Filed: Sunday, 4th November 2012
By: Staff Writer
West Ham United's impressive form this season continued with a well- earned point against Manchester City at the Boleyn Ground this afternoon.
The Hammers may have been known for possessing a weak underbelly in the past but there was no sign of that yesterday as Sam Allardyce's side fought tooth and nail to hold on for a point they fully deserved against the reigning league champions.
And but for a contentious decision by referee Howard Webb, who ruled out Kevin Nolan's technically-excellent first half strike for offside, that one point could well have been three.
Naturally West Ham rode their luck at times - as one would expect against a team consisting of players of the very highest quality - but there will be few present at the Boleyn Ground who left feeling either side was hard done in earning a share of the spoils.
Chances for either United or City were few and far between on a day when defences had the upper hand although fortunately for West Ham, Italian enigma Mario Balotelli was having one of those days that no doubt leaves his manager tearing his (well-coiffeured) hair out.
The 22-year-old, who was linked with West Ham before eventually joining to the Citizens forged three good chances in the first half but saw his final touch desert him badly - much to the enjoyment of the home support who naturally baited the temperamental youngster at every available opportunity.
Predictably there was also a rousing welcome for Carlos Tevez upon his latest return to the Boleyn Ground, although it was perhaps odd to see an opposition player receive a bigger round of applause upon his substitution than West Ham's own players.
Like Balotelli, the Argentinian also had an off day in front of goal although some of his link-up play was a joy to behold. But whilst West Ham may have been featuring two of his former team mates in Yossi Benayoun and Mark Noble, neither gave any quarter with both receiving a word of caution from match official Webb for a couple of crunching tackles on their former colleague.
With James Tomkins ruled out having failed a late fitness test - the result of tweaking a groin in training on Friday - Joey O'Brien returned to shore up a defence already weakened by the loss of Guy Demel and the perpetually injured Alou Diarra.
The Irishman, along with fellow defenders James Collins, Winston Reid and George McCartney performed superbly throughout and continued to thwart the opposition all afternoon - although it looked as if their work would come undone in the final moments of the game when Gareth Barry slipped through the net.
Suspicions of hand ball were dismissed by referee Webb (sporting an identical kit of yellow shirt and black shorts to that of City 'keeper Joe Hart), only for the irregular England midfielder to inexplicably fire wide from no more than six yards out with the goal at his mercy.
Had that gone in, it would have been incredibly harsh on West Ham who, despite only fashioning six attempts at goal to the opposition's 18 could have scored two or three themselves.
Captain Nolan's aforementioned effort (which TV replays confirmed was very harshly ruled out) was followed by a Yossi Benayoun volley that forced a fingertip save from Hart - that resulted in a goal kick - and a second half overhead kick from Andy Carroll that flew inches wide of its intended target with the England goalkeeper well beaten.
Carroll, one of two £35million strikers on show - the other, City's Sergio Aguero, had to wait until the 69th minute to see any action - yet again failed to score his first West Ham goal but once again proved vital as West Ham's most advanced forward.
The 23-year-old, who is on a season-long loan at the Boleyn bullied the two City centre halfs all afternoon before being given a well-deserved rest for the final few minutes in order to allow Carlton Cole a brief cameo. That first goal surely can't be too far away - whilst his next chance to secure it comes against his home town club next weekend.
The point lifts West Ham to eighth place in the Premier League with a quarter of the season now played, whilst Manchester City remain in third spot behind Manchester United and Chelsea.
West Ham United 0-0 Manchester City: match facts
West Ham United: Jaaskelainein, O'Brien, McCartney, Collins (Spence 84), Reid, Noble, Nolan, Diame (O'Neil 71), Jarvis, Benayoun, Carroll (Cole 77).
Subs not used: Spiegel, Chambers, Hall, Maiga.
Booked: Collins (56), Benayoun (61), McCartney (82).
Shots on/off target: 6 - 1/5.
Manchester City: Hart, K.Toure, Nastasic, Kompany, Clichy, Milner, Y.Toure, Nasri (Sinclair 90), Tevez (Garcia 84), Balotelli (Aguero 69), Dzeko.
Subs not used: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Barry.
Shots on/off target: 18 - 8/10.
Referee: Howard Webb.
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