Sunday, 20th December 2009
It wasn’t the most optimistic of pre-match meets. Quite apart from our recent form (or, more accurately, lack of it) Liverpool’s dreadful performance at Fratton Park had left us in the position where a defeat of any kind would leave us bottom at Christmas, with all that usually entails.
There was at least some good news on the team front in the form of the returning Matthew Upson whose hamstring finally felt strong enough for him to line up alongside Danny Gabbidon in the centre of defence. Also returning after his ban at the hands of the incompetent Lee Mason was Mark Noble. This left us with a starting line-up of Green, Faubert, Ilunga, Upson, Gabbidon, Parker, Noble, Kovac, Collison, Diamanti, Franco.
Well as you’d expect we made something of a tentative start, conceding a lot of possession to our opponents. However, even from the start it was clear that a lot of hard work was going on in midfield to deny the opposition space. The result was that the much-vaunted league leaders were largely restricted to efforts from distance.
The first significant one of these came on 7 minutes when Cole combined well with Lampard and the fat one’s shot was well parried by Green. If that was the best of Green, we were treated to the ‘keeper’s more hesitant side at the following corner, which slipped alarmingly through his fingers, though thankfully no ill came of the slip. Green looked a lot more comfortable on 13 minutes watching Ivanovic’s header sail harmlessly over the bar, though I’d have been lightly happier with the situation had Ivanovic not been allowed the free header in the first place.
Of course we all know that there is some unwritten law that says that West ham must have a player go off injured within the first 20 minutes. This match was no exception as Gabbidon seemed to be clutching this season’s injury-prone muscle of choice, his hamstring. Sure enough off he hobbled to be replaced by Tomkins. I swear that you could lock our players in a room full of swine ‘flu victims and not one of them would catch anything but stick them in the same time zone as someone with a slight twinge in their thigh and the hamstrings will go just like that.
Parker then gave away a free-kick for a late one on Drogba. The diver took the free-kick himself but the wall did its job. From the resulting corner Ivanovic got another header in but Parker was not only well placed to clear off the line, but also determined enough to get the block in on the edge of the box for the follow-up.
On the half hour Carvalho went through the back of Franco. Dean rightly flourished the yellow, a mere four challenges after he ought to have done. Carvalho, of course, complained. Then came our best chance of the game to that point. Parker found Ilunga on the left. The full-back pulled the ball back across the goal for Collison whose shot was saved by Cech’s outstretched leg. The ball rebounded to Franco but since he’d been behind Cech at the time of Collison’s shot, the flag rightly went up.
At this point I took a bit of a chance and suggested that the hard work was paying off and that, in the event that we went in level pegging, it would be well-deserved. My neighbours suggested that we ought to go in one up. We all chuckled. However the chuckles turned to cheers as the half closed. Franco sent Collison into the box and Cole (A) took his legs away from him. Diamanti stepped up and sent Cech the wrong way to send us one up.
There was still time for a scare up the other end. Green hesitated slightly as Kalou got to the ball first. However the Chelsea player didn’t have the ball in any way shape or form under control and the subsequent collision with Green was never a penalty – not that that’s ever stopped the idiot Dean awarding one – as we were later to find out to our cost.
The inclemency of the weather necessitated a Balti Pie supplement to the usual confectionary during the interval as a number of brass monkeys wandered past looking more than a little nervous.
Chelsea made a couple of changes at the interval Sturridge & Mikel came on for Kalou and Malouda. Chelsea then went on the attack from a route one clearance from Cech. The ball dropped to Drogba out wide on the right who let it bounce before hitting a fine dipping shot from a tight angle that only just went wide. It was a fine effort that put one in mind of Van Basten’s goal for the Dutch against the Russians a few years back. However, tellingly, it was about Drogba’s only decent effort all game.
Then, just shy of the hour, it became the “Mike Dean Show”. Again. This educationally sub-normal fool has cost us so many points over the years that I have a bottle of champagne on ice ready for the day I hear of his retirement. Year after year he has proved himself unfit to take charge of any sort of football match, never mind one in the Premiership.
Stick him in front of live cameras and the ego takes over. This time he was assisted by a linesman. Neither Dean nor his assistant saw what every single person in the ground managed to see as Upson took the ball off Sturridge cleanly. It was a fine tackle and only the corrupt, incompetent or a victim of some cruel medical experiment to award a penalty. Unfortunately between Dean and his assistant we probably had all three of those.
