West Ham will again point to poor officiating costing them three points this weekend, but a poor second half performance saw them clinging onto an eventual 1-1 finish.
Whilst they should have played 30 minutes against ten men with a one goal advantage, they gave Palace chance after chance with poor defending and very little intent to attack.
In the end, it was no surprise to see Mark Noble’s first half penalty cancelled out as Manuel Pellegrini’s side retreated far too deep throughout the second half, the points shared at Selhurst Park.
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West Ham named an unchanged side, with Marks Arnautovic returning to the squad to find a place on the bench.
As West Ham as an inconsistent side can be, the glory of outplaying Liverpool was always in danger of being followed by a lame performance against a side lower down the table. But no signs of complacency or bad attitudes were on show in the first 45 minutes.
It was a first half where you’d have paid the entrance fee alone to watch just one man, the other 21 just extras on his stage. Felipe Anderson was the show, the rest just happened.
Taking notes for a match report, sometimes you see patterns. Today’s was the name Anderson recurring over and over again, only missing on one positive occasion for the Hammers. He started the moves, he intercepted at the other end, he led counters.
On 13 minutes, his marauding run from left to right fed Antonio. Fresh from a goal against Liverpool, his confidence was clearly on the up. As he cut inside, the Big left foot swinger was ready, but subtlety appeared. He slipped in Fredericks, who should have done better from eight yards out.
A minute later, West Ham were able to turn over the ball quickly and Anderson led a break from one half to another. He was supported by Snodgrass, who broke into the box and was played in by Anderson. The Scot should have done much better than to hit a tame shot straight at the goalkeeper.
The game was end to end, although West Ham seemed to be encouraging Palace onto them, living off the chance to counter attack. It’s a somewhat dangerous game, and one Palace could have exposed when MacArthur had a chance in the box, saved excellently by unflappable Fabianski.
And from it, West Ham again broke through Anderson.
The Brazilian drove into the box and squared to Hernandez, but the Mexican striker’s touch was poor, forcing him wide. He was pressured by the goalkeeper and shot poorly.
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And as the West Ham fans lightened the mood with a rendition of “Where were you on Monday night?” to a linesman who could raise his flag, they were soon to cheer incompetence at the other end of the pitch.
But it came from the Palace ‘keeper. A poor Anderson freekick was flicked into the area by Rice. It was hopeful, with little plan, but Antonio made something of it. Spinning off his marker easily, he then beat Guaita to the ball, hearing it he isn’t him and then being clattered.
The referee had no hesitation in awarding the penalty which captain Mark Noble was happy to slip into the corner for his first of the season. 1-0 to West Ham after 27 minutes.
From there, the half settled. Anderson was the puppet master still, and West Ham felt even more comfortable to use the counter effectively.
The defence was rarely stretched, but Palace fired a warning as Townsend slipped Benteke through, kept onside by Fredericks’ poor line, and fired hard and low to Fabianski’s right. It was a decent effort and an even better save.
The Hammers had reached the intermission a goal to the good. Yet the Jekyll and Hyde of West Ham United showed itself again as the second half was taken away from any control.
Palace came out with more fire. Driven crosses across the face of goal should have seen attackers looking to cash in, Zaha best Fredericks a few times.
An early golden opportunity was missed by James MacArthur. Six yards out, he was flicked through wonderfully on the edge of the area by van Aanholt, Fredericks playing him on. He delayed, sitting Fabianski down, and with it easier to score, his shot is blasted wide with the stadium ready for an equaliser.
Palace were up for it, but West Ham had shrunk into their shells. The pace from Townsend and Zaha was causing issues, whilst Van Aanholt and Wan Bissaka were complementing the attack fantastically, far better than West Ham could stop.
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Yet the biggest talking point came with 30 minutes to go. Noble beat Milivojevic to the ball in West Ham’s half to start a breakaway. The Serbian midfielder threw himself at the West Ham captain, a reckless lunge that completely wiped out his opponent with little control.
It seemed a certain yellow, but Palace’s combative midfielder survived, with it likely that the advantage West Ham went on to waste was what saved Milivojevic. A clear and unforgivable error, yet one everyone could explain as just one of those inexcusable things referees do.
It helped Palace keep control and keep the momentum going, when a disturbance in that could easily have swayed the game back in West Ham’s favour. But instead the game stayed as the home side’s, Palace in charge in every area of the pitch.
The chances began to come. Cresswell did excellent to stop Batshuayi when he appeared clean through, covering excellently and continuing his good form. Then the Belgian striker, on loan again, missed a glorious opportunity.
