West Bromwich Albion 4 West Ham United 2
Saturday, 17th September 2016
by Staff Writer
West Ham's defensive frailties were exposed for all to see as a previously goal-shy Albion ran riot at the Hawthorns this afternoon.The Hammers, who had conceded nine goals in their opening four fixtures prior to today's meeting found themselves three down at the break following a first half littered with almost comical defensive errors.
But unlike in this fixture three seasons ago a (Scott Parker-led) inspired comeback was never on the cards and Slaven Bilic's side fell further behind - following yet more embarrassing defending - before a brief rally saw the final deficit reduced to slightly-less disastrous two goals.
Back in February of last year, ugly scenes erupted both during and after West Ham's 4-0 defeat here that sent Sam Allardyce's side tumbling out of the FA Cup and left co-owner Dave Sullivan having to face a barrage of abuse in the car park from a handful of angry fans.
However in some ways this particular defeat was even more concerning given West Ham's complete capitulation at the hands of a team who hadn't scored more than one goal in a game since last March and who had never previously scored four in the Premier League under current manager Tony Pulis.
It took Albion just eight minutes to register the gamne's first goal, when new signing Nacer Chadli - a recent arrival from Tottenham - converted from the penalty spot after Arthur Masuaku inexplicably handled the ball inside the area when under no immediate pressure.
The hosts doubled their lead eight minutes ahead of the half time interval following a mistake from Italian international Angelo Ogbonna, who instead of simply clearing his lines opted to deliver a hospital ball which was picked up by Chadli and finished by Salomon Rondon.
And there was still time for the Baggies to add a third before referee Mark Clattenburg called time on a dreadful first half for the visitors. A straightforward corner was half-cleared
to (an unmarked) Chadli, lurking on the edge of the box, and his shot was deflected into the net via James McClean.
Despite a horror showing in the first half worse was to follow for Bilic's side before the tide began to turn. A United corner broke down and Albion broke - with all 10 of West Ham's outfield players in the opposition's final third - in a move that ended with Chadli adding his second of the day.
Fortunately perhaps for the Hammers, whose defensive display must rank as one of the most inept performances in recent seasons, Albion were happy to defend their healthy advantage and it was the Hammers - who enjoyed 71 per cent of possession overall - that pressed for most of the second period.
For that, they were rewarded twice - firstly when the in-form and the sole-shining-light-in-recent-weeks Michail Antonio grabbed his fifth goal in four games on 61 minutes with a guided header. Then, four minutes later Manuel Lanzini grabbed his first of the campaign from the penalty spot after DImi Payet was tripped as he surged towards goal.
Slaven Bilic, whose team have been leaking goals since the latter stages of the last campaign clearly has much work ahead as he attempts to stem the flow. However his defensive options remain limited; of some ??60milliong (gross) that was spent during the summer transfer window, just one tenth of that went on defenders - a solitary ??6million fee for the error-prone Masuaku.
Alvaro Arbeloa - who should make his debut this week against Accrington Stanley - also arrived on a free transfer but the ??10million gained by selling James Tomkins (who scored today) to Crystal Palace eclipsed the club's outlay.
Meanwhile a number of those more advanced players introduced to the squad this summer - the likes of Havard Nordtveit, Simone Zaza, Gokhan Tore and Jonathan Calleri - have thus far shown little to illustrate that they deserve a place in Bilic's first XI, or a spot in any top-half Premier League team.
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Player RatingsDarren Randolph
Rarely called into action but more than capable when asked to do so. A nice easy start to the season for one of the RoI's Euro 16 heroes.
Looked accomplished at full back tonight, as he had very little defending to do. Sterner tests will follow for Antonio, as will the inevitable qeustions regarding his suitability for the role.
Sam endured a torried time in the first leg so it was pleasing to see him put in a solid performance tonight in an unfamiliar position.
Calm, assured and willing to put the boot in when required - just what you want from a centre half.
Another youngster to shine on the big night. The Ox was an able partner to the more experienced Reid but also capable of turning defence into attack with some delightful flighted dellveries.
Another player making his debut, the Norwegian had a fairly quiet first half but came alive in the second. He also showed some lovely footwork as the game reached its closing stages; another impressive start.
A classy performance from a very important player. Payet and Noble drew the plaudits last season but it was Kouyate that kept the midfield ticking over. Tonight he takes the acclaim for two goals that steered West Ham into the next round of the competition.
Solid and combative as per usual, his most notable contribution was the superb delivery for Feghouli's goal. Should be a shoo-in for Allarduce's next squad, at this rate.
The big man put himself about well and played an important role in both of Kouyate's goals. He still seems a little of the pace, thought that's not unusual at this stage of the season.
An impressive start for the winger, who may well have taken the Man of the Match award were it not for Kouyate's two-goal haul. He ran at Domzale's defence all night and was finally rewarded with a goal that sealed the win.
Whilst you can certainly question the ability, there can be no doubt that Valencia gave 100 per cent for West Ham tonight - the sort of attitude his former striker partner would do well to take note of.
Long linked with a move away from the club but given a positive reception upon his introduction by the crowd. Another who seems determined to work through his difficulties.
A nice little two-minute caneo to introduce him to the West Ham family.
See above, just for half the time...
Adrian San Miguel Del Castillo
Match FactsWest Ham United: Darren Randolph, Michail Antonio, Sam Byram, Winston Reid, Reece Oxford, Havard Nordtveit, Cheikhou Kouyate, Mark Noble, Andy Carroll, Sofiane Feghouli, Enner Valencia.
Goals: Cheikhou Kouyate 8 Cheikhou Kouyate 22 Sofiane Feghouli 81 .
Booked: Michail Antonio Sofiane Feghouli Enner Valencia .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
West Bromwich Albion: Marava, Brachi, Dobrovoljc, Horic, Balkovec, Morel, Horvat, Majer, Crnic, Alvir, Mance.
Subs not used: Milic, Vetrih, Repas, Blazic.
Booked: Crnic, Balkovec, Horic.
Sent off: None.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg.
Man of the Match: Cheikhou Kouyate.