Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 West Ham United
Sunday, 22nd February 2015
Man Utd or WBA? Aweful or simply awful? What did you expect? What we got was very nearly aweful and, just as with the Reds, we wuz robbed!Now, having said that, we wuzn't robbed by the ref. It's easy to blame the officials, and I also know that many of you may see me as "that bloke wot always apologises for refs". I don't; I just try to watch matches without claret and blue glasses on.
Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they get it wrong. Sometimes, their overall performance is good, bad, favours us, favours the opposition. Today, I thought Jon Moss had a very good game; a neutral one, too. "Real" fans (whatever they are) can't complain that the other side got the best of decisions today; neither side did. Just as it should be!
How many refs, in this day and age, allow derby games to be derby games? Just on 20 minutes there was a sequence of proper derby challenges went in; four, five, six of 'em. Whole-hearted, full-blooded from both sides.
Nothing malicious in any, but fussier refs would have blown up, maybe brandished cards. Moss let them all go. He could easily have sent Noble off just after the hour. Both Noble and Cresswell were rightly booked for obvious shirt-pulling before Nobes brought down Bentaleb in the middle of the pitch. It looked awfully like it was from behind...
Noble bounced up immediately; Bentaleb rolled over three times; only to promptly be flattened by Vertonghen. A challenge that was at least 80% pure shove. By the book, Moss should probably have carded both of them, and that would been a red against us.
Instead, he exercised the common sense that referees display, or are allowed to display, all too infrequently. Both got a talking to, neither got a yellow. To an older fan at least, that will surely seem only right and proper. Moreover, is it only me that thinks that, after he was let off, Mark was arguing that Vertonghen should not be booked either? It looked like it to me, and very sporting, if so.
Moss awarded a penalty against us in the dying seconds of stoppage time. That, also, was right and proper. When Alex Song does well what Alex Song does well, he is sublime. Too often, especially since the year has turned, he faffs around our penalty area, and we suffer as a consequence.
Kane, who was sufficiently well marshalled to have been reduced from a whirlwind to a gentle breeze with infrequent gusts, went down. Did he dive? Certainly not! Was it a penalty? Ummmm...
There wasn't a lot of contact, but there was contact, Song being the guilty party; a half-challenge that didn't need to be made. The measure of a controversial decision is what would you say if it were the other way round? I'm not convinced there was enough contact for it to be a penalty. But I also know my own biases - I'd have have been jumping up and down had the same not been awarded to us!
The result was an equaliser that Spurs didn't deserve, and the one moment in the game that I would question the ref on. There were supposed to be 5 minutes of added time (and I'm less than certain where all of that came from!). There was, what, 95:50-something seconds on the clock when the penalty was taken?
The moment that Adrian saved well what was not a well-taken penalty, surely the whistle should have gone? Before Kane managed to just clip the rebound past the tremendous recovering dive that just barely failed to block him out? But no, it didn't, and 2-2 it finished.
Dammit! They stole all three points from us in the opening game of the season, when they scarcely deserved a draw. Today, they've somehow nicked a point, as Man Utd did. That's 2 points from 3 games that ought to have yielded 9, with 5 points being won by two sides we are competing with. And that's ignoring Arsenal's jammy win over Yuletide!
Europe is probably now beyond us, but for all that we have fallen from high standards since the turn of the year, you cannot help but wonder "what if...", if only 2 or 3 of those 4 games had fallen our way. I can't remember many points we've taken that we didn't deserve; one win that ought to have been a draw, perhaps.
Much like Man Utd, this was a performance that was more than the sum of parts. We conceded a lot of possession, and there weren't too many stand-out performances. But it was the terrific team performance that was sadly missing at the Hawthorns last time out.
Spurs' first goal was perhaps the worst struck shot ever to have crossed the line that I've seen (barring those that bobble in from close range). Only the footballing gods can explain how that made it in. It perhaps evened up our dodgy second.
That finished a brilliant passage of play from us, and was a jolly good finish from Sakho, too. But Valencia? I know he didn't touch the ball, but he was very definitely offside when he jumped for it. Not interfering? Really? As with their penalty, I think there would be few of us not squawking had that decision gone against us!
There's nothing that can be said against our opener. Another lovely little move - good battling to win the ball back on the edge of their play, interplay, a cracking little cross from Cressie for Kouyate to power a header into the back of the net. It has to be said that with Carroll missing again, and Nolan dropped today, we're suddenly playing lots of good football again, instead of only some.
Not that we had it all our own way. Far from it. The first 15 minutes were very "backs to the wall". So were the last 15, courtesy of the goal Rose pulled back on 80 minutes and the extra 5 added on.
It was hardly a classic game, both teams being prone to errors. It was a pretty decent derby, all the same. For all that we did concede a lot of the ball, Adrian had only one meaningful save to make before the late barrage in the final 20 minutes or so. Even that, on 5 minutes from Bentaleb, whilst decent, looked more spectacular than difficult.
The best chances were ours. After the first quarter hour, the game was fully and evenly contested. The two goal lead was wholly deserved as, surely, the victory would have been. Alas, such is football!
I flatly refused to nominate a Man of the Match after West Brom, we were that poor. Here, I have a choice of three - Adrian, Kouyate, Sakho. The latter two scored our goals, and both worked tirelessly. Perhaps I should say "even more tirelessly than the rest". There were no shirkers at White Hart Lane today.
