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UEFA Cup
Thursday, 14th September 2006

West Ham United 0
Palermo 1

by Nick Bull


Experience, not talent, won the UEFA Cup contest at Upton Park. Luckily, the tie is far from over, so West Ham should travel to Palermo in two weeks full of belief. The Sicilians nearly threw away a three goal lead on Sunday in their opening Seria A game, so proof exists that they (a) concede home goals and (b) can rest on their laurels too much. If the club’s last foray in European football is anything to go by, losing one-nil at home is not the end of the World. The Intertoto Cup final in 1999 proved this.

When you consider how many of these players were new to this level of football, the result is far from shocking. Obviously Roy Carroll has played even higher for United, whilst Bowyer and Benni also have experience in the UEFA Cup. At times, unsurprisingly, the novice element was evident. The two full backs, most notably, struggled throughout to get to grips with the game. Seeing as Ty Mears was plying his trade at Preston last season, the step up he has been asked to make in a few weeks is monumental. I still think Jonny Paintsil is the first choice right-back, but Mears has time on his side. If he works hard enough, he may make the position his own sooner rather than later.

This time last season, Konch was looking superb. Defensively he was very sound, and going forward he look very dangerous. The lack of a natural left – sided midfielder playing in front of him thus far this season cannot have aided his performances, but he looks a mile off the player we have come to expect. Since arriving at Upton Park, his form has deteriorated a little. He has received large backing from the Manager, who never gave Clive Clarke a chance to impress at left – back. I expect Pardew’s support to continue – and imagine that Konchesky will remain in the starting line up.

Much talk recently has involved Do Do and possible moves to Arsenal and Manchester United. Sadly for the captain, if these clubs were watching last night, they would not be rushing to their Chairmen for large sums of money. The skipper has denied rumours of a rift between himself and Pardew, but as time (and matches) progress, the more I believe something has happened. Would the manager ever drop his captain? Last night he sacrificed Bowyer to bring on Etherington, therefore adding width, but the centre of midfield poses the biggest dilemma at present. It is clear Pards favours an attacking option along with a more defensive midfielder in the centre. As good as he has been, Mullins is understandably second choice in the latter, behind Javier. In terms of a creative playmaker, I would drop Reo – Coker for the controversial midfielder. The timing of Newcastle’s visit gives me another reason to say that the former Leeds player should start in place of the skipper.

Having mentioned him in passing, Mascherano’s debut deserves greater comment. Forget all the hype about Mr. Tevez for a few seconds, as this guy is the real deal. I am not sure how much football he has played since Argentina’s World Cup exit in Berlin, but his ability to come into the team and impress as much as he did is just one example that illustrates the sheer quality he is. On the ball he demonstrated his awareness, off it he was well positioned and made some vital interceptions. What a sight this player is, and will be at the club.

Despite his talent, Palermo focused their attention more on Mascherano’s fellow South American. Although he could have passed the ball a little more than he did, the opposition were quick in sending two, sometimes three men to mark the striker out of the game as much as possible. Sometimes it didn’t work; he can turn defenders rather easily based on his two showings so far. It is no wonder, then, why he was the recipient of kicks, shirt pulls and fouls. His best chance, set up by Zamora, was a quality West Ham move, matched by an equally impressive save. (Though, I cannot help but wondering how the cynics would have moaned had that have been Harewood). This was the only significant time the pair teamed up; Bobby was too isolated playing in front of widemen Tevez and Benayoun. As a result, the threat up front was muted somewhat.

All things told, last night is not too much of a disappointment. Palermo are a good side, who came with a game plan and stuck firmly to it. Their defensive display was one of the best seen at Upton Park in a long while. The only sour note was their desire to ‘ruffle’ up the opposition be cheeky pushes, barges as well as a few late challenges. The Boleyn has seen worse displays, but the Referee ignored an awful lot. The Italians picked up only one more booking that the Irons, and even then Nigel Reo – Coker’s caution was very harsh. On another night, West Ham would have won this game. It wasn’t to be – but the European experience will prove vital in future seasons. The Premiership beckons again on Sunday; the return of Roeder is a must win to really kick the season off again.



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Player Ratings

Roy Carroll
A quiet night in the goal; one notable save prevented Palermo taking a two goal lead back to Sicily.


Tyrone Mears
Energetic, but poor going forward. Conceded possession too cheaply at times.


Paul Konchesky
Rather like Mears. Clearly misses Etherington on the left flank.


Anton Ferdinand
Look satisfactory defensively, aside from falling asleep on the goal. Had a great chance from a Benayoun corner which he failed to convert.


Danny Gabbidon
Another solid display from the Welshman, showing what a class act he is.


Javier Mascherano
Oozes quality. Passing accurate, lively in the middle of the park, wants to get stuck in.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Something is not right with the skipper at the moment.


Lee Bowyer
Better from Bowyer – his experience aided his game. Shouldn’t have been taken off.


Yossi Benayoun
Sadly struggled to make much of an impact for sustained periods of the game.


Bobby Zamora
Great cross set up what looked like being Tevez’s first goal in the Claret and Blue. Did not really offer a goal threat.


Carlos Tevez
Picked on by Palermo, clearly aware of his talent. Encouraging signs to say the least.


Substitutes


Matthew Etherington
(Replaced Bowyer, 59) Better than Sunday; still not 100%. His dive was pretty embarrassing.


Marlon Harewood
(Replaced Tevez, 78) Seemed really up for the game. Saw a great chance rebound off of the post; summing up his season thus far. As hard as it would be for Pardew to drop leading Premiership scorer Zamora, I would love to see Marlon start up top with Carlos.


Carlton Cole
(Replaced Zamora, 78) Showed his strength and looked confident – has he got a goal in him ?


Robert Green
Did not play.


Hayden Mullins
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: S.Johannesson.

Attendance: 32,222.

Man of the Match: Javier Mascherano.

West Ham United

Roy Carroll, Tyrone Mears, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, Javier Mascherano, Nigel Reo-Coker, Lee Bowyer, Yossi Benayoun, Bobby Zamora, Carlos Tevez.

Goals: None.

Booked: Nigel Reo-Coker 31 Matthew Etherington 79        .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Palermo

Fontana, Cassani, Zaccardo, Barzagli, Pisano, Diana, Parravicini, Simplicio, Bresciano, Di Michele, Caracciolo.

Substitutes: Guana (Parravicini 54), Capuano (Di Michele 80), Biava (Bresciano 91).

Subs not used: Agliardi, Brienza, Tedesco, Dellafiore.

Goals: Caracciolo (45).

Booked: Cassani (5), Pisano (48), Di Michele (71).

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
Nick Bull's Man of the Match: Javier Mascherano


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