Wednesday, 26th April 2006
Only the mention of Scottish goalkeeping genius Alan McKnight drew a rather gutteral groan from a veteran Eaststander near me. As my therapist has often told me, “It’s time to put that behind you and move on.”
What do they do when it rains?
It’s a strange coincidence or maybe a statistical inevitability that we have faced Premiership teams in the league and almost immediately afterwards in the cup. The game against those with no roof on their house was yet another quirky example, although given the circumstances the starting teams for both sides were never going to be top notch.
Taken out were Shaka, Gabbers, Konch, Marlon and Ashton to be replaced by Jimmy Walker, Elliott Ward, Lenny Scaloni, Z-man and Teddy. Not only that, but Lenny was out there playing left back, with Anton still being stuck in a right back role where he is really out on a limb. The Micky Mousers looked equally a shadow of their normal selves with no Reina, Gerrard, Crouch, Hyppia, Riise, Kewell, Garcia or Alonso.
Cissé not sh*t after all
Morientes won an early tw*t of the match award as he tried a shot straight from the kick off which went miles wide. On 2 minutes, Yossi threaded through a nicely weighted pass to Z-man but his shot was blocked inside the box.
Cissé showed the first sign of his recurring threat to the Hammers’ defence on 6 minutes as he delivered a dangerous cross which Collins did well to head away. Four minutes later, after Mullins had given the ball away cheaply, Cissé was at it again as he tried a speculative 30 yard shot which skidded in and canoned off Walker’s chest. Fortunately there was no-one around to follow up.
Cissé clearly fancied his chances and he was rewarded with the opening goal on 18 minutes after Sissoko went on a powerful run through the middle. Collins failed to get his tackle in allowing the Mali international to slide a pass across to Cissé who fired in a powerful yet saveable shot to the near post which beat Walker hands down. He would have been disappointed not to have made the block.
20 minutes in and Matty got round the back of the Liverpool defence for the first time. His cross was a good one and the ball came out to Yossi lurking on the right hand side of goal. He elected to hit a first time volley which was well held down low by Jerzy Dudek.
The Scousers had the ball in the back of the net again on 25 minutes after a game of ping-pong in the West Ham box. Morientes was ruled offside but there was a hint of the final ball through coming off a West Ham player. It was difficult to see whether he was off when the pass was made.
Cissé was continuing to cause havoc down the West Ham right which has looked suspect since Tom went home to his native land. Anton always seems to get sucked back into the middle, which is no doubt due to his central defender’s auto pilot. This cedes space down the flank and on this occasion we were fortunate that Fowler’s curling lob on 29 minutes went over the top left hand corner of the goal.
Solid as a rock
Teddy made his mark in his traditional withdrawn role and he made a nice pass to Z-man on 32 minutes allowing him to set off with intent towards the box. The enduring solidity of the Liverpool defence – a key problem we will face in Cardiff – revealed itself again as his attempted cross was snuffed out.
Two minutes later Cissé thought he would have another go from 25 yards following another rapid break forward. This time Jimmy was equal to the shot and held on well.
Teddy’s class shone again on 39 minutes as he swivelled to make a seamless reverse pass to release Z-man. Unfortunately the brick wall of the Liverpool defence kicked in again and the shot could only be made from a wide angle which Dudek saved easily.
Sissoko was continually catching the eye with his Vieira-like qualities in midfield. Being able to call upon players like this shows the strength in depth of the Liverpool side which has all the signs of being a real contender for the Premiership title next season.
West Ham’s move of the half came with two minutes of ordinary time left as Anton proved that he does have some of the qualities of a right wing back. He overlapped Yossi who gave him the perfect pass for a great cross. Teddy was waiting at the near post and got a powerful header on it which shaved the wrong side of the upright.
Before the half was up, West Ham nearly scored again as Z-man broke free down the left and put over a dangerous cross. Yossi came diving in to get his head on it but could only send the ball over the bar with the goal gaping.
Collins was replaced at half time by Fletch and we had barely settled down in our seats when the game was levelled. A rapid series of one-touch passes in and around the box allowed a final pass through a static Liverpool defence to find Reo-Coker for a tap in on the six yard box. He couldn’t miss that one.
Continuing the theme of the first half, Cissé was just too hot to handle down the left wing. He delivered what looked like a perfect cross on 48 minutes but the ball smacked into the crossbar and away to spark a West Ham counter attack led by Matty. He taunted the Liverpool defence but delayed his pass too long and Z-man was caught offside.
Sort it, Sven
Reo-Coker, who turned in a real high energy performance then burst down the right on 52 minutes but the excellent Jamie Caragher stopped him in his tracks in the box with a great saving tackle. The more I have seen Carragher this season, the more I am convinced that he should start alongside Terry in the England defence. We need to play the form team.
53 minutes on the clock and we were behind again after a series of one touch passes in the centre circle left us floundering. The final prod set Cissé on his way yet again and he advanced and hit a low shot from the left side of the box which Walker did get a hand on but could not prevent from going into the goal.
