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UEFA Cup
Thursday, 14th September 2006

West Ham United 0
Palermo 1

by East Stand Martin


Now I’m always the first to congratulate West Ham fans on new songs, but I can’t say I was too impressed with an Eaststander’s new version of “We’re all going on a European tour”. Clearly the geezer has plans for a couple of weeks time,” We’re all gonna shag a Sicilian whore”, he promised.

I can’t say that the prospect of this Italian sexual adventure did much for me. I had a vision of a dumpy bird with a moustache. The love child of Chewbacca and the Oompa Loompa. Pack some Immac, boys, spread liberally, leave to take for two hours and then maybe have a go.

An offer we couldn’t refuse

Given the opposition, I couldn’t hep thinking about The Godfather prior to this match. There’s a lot in that classic piece of cinematography which provides pointers for life. In fact, the signing of the Argentineans reminds me of the scene where Al Pacino tells Robert Duvall that he is getting dropped as his consigliari, advisor to the Godfather. Times had changed in the war between the families and a different approach was required.

The problem is that as far as West Ham is concerned, although times are changing in Premiership football, I aint sure that there was too much that needed changing within the team. I know it’s early days but the arrival of Argie stars does appear to have affected the tight knit unit we had and also has led to a change in system. We look a bit unsure of what’s going on.

This was quite obvious at the start of this first UEFA Cup game at Upton Park for years. The system was adjusted to accommodate Mascherano, Tevez was put out wide and Z-man was on his own up front.

Ref not interested

The tone of this game was set up early when Tevez was hacked down the first time he went near the ball. The Swedish ref did nothing and adopted a similar attitude to various other tackles that took place in the first quarter of the half.

The first action of note came in the 13th minute when a Lee Bowyer free kick down the West Ham left saw the ball hit the keeper and balloon up, but he managed to recover and grab it.

Palermo looked an efficient unit and on 17 minutes, the tricky Di Michele weaved his way through the West Ham defence to get into the box. He tried a subtle toe poke which agonisingly slipped past the far post.

A minute later, Tevez manufactured a lovely flick into the box, but Bowyer couldn’t extend his foot far enough to get on the end of it.

The ref showed he was not on our side again as he penalised Mascherano on 22 minutes for what looked like a great tackle after Reo Coker gave the ball away.

Three minutes later, Zamora made a good lay off to Reo Coker but he had to try and swivel and shoot on the edge of the box and couldn’t keep the ball down.

On the Don’s team

On the half hour, Reo Coker got booked for a late looking sliding tackle, which looked no worse than many of the Palermo tackles happily ignored earlier on. I couldn’t hep uttering “Who pays your f*cking wages, baldy, Don Corleone?”

On 35 minutes, West Ham won a free kick 35 yards out. The ball was laid off to Konchesky who blasted a low shot which deflected for a corner. The cross from the corner was dangerous and found Anton in space, but he headed poorly.

Palermo made their first shot on goal on 37 minutes as Konchesky was guilty of a weak clearance out of defence. Fortunately the shot went straight at Carroll and he gathered safely. A minute later, another Palermo move saw a swinging ball just go beyond the far post. Carroll must have got a touch on that as a corner was awarded.

The first genuinely wide move by West Ham came on 40 minutes as Konchesky drove forward with a determined run. The ball came loose to Reo Coker but he shot wildly over.

Tevez chance

Two minutes later saw the West Ham move of the half as Z-man made a great run down the left and put over a perfect cross. It was all set up for the first Tevez goal at the Boleyn Ground, but the stocky striker’s attempt to guide the ball in with the side of his foot was saved brilliantly. There was a half decent header by Tyrone Mears from the resulting corner, but this was held safely by the keeper.

It’s funny how often a great chance precedes the loss of a goal, and this is what happened next on 44 minutes. The bizarrely named Diana picked the ball up from a one-two down the right and curled in a perfectly weighted cross to find Caracciolo waiting to glance the ball by the helpless Carroll. Konch looked very unhappy about the goal and went off to remonstrate with the linesman.

This was a tight half with few chances at either end. West Ham certainly enjoyed a lot of possession, but there was little end product. There was a distinct lack of width and when we did get wide the quality of the crossing was below standard.

Tempo raised

You just knew that the second half was bound to involve the Italians trying to shut up shop, and this surely required a return to 4-4-2. There was no sign of that as the teams started, although at the beginning of the half the ref at least got his card out for the first foul on Tevez on 47 minutes. The lay off to Konchesky was tried again from the free kick, but the rifling shot went wide of the left hand post.

The higher tempo was underlined by a strong run forward by Reo Coker on 50 minutes. He shrugged off three challenges and then tried a slipped ball through which found Bowyer in an offside position.