Zaha played a ball down the left to Van Aanholt, who was given an easy ball inside by the poor positioning of a struggling Fredericks. He squared it to Batshuayi, but the striker contrived to miss from eight yards under no pressure.
Arnautovic came on for Hernandez and, more tellingly, Obiang replaced Antonio as Pellegrini made his intentions clear. But his side were already too deep and already unable to force Palace back. It invited more pressure, and soon they were duly punished.
Zaha, now a danger with every touch, squeezed a driven cross into the area. A nothing ball, it was his desire to follow it that made what happened next.
MacArthur played it straight back to Zaha, sprinting into the six yard box. Pushed a little wide, he shot, and a deflection off Diop scooped it over Fabianski from four yards, giving the Pole little time to react.
Palace deserved their goal, and West Ham deserved the punishment. They had invited constant pressure, often it tells.
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West Ham awoke for three minutes, but it remained the home side’s game to win. In the end, they made one more half chance, which Fabianski was more than equal to, and West Ham were able to cling on to their point.
It was a disappointing second half, one that followed a first half performance that looked to have intent and purpose. The second 45 offered neither of worth to win the game, and whilst a red card should have been shown, Palace should have scored much sooner.
As the final whilst gave each side a point, only one would go home feeling they did enough to win the game. West Ham finished the day in tenth, level on 33 points with Bournemouth below them and Everton (who have played a game more) above in 9th.
A point taken away, you wonder why we prioritise that mundanity with next week’s unwanted weekend off facing us.
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Lucasz Fabianski (7) Made good saves, hard done by for the goal, but also nothing that was too excellent either.
Ryan Fredericks (6) Did well against Zaha when it was all about pace, but his positioning was not wonderful and often held a poor line. Made 5 tackles, but still didn’t feel secure and all the big second half chances down his side.
Aaron Cresswell (8) Maybe generous, but he adds such impetus to the left side and made vital tackles and clearances at the back.
Issa Diop (7) Didn’t command down the right of the defence with Fredericks, but stood strong in the middle with clearances, blocks and interceptions.
Angelo Ogbonna (7) Nine clearances, three blocked shots. He can be physically dominant when he wants to be.
Declan Rice (6) Other than a few forward surges, a very low key contribution. Palace wanted to use the pace out wide and led to little for Rice to patrol centrally.
Mark Noble (7) Calm in the middle, good penalty, should have seen Milivojevic sent off after drawing that foul. 90% pass completion from 48 passes and in a hectic game.
Felipe Anderson (8) Did struggle a little second half, but ran the first. Most tackles on the pitch (seven), but his magic was the way he dictated the West Ham attack. Can control a ball on the run with such nonchalant ease.
Robert Snodgrass (6) Energy again needed, and one excellent chase back to halt a counter that looked deadly. Should have scored.
Michail Antonio (7) Confidence is definitely back. Won the penalty, bothered their fullbacks with direct running, worked up and down the channel.
Javier Hernandez (6) Worked hard and won some freekicks, but fluffed his big chance.
Marko Arnautovic (5) (Replaced Hernandez) Didn’t really do anything. Not entirely his fault, there was no desire to attack.
Pedro Obiang (6) (Replaced Antonio) Made some tackles and got about. Little else he could do.
Pablo Zabaleta (6) (Replaced Fredericks) On for only a few minutes, he did one particular bit of one-on-one defending against Zaha that was experienced and brilliant.
Adrian San Miguel del Castillo (0) Did not play.
Arthur Masuaku (0) Did not play.
West Ham United: Lucasz Fabianski, Ryan Fredericks, Aaron Cresswell, Issa Diop, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Mark Noble, Felipe Anderson, Robert Snodgrass, Michail Antonio, Javier Hernandez.
Substitutes: Marko Arnautovic, Pedro Obiang , Pablo Zabaleta, Adrian San Miguel del Castillo, Arthur Masuaku.
Goals: Mark Noble 27
Crystal Palace: Guaita, Wan-Bissaka, Kelly, Sakho, van Aanholt, Milivojevic, McArthur, Meyer (79), Schlupp, Townsend, Zaha, Benteke (Batshuayi 61).
Subs not used: Hennessey, Ward, Dann, Sako, Ayew.
Goals: Zaha (76)
Booked: Wan-Bissaka, Milivojevic, McArthur
Referee: Craig Pawson
Man of the Match: Aaron Cresswell