Saturday, 14th February 2009
Apocalypse Now is one of my favourite films. Marlon Brando as Butch Wilkins. The American is a skilled character actor but for me he never quite captured the sheer dullness of the man. Who wouldn’t go down some mosquito-ridden river with a bunch of lunatics wasted on LSD to try and find the slaphead and shout “For f*ck’s sake Butch, have you ever passed a ball forwards for England?”
Anyway, the Russian worked out that Kurtz was not the answer and told his serf Hiddink to get his ar*e over to London to try and save his roubles. It would never have happened under Leonid Brezhnev.
Love is in the air
After all that excitement we all turned up to the Boleyn Ground on Valentine’s Day expecting the romance of the cup to fill our hearts. Or we did until we remembered that we were playing Boro’, a team who like its manager has had a charisma by pass.
The only change from the ManUre lineup was the absence of the human dynamo Behrami. In came East End favourite Luis Boa Morte who did little to get the home crowd on side in the sixth minute with an awful pass to the opposition.
Di Michele – a man who is occasionally inspirational but usually diabolical - then made an insipid effort to retain possession, allowing a break forward on 10 minutes where Downing found himself in bags of space centrally. A shot was blasted mercifully wide.
It was a complacent start, leading to the obvious conclusion that we felt that all we needed to do was turn up to beat a poorly performing Boro’ team. The excellent Jack Collison was having none of this and on the quarter hour went surging forward but he stumbled on the edge of the box and the shot from Noble that followed was weak and easily gathered by the keeper.
Collison’s momentum was rubbing off and Boa Morte showed great industry on 16 minutes, finding Collison who laid off a sideways pass to Noble. He unleashed a powerful shot which Brad Jones did well to save to his left. A couple of minutes later, it was the unlikely Collins who found himself on the end of a loose ball on the edge of the box, but once again Jones was on hand to make a fine save, this time to his right.
Just as things were looking up in terms of tempo and possession, we got hit with a sucker goal on 21 minutes. The ball got whipped in from the right and everybody missed it, allowing Downing to ghost in at the far post and head past Green. He proceeded to celebrate too enthusiastically in front of the home support in Bobby Moore Lower who collectively looked rather narked.
Di Michele pulled off one of his occasionally surprising turns of skill on 25 minutes when he teed himself up a volley from about 25 yards out which just flashed across the face of goal. It was then apparent that England’s Carlton Cole was crocked and although he tried to carry on he was eventually replaced by former World Cup striker Diego Tristan.
Collins, who has looked pretty solid of late inexplicably decided on 36 minutes to head the ball straight at Alves. Fortunately the £12 million Brazilian was so surprised he could not do anything with the Welshman’s gift.
Just after, a ball was sent over the top and Tristan managed to pick it up and feed Boa Morte who whacked in a god low cross that ricocheted around leading to a half parry by the keeper towards Collison waiting at the left hand post. Somehow he contrived to balloon a shot over from 4 yards.
We like a good laugh in the East Stand and Diego Tristan provided it with a minute left in the half. Boa Morte – who’d been involved in a lot of the positive forward play by West Ham – set Di Michele free down the inside left position. He noticed Tristan in space on the right edge of the box and fed him a nice pass which was the Spaniard sliced awfully wide.
Noble got booked in time added on and the whistle then went to end a fairly dismal half of football characterised by early complacency and a lack of quality from both sides.
Boa Morte only lasted 3 minutes of the second half before he was substituted for Sears. It must have been an injury as he had been one of the better performers.
A pathetic lay off by Tristan drew the groans again and then Sears did not improve everybody’s humour with a poor shot on the turn after a half decent move forward. On 56 minutes Mark Noble then made one of the worst passes seen this season to allow a Boro’ beak which could have easily resulted in a second goal.
Alves beat the offside trap on 59 minutes but he shot across Green and wide of the right hand post. A £12 million striker should have at least hit the target.
Collison was still trying to raise everybody’s spirits and belief ad he passed nicely to release Sears down the right but his cross was plucked out of the air by Jones.
There was a suspicion of a foul on Noble on 63 minutes, but Boro’ were able to fashion an attack which saw Alves surge forward and direct a hard, low shot to Green’s left, which he just managed to reach at a one-handed stretch.