Adrian was mostly a spectator for 75 minutes, but then then made a couple of very good saves, before so nearly denying Spurs their undeserved equaliser. It's a difficult one. I think, on balance, it has to be Kouyate.
Valencia, whilst he had less effect, worked every bit as hard as Sakho, so it'd be a little generous to give it to Diafra. Had Adrian been off-form, we might have lost the game late on, but where was he the rest of the match? Through no fault of his (and happily so, I should think!), not required.
But Kouyate was there; here, there and everywhere; throughout the game. His form dipped after he picked up that injury against Liverpool, but he is definitely back to that early season level. So Kouyate today, for me.
If anyone had offered me a decent performance and a point beforehand, I'd have taken it. The truth is, I'm now disappointed. Reid coming back made a double difference. First, in that we had two bona-fide centre backs again; second, in that that meant Duracell Kouyate was back in midfield.
Possibly even a triple difference. Nolan may or may not be a great club captain, but he is not popular with the fans, and I am one that does not think he is worth a starting berth. With a more or less fully fit squad again, bar Carroll, something has to give.
For once, it is Nolan. His return to the bench, along with the enforced reunion of Sakho and Valencia, makes us look a far better footballing side. We didn't have all of the ball that we might have had, but then Spurs, bless 'em (he says through gritted teeth), have been in fine form since mid December.
I've expressed my admiration for Pocchettino before. After a stuttering start, he seems to have worked out how to get his side to play. Today was a tough task for an Irons' team who have not been doing, or playing, well since the year turned.
More performances like that would be very welcome to all. It ultimately won't make the anti-Sam's love Allardyce any more, however much the pro-Sam's may wish for it. One can't help feeling that if Carroll were available, both he and Nolan would play...
But poor old fragile Andy is apparently out for the rest of the season. Whether Sam does so voluntarily or not, he does cut his cloth to fit. We didn't play the diamond today, and Downing was a bit subdued as a result, but you cannot argue with the result of the chosen tactics this time, and it should have been even better.
We didn't win, and Sam's complaints about the added time, about the equaliser, are all entirely justified for a change. Or so I think, and I don't often unequivocally agree with Signor Allardici!
We're not quite out of our tough run of games. Palace at home next week is about as easy as it gets in the Premiership i.e. bloody well not easy at all! After that, Chelsea and Arsenal. From there, though, we've only City to play of the top teams.
We may yet be able to blow bubbles and dream this season. I don't honestly think we can make Europe through the league. But, if Sam will keep playing this side, if Sam is judicious in his use of the diamond that has produced our best performances, we can still hang on the coat-tails of those above us, at least, and hope.
Good football and not far off of European qualification? Despite the disappointment of the dismal FA Cup exit, that, for West Ham, is a very successful season. Up The Irons!
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Player RatingsAdrian San Miguel del Castillo
It would not be right to say that we'd have lost were it not for... I'm sure Jussi would have done equally as well. But the man between the sticks has to stay alert through dullish periods, and do his job when the time comes. Adrian did. And he saved the penalty and so nearly got to the rebound. Dammit!
Had a lot of defending to do today, which he did well enough. That limited his chances to go forwards, though.
Had a fairly stiff test defensively today. He passed (especially with that cross, aha!), but not with flying colours. A few errors in amongst...
A good return to the side. A pity we shall lose him.
Whilst he did a decent job; with Reid, made Kane largely anonymous; I'm starting to get very cheesed off with his play-acting. First minute of stoppage time, Soldado's high boot catches JT on the... arm! The arm, James, the arm! But you start clutching your damn head again! Cut out the blatant cheating, you prize twit!
A couple of bad moments, giving away a soft, silly penalty particularly. Otherwise, a solid under-the-radar display today - a lot of good work, though little to catch the eye.
By not very much, Man of the Match. Energetic, committed, and wasn't that a lovely thumping header for the opener!
A little lucky not to be sent off. He looked decidedly miffed to be taken off, but I think it was the right decision - he was walking a knife edge by then. Decent but not outstanding.
No shirker, but definitely somewhat subdued when not at the point of the diamond.
Doesn't he run! I'm not one for stats much, but I'd be interested to see which of him and Sakho covers the most ground. Speaking of Sakho, Enner might be having a few words about the lack of a square ball for an easy tap in just before we did score our second...
As per Valencia, terrific work rate up front. A bit greedy with that chance on 58, but made up for it by sneaking in at the back stick a few minutes later.
(Replaced Noble) On for Noble on 66; off again 20 minutes later with what looked like a pulled hamstring. No effect on the game.
(Replaced Valencia) Came on, ran around for 20 minutes. Can't remember him doing anything notable.
(Replaced Cole) On when Cole had to be withdrawn with less than 10 minutes to play. No chance to make an impression.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Adrian San Miguel del Castillo, Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Cresswell, Winston Reid, James Tomkins, Alex Song, Cheikhou Kouyate, Mark Noble, Stewart Downing, Enner Valencia, Diafra Sakho.
Goals: Cheikhou Kouyate 22 Diafra Sakho 62 .
Booked: Mark Noble 45 Aaron Cresswell 51 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Tottenham Hotspur: .
Subs not used: .
Goals: Rose (81), Kane (pen 90+6).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Jonathan Moss.
Man of the Match: Cheikhou Kouyate.