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Premiership
Saturday, 26th August 2006

Liverpool 2
West Ham United 1

by Nick Bull


Stop. It’s not Hammertime. More like Kneejerk time. And what is worse, it has happened exactly at the same time as last year. You know, all the negatives and criticism coming out on the phone-ins and the message boards. It’s time for some people to get a grip.

Anfield is a tricky place to go and get a point, let alone a win. Look at how much of a fortress it has become under the Rafa-regime. Sure, the odd team comes away from the ground with a solitary point, but even fewer take all three.

I must confess to not expecting anything from the game on Saturday, but I am writing knowing full well that the team I love gave it a bloody good go against the opposition, and on a better may have been rewarded with a draw. A win would have been delightful, but we all know the score regarding West Ham’s history in Liverpool. Remember the baron run of maulings at Goodison we suffered until last season. Mark my words – a victory at Anfield will come sooner rather than later. That hope is enough for me to continue making the trip up to the North West.

On the subject of the game itself, it seems appropriate that the topic of Marlon Harewood should come up first. The culture-vultures amongst you may well have noticed that I contribute to OLAS, and in my articles I have given consistent praise to the aforementioned forward. Now, following Saturday’s showing, I am a little disappointed that Marlon has not shown the form of last season. Regardless of this, what really annoys me is the critical remarks that seem to be directed at him left, right and centre at the moment. For someone who seems to thrive on confidence, imagine how destructive this is.

Now, like the majority of supporters did after he had a mare of a game against Bolton this time last year, the fans need to get behind him. Proof is in the pudding; look at Bobby Z at the moment. Against the hardest opponents thus far this season he has produced his best performance. A slight irritation that occurs in me sometimes is his failure to hold the ball up. On Saturday, he did this well, linking up the play throughout. Whether or not he meant his cross-turned-shot, the goal gave Hammers fans some hope in ending the Liverpool hoodoo.

It wasn’t to be. For the first thirty-five minutes, the team were right in the game. Stopping Liverpool creating isn’t easy, and that proved the case. However, preventing them from scoring can be done – and the game was heading in that direction. Before and after relinquishing his clean sheet, Roy Carroll proved his worth in the goal. Perhaps Rob Green’s imminent return to form has really spurred the ex- Manc onto better things. Sadly, switching off for a handful of minutes cost the side two goals.

The equaliser is a stunning strike; nothing can be taken away from Agger and his finish. The lack of closing down must be questioned; the FA Cup final is sadly a good example of this. The second goal was even worse. For all of his aerial ineptitude, Peter Crouch somehow can be dangerous when the ball is at his feet. Defensively, his goal is very poor to watch. That makes me sad, because Anton Ferdinand did not deserve to be on the losing team. His performance was majestic.

The side’s character must be praised. Even during the cagiest of moments, the desire and willingness to attack with vigour and pace remained intact. The main architect was Benayoun, who seemingly thrives on meeting Scouse opposition. I would comfortably say that nearly all of West Ham’s most potent moments saw him involved somewhere. I cannot wait until Etherington returns to the side, as a really strong bond between Yossi and Paintsil could really show some potency down the right flank.

For all of his endeavours and work in the opening three games, it is clear that Bowyer is more comfortable in the centre of midfield. The question this raises is who to pick – five into four simply does not go. Nige and Mullins gave solid showings, so Pardew is left facing a difficult decision. I think Bowyer’s vibrancy may just see him through - the fans are really warming to him. Just imagine, had he have scored to make the score two-all, that could have really endeared him to the doubters. Instead, the miss has become far more annoying the more I look back at it. You win some and lose some, I guess.

Three games in a week were never going to be easy, especially as the two away trips were always going to be far from comfortable. However, four points on the board at this stage of the season is certainly not awful. A solid start has been made, and on these foundations the team must build. European football is on the horizon again, but focus must remain on the Aston Villa in just under two weeks. Their start has been impressive, and they have not hit their best form either, I suspect. No four-nil victory this season; I predict a narrow two-one win. With Marlon scoring.



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Player Ratings

Roy Carroll
Impressive. Made some good saves, but was left slightly helpless when the team switched off for a few moments.


John Paintsil
Energetic display on the right side of the back four. Defensively sound as well, which is reassuring.


Paul Konchesky
Despite shouts from the away end, Konch did not bring his shooting boots. Found himself in some good positions and contributed defensively.


Anton Ferdinand
Very solid performance at the back again. Three games in, and he has been the shining light so far.


Danny Gabbidon
Finally showing the form of last season, and this was needed on a busy afternoon for the back four.


Hayden Mullins
Not afraid to get stuck in, regardless of the strength of the Liverpudlian midfield.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Secure performance, solid if not unspectacular. Passing left a little to be desired sometimes.


Lee Bowyer
A quiet game that will be remembered for his second half miss.


Yossi Benayoun
Quality from the Israeli. Always a threat, and probably had a goal within him.


Bobby Zamora
Best performance so far from the Z-man. He linked up well with the midfield and his cross (shot?) was dangerous even before Reina aided the Hammers again.


Marlon Harewood
Confidence is seemingly low, very quiet afternoon.


Substitutes


Carlton Cole
(Replaced Harewood, 73) A couple of runs with the ball were promising.


Tyrone Mears
(Replaced Konchesky, 81) Found space on his unfavoured left-side.


Teddy Sheringham
(Replaced Zamora, 83) Sat behind the Cole attempting to bolster the midfield for the finale.


Jimmy Walker
Did not play.


James Collins
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: A.Wiley.

Attendance: 43,965.

Man of the Match: Anton Ferdinand.

West Ham United

Roy Carroll, John Paintsil, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Lee Bowyer, Yossi Benayoun, Bobby Zamora, Marlon Harewood.

Goals: Bobby Zamora 12                  .

Booked: None booked.           .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Liverpool

Reina, Agger, Aurelio, Finnan, Hyypia, Alonso, Gerrard, Garcia, Pennant, Bellamy, Crouch.

Substitutes: Kuyt (Crouch 52), Gonzales (Garcia 60), Zenden (Pennant 82).

Subs not used: Dudek, Kromkamp.

Goals: Agger (42), Crouch (45).

Booked: Aurelio (64).

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
Nick Bull's Man of the Match: Anton Ferdinand


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