A bit of trickery from Di Michele on 68 minutes saw him slide a ball towards Tristan who looked for one minute that he would walk the ball into the net, but he just lost control of the ball around the six yard box at the crucial moment.
Green had to be alert again on 71 minutes with a save at his corner following a run by Downing. A minute later Tristan attempted to lay off a pass but failed miserably. This allowed me to relate my theory to fellow Eaststanders that the Diego Tristan we have is an imposter. This cannot be the man that scored 32 goals in one season in La Liga. I believe the real Diego Tristan is in Ibiza receiving a weekly cheque from this bloke that is impersonating him.
Ilunga was trying to get more adventurous and he found some rare space behind the Boro’ back four on 73 minutes. It was text book stuff, he got to the dead ball line and sent a perfect pass in to Di Michele on the edge of the six yard box. His first time shot was spectacularly dire – he leant back and skied the shot over the bar leaving every Bobby Moore Lower head in hands.
Alves went off for Tuncay on 74 minutes and the rather ineffectual Noble was replaced at the same time for Savio.
A good flick fro Di Mchele on 75 minutes saw the ball rebound off Tristan and nearly into the path of Sears but the chance just evaded him.
Savio a go go
Belief was running out and it was hard to see where a goal would come from. In the end salvation came from a set piece after a foul by O’Neill down the West Ham right. Savio stepped up nad whipped in a great ball which missed everybody, bounced up and there was the saviour Ilunga to head in.
Savio was really injecting some pace into the West Ham play and he put a ball into space down the left which Bellamy would have loved but the oil tanker that is Tristan could not get there. The sloth-like movement of the Spaniard led a bloke near me to utter – “My nan’s faster than that”.
The final whistle signalled a replay up in the frozen north and a rather lacklustre performance by West Ham hardly deserved it. The injury to Cole is particularly worrying as the deficiencies in the backup strikers were only too apparent today. The cover is poor and Slo Mo Diego is definitely not the answer. Savio certainly changed things and he looks like he deserves a start with Noble looking off form. We also missed Behrami who seems to drive the team forward and Parker had one of his less distinguished performances today. This was bound to happen as he has been excellent of late.
This is my last West Ham game for a few weeks as I am off to watch England play cricket in the Caribbean. Before you get too jealous, I have checked the beer index, and the recent devaluation in the pound has made a pint some 71p dearer since last Summer. I blame Margaret Thatcher.
* player ratings by Gordon Thrower
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One excellent save and a few more comfortable efforts that could be said to have kept us in the cup.
Did well to keep his cool in the face of some provocation in the second half. Did ok without Behrami’s help.
One of the few that didn’t have an off day. Nice finish for the goal – perhaps he could give lessons to one or two of the squad.
Out of sorts and lost concentration a couple of times – one of which as the goal.
Looked a bit “leggy” after the runaround in Spain in midweek.
Too many misplaced passes and that “drilling for oil” move he has just played him into trouble.
A silly booking and also guilty of giving the ball away too much.
Probably should have scored in the first half and sometimes guilty of over-elaboration.
Luis Boa Morte
First touch let him down too many times, though to be fair he was far from alone in that respect.
Was doing ok if nothing spectacular before injury curtailed his afternoon.
David Di Michele
Well I suppose he was at least trying to get involved but little came off for him. And that miss…
(Replaced Cole, 34 mins) At least DiMichele tried to get the ball back once in a while. Seemed disinterested in getting involved with anything that required movement.
(Replaced Boa Morte, 49 mins) A lot of running with little service or reward.
(Replaced Noble, 74 mins) Looked quite useful on the ball and gave us an option of running at players that had been lacking until he replaced Noble. Maybe worth a start soon?
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Peter Walton.
Man of the Match: Robert Green.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Lucas Neill, Herita Ilunga, James Collins, Matthew Upson, Scott Parker, Mark Noble, Jack Collison, Luis Boa Morte, Carlton Cole, David Di Michele.
Goals: Herita Ilunga 83 .
Booked: Mark Noble 45 David Di Michele 87 .
Sent off: None.
Jones, Hoyte, Pogatetz, Wheater, Huth, Digard, Johnson, O'Neill, Arca, Downing, Alves.
Substitutes: Tuncay (Alves 74), Walker (Arca 77).
Subs not used: Turnbull, Emnes, Bates, McMahon, Bennett.
Goals: Downing (22).
Booked: O'Neill (82).
Sent Off: None.