Of course since the cameras were on him, Dean decided to milk it for all it was worth, making the fat one retake the spot kick twice. Even the third effort seemed to have no less encroachment than the other two but, having ensured we’d all be talking about him again, he decided to allow that one, presumably on the grounds that there was still half an hour of match that would need ruining.
Well so far this season when we’ve conceded things have collapsed. To the credit of the players, the injustice of the ill-deserved equaliser, served only to inspire and, if anything, the work rate was upped. Diamanti brought a decent save out f Cech with Noble’s follow-up effort curling over. Then it was time for Dean to crown yet another inept performance. As a corner came over from the right Carvalho flattened Franco. That it was a penalty was not in question. You’d have had to be corrupt, incompetent or the victim of some cruel medical experiment not to give it. Dean didn’t give it.
We survived a scare with five left on the clock. Sub Zhirkov played a ball across the box which Green did well to cut out. Tomkins managed to clear the ball for a corner as the loose ball sat and waited for the tap-in. With one left on the clock Diamanti was fouled for the fifth time in identical style by Ivanovic. That it was the first time that Dean chose to penalise the defender should tell you everything about how bad the ref actually was. Diamanti took the free-kick and Franco’s header brought a good save from Cech, though the lino’s flag had been raised for the tightest of offsides.
Then, as we entered stoppage, Faubert had our hearts in our mouths as his header back to Green had too much power and not enough direction. Green did well to save it with a dive and that was just about it.
It was a case of mixed emotions afterwards. Sure we’d all have taken a point beforehand, but the guts and determination the players put into the match meant that the draw was the very least we deserved. To be robbed by yet another unacceptable performance by this most inept of officials left a nasty taste in the mouth.
Meanwhile we were left scratching our heads as to why we can’t put that sort of performance together more regularly. It’s all very well raising it for matches against the likes of Muppet FC but if all the hard work is not replicated against Portsmouth next week it will all have been for nothing.
Meanwhile it’s worth noting that this time last year we were in a similar spot and the season got kick-started with a superb Boxing Day win – Against Portsmouth!
Have a great Christmas everyone (with the exception of Mike Dean!).
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A few uncertain moments early on but a fine save late on.
Right back is still a position that worries me but he was better than of late.
Some good touches, particularly going forward.
Good to see him back. On the receiving end of the officials’ incompetence.
Will this hamstring epidemic ever cease?
Outstanding again. The clearance off the line and subsequent block on the edge of the box summed his game up and, if Upson was wearing the armband, Parker was every bit as influential as a leader.
A bit like a speed hump he got in the way and, by accident or design managed to break up a lot of Chelsea moves. Distribution wasn’t too bad for once as long as he didn’t over-elaborate.
Another who had his best game in a while. Good run into the box for the penalty and got forward to support Franco well.
Got stuck in in what was his best game in a long while.
Won a lot up front, made a real nuisance of himself and got through a hell of a lot of hard work.
Some fine deliveries from set pieces and the penalty was well-taken.
(Replaced Gabbidon, 19 mins) I was a bit concerned when he came on after 20 minutes as he’s not been in the best of form so far this season. However he had a decent match.
(Replaced Kovac, 67 mins) Barely registered, though it was nice to get a reminder of what he looks like.
(Replaced Kovac, 67 mins) Clean sheet! Barely tested really.
Manuel Da Costa
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Mike Dean.
Man of the Match: Scott Parker.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Julien Faubert, Herita Ilunga, Matthew Upson, Danny Gabbidon, Scott Parker, Radoslav Kovac, Jack Collison, Mark Noble, Guillermo Franco, Alessandro Diamanti.
Goals: Alessandro Diamanti 45 .
Booked: Guillermo Franco 33 Scott Parker 45 Mark Noble 52 Matthew Upson 59 .
Sent Off: None sent off .
Cech, Ivanovic, Carvalho, Terry, A.Cole, Ballack, Lampard, J.Cole, Malouda, Kalou, Drogba.
Substitutes: Mikel (Malouda 46), Sturridge (Kalou 46), Zhirkov (Cole 75).
Subs not used: Hilario, Ferreira, Belletti, Alex.
Goals: Lampard (pen, 61).
Booked: Carvalho (30), Cole (44), Terry (84).
Sent Off: None sent off.