Wednesday, 16th January 2008
If anything illustrated the Premier League's looming spectre over the cup, it was this game which almost felt like an inconvenience to both sides, especially given that City entertain West Ham again on Sunday in the league. That must surely assume greater importance to Sven Goran Eriksson and Curbishley. Despite cheap ticket prices, the stadium was half empty, and those who bothered to turn up were hardly treated to the most gripping of encounters.
The first half was noteworthy for producing little in the way of any memorable fare, and with both sides adopting formations including just the one striker each, defences were on top, just as they were in the goalless draw at Upton Park.
Although City forced much of the play in the opening exchanges, they created little despite the delicate approaches of Stephen Ireland, Elano and Nery Castillo, the latter departing with a dislocated shoulder after a heavy challenge by West Ham captain Lucas Neill. On the left, Martin Petrov saw much of the ball, yet Neill was coping better with him than he managed last week.
It was West Ham's striker, Dean Ashton, who had the best opportunity, that coming after thirty minutes when he met Luis Boa Morte's cross with a volley that City's keeper Joe Hart saved, not that he knew much about it. Lee Bowyer curled a shot over after decent build-up play. Then a mistake by Richard Dunne allowed Ashton in, the forward colliding with Hart in a race for the loose ball. With Hart stranded, Boa Morte's composure deserted him and he shanked the chance well wide.
Boa Morte wasted the visitor's best chance of the match early in the second half. Released by excellent work by Bowyer and Ashton, he opted to shoot at Hart from an angle with Freddie Ljungberg ready to convert what would have been a simple goal. Boa Morte's night went from bad to worse, when Curbishley was forced to substitute him before Mark Clattenburg sent him off.
How West Ham were made to regret such greedy folly. With Petrov finding more space than previously, the Bulgarian's cross shot was parried by Robert Green, only for Rolando Bianchi to prod wide. But Petrov's delivery is too dangerous if allowed to continue. On 73 minutes he escaped Neill and crossed again, Bianchi nodded against the post, and Elano headed the rebound in. There was time for Bowyer to lob Hart, but with Ashton nearby, Micah Richards excellently headed away to ensure City travel to Sheffield United in the next round.
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He could do little about the goal as his defence had let him down on that one vital occassion.
He was fairly solid in the first half, but it was a chastening experience from then on against Petrov, he was chasing shadows.
Rarely troubled by Ireland, he was reluctant to exploit that and attack.
I'd need to see the goal again to comment whether it was Ferdinand or Upson who lost Bianchi. Either way, that lapse aside he gave an otherwise assured performance.
The same applies as Ferdinand, the pair of them capable of forging a really strong partnership if injuries allow it to happen.
He produced some lovely touches at times, and was always willing to link play or try to burst beyond Ashton. He was unlucky not to score I felt.
While his passing could not be faulted, he was unable to truly dominate and was given a bit of a lesson at times by Elano.
The Boa Morte episode is the kind of moment Ljungberg thrives on, and would put a different spin on his performance. There was no lack of effort but he struggled to really influence the game tonight.
He's definitely had better games this season- there were glimpses here and there, but too many errors stunted his game.
It was frustrating for him. He could have scored and at times he linked play well. But he lacked the pace to trouble Richards, and the ball seems to stick under his feet too much. That didn't seem to happen pre injury.
Luis Boa Morte
Involved but not always to our advantage.
(replaced Ljungberg, 63) Definitely quick, but just feeling his way back.
(replaced Boa Morte, 70) Not a bad little cameo, and he could perhaps feel aggrived not to start as he made a general nuisance of himself. More suited to the role of lone striker than Ashton- but then, who's more likely to get you a goal? Catch 22 situation.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Lee Bowyer.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Lucas Neill, George McCartney, Anton Ferdinand, Matthew Upson, Lee Bowyer, Mark Noble, Freddie Ljungberg, Matthew Etherington, Dean Ashton, Luis Boa Morte.
Booked: Luis Boa Morte 67 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Hart, Corluka, Ball, Richards, Dunn, Hamann, Johnson, Elano, Petrov, Castillo, Vassell.
Substitutes: Bianchi (Castillo 34), Gelson (Vassell 81).
Subs not used: Bianchi (Castillo 34), Gelson (Vassell 81).
Goals: Elano (73).
Booked: Hamann (65).
Sent Off: None.