Unfortunately the lacklustre crossing of the first half was in evidence again on 55 minutes as Mascherano stroked a sublime cross field pass to Konchesky. He squandered a fine position with a sliced cross way over the bar.

Two minutes later, we were almost mugged for a second as the clever Diana executed a ball over the top. Carroll had to come tearing out to deny the Palermo striker with his feet.

Pardew changed it on 58 minutes with the introduction of Matty for Bowyer, an obvious move to try and bring more width and improve on the poor state of our crossing.

Z-man was still being industrious and good work down the left won a corner. Matty sent over a dangerous ball but Anton headed over.

Matty was involved again on 65 minutes as he slotted a nice pass through to Tevez who had peeled off into the left hand side of the box. He slotted a ball back to Yossi close to the penalty spot, but he was surrounded by defenders and could not get a shot away. He tried to lay off wide, but overhit the pass.

Carroll storms upfield

The undoubted passion of West Ham was apparent on 67 minutes as Yossi tried to nick the ball away from the keeper who didn’t appreciate the challenge. In a fit of pique, the keeper then threw the ball away and sparked a pushing frenzy. Carroll sprinted all the way up the field to join in and the ref correctly awarded a corner. The atmosphere in the ground was notched up as a result and Di Michele then received a booking for a late tackle on Z-man, which was all about retribution.

Palermo won a free kick in a central position 25 yards out on 71 minutes after a late tackle by Mears. Konch was on hand to run backwards from the wall to head away the shot from the left hand corner of the goal. From the corner, the ball was nearly squeezed in at the near post.

The last roll of the dice by the manager came on 77 minutes as Tevez and Z-man were taken off for Cole and Marlon. A minute after the swap, Marlon nearly levelled it after an instinctive reaction to a Yossi ball in from the right. The ball loped off his boot and hit the left hand upright square on. Unfortunately the rebound did not land at the feet of the waiting Reo Coker and Matty ended up getting a deserved yellow as he made a Robben-like dive in the box.

The Palermo response to the double change was to shut up shop even more with the replacement of the striker Di Michele for the central defender Capuano and this switch worked for the Italians as there were no real threatening moves in the final 15 minutes of the match.

Order out of chaos

The end result was disappointing but the Sicilians are clearly a good outfit. They played with real momentum and commitment, adapting well to the expected West Ham approach to the match. The ref didn’t help with his lenient approach to the opening exchanges.

This was a game that on a different night we would have won, but we are still in a period of coming to terms with what has turned out to be the disruptive arrival of two undoubted class players. We need to rediscover the order, discipline and unity that served us so well. The away match to stay in this competition is going to be tough and it goes without saying that the first goal will be absolutely crucial. If that goal goes to the Italians, then on tonight’s evidence, you have to say that we will be staring elimination from Europe in the face at the first hurdle.

The positive aspect was the passion in which the team played. Add some guile and craft and we will have a good chance in two weeks’ time.

(Player ratings by Gordon Thrower)



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Player Ratings

Roy Carroll
Uncertain handling on a night on which he was largely untested.


Tyrone Mears
Solid enough defensively but failed to add enough going forward in the way that a fit Pantsil might have done.


Paul Konchesky
A couple of good blocks – particularly the header from the free-kick. However his distribution was dreadful – if he found a claret and blue shirt in the second half I missed it.


Anton Ferdinand
Potentially embarrassed by a nutmeg early on he recovered to have a good game.


Danny Gabbidon
Back to something approaching his form of last season. Looked cool and calm throughout.


Javier Mascherano
A fine debut. Looked extremely comfortable on the ball in the same way that Mullins often doesn’t. He won’t catch the eye in the same way as his compatriot but on this showing he’ll be a great acquisition.


Nigel Reo-Coker
A lot of hard running but the final ball or shot still needs working on.


Lee Bowyer
Good solid run-out in the light of no little stick from start to finish. Tired visibly before being replaced.


Yossi Benayoun
A good run out – caused problems with some of his mazy runs.


Bobby Zamora
Ironically, the first game he didn’t score in this season was possibly his best match. Lots of running and endeavour as the lone striker and looked better for having Tevez push up later on.


Carlos Tevez
Showed enough to suggest that he can be a major crowd pleaser though we’re still obviously trying to sort out his best role. Might be interesting to see him up against the somewhat inconsistent Bramble at the weekend.


Substitutes


Matthew Etherington
(Replaced Bowyer, 59) Ran into too many blind alleys and the dive was not something I want to see from him.


Marlon Harewood
(Replaced Tevez, 78) Unlucky to see the shot that would have done so much to rebuild his confidence come back off the post.


Carlton Cole
(Replaced Zamora, 78) Didn’t really get involved.


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..

 
East Stand Martin's Man of the Match: Javier Mascherano


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