Mullins won a free kick on the right hand side of the penalty area on 56 minutes and a well-executed set piece followed which beat the wall and forced a save. Dudek couldn’t hold it but Anton seemed to hesitate with a loose ball in front him.
Hyppia replaced Finnan on 63 minutes and three minutes after this change, Teddy made a skillful pass to send Matty on a run on goal. He unleashed a great shot which the ‘keeper spilled to a non-existant follow-up.
Penetration is the name of the game
Reo-Coker showed more of his terrific ability on 71 minutes as he penetrated the midfield brilliantly and played a 1-2 with Teddy. Unfortunately he found himself in an offside position when the ball came back, otherwise it would have been a certain goal.
Scaloni, who had one of his more comfortable games since his arrival from Spain revealed a hitherto uknown facet of his game as a serial foul thrower. He looked totally non-plused as to whu he had been penalised, from where I was sitting he didn’t take the ball behind his head.
Seeking a second goal, the manager decided to introduce Marlon for Yossi on 76 minutes. In response to ‘Walk On’ from the Scousers, a very loud rendition of that old East End favourite ‘Sign on, ‘cos you’ll never get a job’ drowned out the away end. Although this is undoubtedly a good windup, I did enquire of some fellow Eaststanders how a load of Scouse skanksters on benefit can afford match tickets and travel costs from the north west. “They’re all robbers” came an answer which bizarrely had never occurred to me.
Mullins loses it
Barely two minutes after his introduction, Marlon went charging through the Liverpool defence but couldn’t quite apply the finishing touch.
The rather anonymous touchline sniffer was replaced by Garcia on 79 minutes and scarcely two minutes later he got into a scrap with Mullins in midfield after the latter had ridden about three tackles. It looked as if Hayden had taken exception to a jab from the Spaniard and went straight for his throat with his hands. Garcia went down like a proverbial sack of sh*t and this provoked a multi-player melee. When the dust settled, ref Howard Webb decided to red card both of them.
Unsurprisngly the consensus in the East Stand was that Webb should have used his commonsense and given out yellows to both players. That’s not how I saw it and although you have to feel for Mullins losing out on a FA Cup Final date, the harsh truth is that his reaction was irresponsible and unprofessional. In a rather unimportant match, he allowed himself to lose his rag and leave Pardew with a selection problem he could do without. Good luck to both managers trying to get their respective players out of the sh*t, but I think that both of them have played their last game this season.
New model West Ham
The last decent chance of the game fell to West Ham as Anton delivered another great low cross, but inevitably Carragher was on hand again to put the ball over his own bar from just outside the six yard box. Scaloni had one last dig from distance as the corner was cleared out to him, but this dipped over the bar.
It was an entertaining game of football, and maybe we could have got something out of it. Hopefully the result the next time we meet will be in our favour, but let’s face it we are going to be up against it. There is an immense amount of quality in that Liverpool team and I do fear that our vulnerability down the right side will be exploited, particularly by the likes of Kewell who had a field day against Chelsea. They are extremely competitive in midfield, scarily quick on the counterattack and defensively almost impregnable. That aside, who’s to say that we cant reverse a league defeat in much the same way as we did against Bolton and Boro’? You’ve got to be positive, haven’t you? I am a believer in the New West Ham. Remember the spirit of 1980 and the late, great Johnny Lyall.
(Player ratings by Dodger)
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First goal was at his near post and the second through his legs. He'll be dissapointed.
Oddly he was better in attack than defense tonight. Very shaky against Cisse but went on one of the runs of the season in the second half.
Very good tonight I thought. Worked incredibly hard and made some good tackles.
Not a bad performance.
Stood off the Liverpool players too much
Wasn't his best game; devastated to be red carded (as was I).
Excellent. Deserved the goal; a fantastic performance.
Dangerous throughout but his first touch in the first half was poor.
Top-notch in the second-half of this season, and superb again tonight.
Some great touches and a wonderful pass to set up Reo's goal.
Very good performance, linked up well with Sheringham.
(Replaced Collins, 45) Battled well.
(Replaced Benayoun, 80) Arrived to a hero's welcome.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Nigel Reo-Coker.
West Ham United
Jimmy Walker, Anton Ferdinand, Lionel Scaloni, Elliott Ward, James Collins, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Matthew Etherington, Teddy Sheringham, Bobby Zamora.
Goals: Nigel Reo-Coker 46 .
Booked: Nigel Reo-Coker .
Sent Off: Hayden Mullins 82 .
Dudek; Finnan, Kromkamp, Traore, Carragher; Warnock, Sissoko, Hamann; Cisse, Fowler, Morientes..
Substitutes: Hyypia (Finnan 63), Garcia (Fowler 79).
Subs not used: Hyypia (Finnan 63), Garcia (Fowler 79).
Goals: Cisse (19, 56).
Sent Off: Garcia (82).