Cisse came off for Zenden on 72 minutes as it looked like Benitez decided to try and shut up shop. Zenden had other ideas, as three minutes after coming on, he picked up a ball which Reo Coker gifted his way. He sent over a great cross which Morientes glanced wastefully wide. A minute later, Gerrard burst forward again, and after a one-two with Morientes he slightly overhit a pass into the box allowing Shaka to turn it away with his leg.
Despite the lack of West Ham chances on goal, Pardew decided on 80 minutes that a draw was still possible. He was gesturing 4-3-3 as Collins was brought on for Tom. This last roll of the dice proved immediately fruitless as less than a minute after the tactical change, Liverpool sealed the victory. A ball was sent forward down the West Ham right and Gabbidon stretched his foot out to try and stop it, but only succeeded in clipping it past Aliadiere. This allowed Zenden in and he cut into the box hitting a powerful low shot which went across the goal, hitting the far post and into the net. It was an unfortunate touch by Gabbers, but Liverpool probably deserved a second goal on the balance of play.
Crouch came on for Morientes on 89 minutes, but nothing more of note happened.
Lack of real opportunities
It was by no means a disastrous performance by West Ham, although we created very little indeed in the final third of the pitch. We only had one shot on goal and Teddy hardly touched the ball in almost 25 minutes after coming on. Bellion/Aliadiere brought little to our play up front and Gerrard was too much for our midfield. Liverpool’s strike force looks unimpressive, and on a different day, we may well have taking a real beating.
Let’s not get too depressed, though. We never really expected to get anything up there, although it could be said that Liverpool’s lack of form did give us a glimmer of hope. At the end of the day, we are still above them in the league, and who would have predicted that at the start of the season?
(Player ratings by Graeme Howlett)
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Was by far the busiest keeper and made several excellent saves. Had little chance with the second goal but could possibly have been positioned slightly better for the first.
His best game on the road since the win at Fulham last month. Subbed late on as the Hammers looked to nick an equaliser.
Worked hard under pressure. Rarely managed to get forward due to the Hammers being pressed back for much of the game.
Not his finest game in a West Ham shirt but still did a fair job on Morientes.
A solid game, and he managed to keep Cisse under wraps for much of the game. Some of the home fans were very impressed by his performance.
Worked hard and was at hand to break up several Liverpool attacks. Getting used to this Premiership lark.
Got stuck in for little reward. A fair game.
His worst game since arriving at the club in the summer. Rarely got into the game, although rumours of a midweek injury may have been the reason why he was quiet.
Not at the races in his first Premiership start. Still not looking 100% fit despite making his second start inside five days.
Half-hearted, uncommited and looked like he'd rather have been elsewhere. Rightly hauled off - again.
Uncomfortable playing as the lone striker and snatched at the rare opportunities that were presented to him.
(Replaced Bellion, 60) Ineffective despite getting a decent run-out. You expect more from a player who is so highly rated.
(Replaced Etherington, 67) The former Manchester United man was roundly booed by the home fans upon entering the fray. He was barely noticed thereafter.
(Replaced Repka, 82) Shades of Ian Pearce as JC was thrown up front in search of an equaliser. Two minutes after he came on Liverpool notched their second!
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Anton Ferdinand.
West Ham United
Shaka Hislop, Tomas Repka, Paul Konchesky, Danny Gabbidon, Anton Ferdinand, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, David Bellion, Matthew Etherington, Marlon Harewood.
Booked: None booked. .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Reina, Finnan, Risse, Hyypia, Carragher, Sissoko, Gerrard, Garcia, Alonso, Cisse, Morientes.
Substitutes: Zenden (Cisse 73), Crouch (Morientes 90).
Subs not used: Carson, Warnock, Hamann.
Goals: Alonso (18), Zenden (82).
Booked: Morientes (50), Finna (71).
Sent Off: None sent off..