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West Ham United 3 Crystal Palace 2
Saturday, 8th December 2018
Viva la Pellegrini revolution!
It was a case of the good, the bad and the breathtaking today at the London Stadium as Manuel Pellegrini's continued their fine form with a third win in the last three games, and a third consecutive match scoring three goals - something the Irons had never done in the Premier League.
Without talisman Marky Arnautovic, The Hammers relied on new heroes and two of the best from the season so far were on form once again.
Embed from Getty Images
Fine performances from Robert Snodgrass and Felipe Anderson produced fantastic long range goals, with Javier Hernandez scoring from a rebound as West Ham needed three to beat Crystal Palace.
Again, however, the home side lacked consistency. Palace had won just one of their last ten games and their lack of confidence was evident in their early timewasting tactics.
Lucas Perez was brought in for his first Premier League start for the club after his two midweek goals. He created an early chance for Hernandez, but the strikeforce contributed little together afterwards.
In fact, it was Palace who took the lead. A looping freekick into the box was won easily by the returning James Tomkins, who nodded it centrally to find James MacArthur. The midfielder had been allowed to drift through the defence and prodded past Fabianski.
The Hammers lacked rhythm, and without Arnautovic leading the line, seemed to have little for the Palace defence to fear.
Whilst able to control some of the game, they created little to excite, and they nearly went in at the break 2-0 down as Milivojevic's freekick smashed the crossbar with Fabianski beaten all ends up.
The flat first half left fans frustrated. It also proved enough to force Manuel Pellegrini into decisive action, which saw Andy Carroll replacing Lucas Perez at half time.
The big Geordie striker changed how the opposition had to defend, but it was as much the attitude of the rest of the team that made the second half a different story.
Just like in the week against Cardiff, the 20 minutes after half-time completely changed the game. Just like in midweek, the Hammers turned it on to prove far too much for their weaker opposition.
Two of the goals themselves were worth the entrance fee alone.
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The growing influence and importance of Robert Snodgrass was again on show. A poor clearance from a weak Zabaleta cross fell to the Scotsman on the edge of the area. With a touch out of his feet, the reinvigorated Snodgrass curled a bouncing ball beautifully beyond Wayne Hennessey. Snodgrass was clearly delighted, as were the fans as much for him as for the goal itself.
Before West Ham would score again, Palace could have gone ahead once more. Diop did enough to stop the always dangerous Wilfried Zaha, whilst Fabianski was brave to block Max Meyer
But it was West Ham who had the quality to take the lead. A Felipe Anderson freekick was parried out into the box by Hennessey, and whilst the Palace defenders turned to see where the ball was, Hernandez had already spun away from them to snatch up a rebound from six yards out. A smart finish on a moving ball, it was a typical Hernandez goal, his 49th in the Premier League (all of which have been scored inside the box).
Only three minutes later, West Ham gave themselves breathing space and seemingly put the game to bed.
It was a goal befitting the recent performances of Felipe Anderson and the growing confidence he has found in Claret and Blue.
Another lung-busting run forward from the evergreen Pablo Zabaleta allowed the Argentine to feed the ball into Hernandez. He turned from the centre to spread it to Anderson out wide.
20 yards from goal, the Brazilian steadied himself, looked up and then bent the ball into the far corner with all the ease of a man who knows he can score beautiful goals like this for fun. He had dictated the best of West Ham's play and deserved his goal. More importantly, it was his fifth goal in six games and shows that talent has met consistent end product.
The West Ham crowd relaxed, as did the players on the pitch. Soon after, a lovely Masuaku cross was met by Hernandez and the Mexican should have put the game to bed.
But the inconsistency that blights this side allowed this game to spring back to life and finish in a real contest.
Embed from Getty Images
With 15 minutes to go, their complacency was punished. Sloppy football allowed Palace to win the ball back in the West Ham half, and the resulting corner was worked short before being crossed into the box.
The far from imposing Jeffrey Schlupp managed to find space to guide a header into the bottom corner, punishing the home side and threatening to rescue a point that looked long gone.
However, Manuel Pellegrini is changing attitudes at West Ham. Little did this feel like a surrender to eventual disappointment. Just as a 1-0 deficit was a challenge rather than a death toll, this late goal did not see West Ham crumble or the fans filled with fear.
It proved to be beyond Palace to throw up one last curveball. West Ham stride further into their more comfortable Christmas fixtures with maximum points, showing the quality they have gathered both in the transfer market and from their manager's coaching, and finding enough of it in reserve to paper over the cracks of inconsistency that still remain.
Maverick entertainers is a tag West Ham fans can live with, so nine goals in three games is music to their ears.
Five wins in their last eight home games leaves West Ham looking up, not down for the first time in quite a while.
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Beaten twice, a couple important interventions but still searching for a second home clean sheet.
The man whom age forgot returned to the side in strong form, with Zaha and the left side managed comfortably.
Confidence on the ball was definitely notable, deserved an assist for his late cross to Hernandez. Not the lost cause some discarded him as.
Often makes important blocks and tackles, but the two goals conceded were soft in the central defence.
Good to see him back, but the criticism of the goals conceded applies to him too.
Comfortable and controlled, his recent displays have involved more marches forward. So assured for someone so young, the sky's the limit.
The captain has come back into the side very comfortably and appears to know his role much better now than early Pellegrini days and is benefiting from the license to express himself.
Assist and a goal - a goal worthy of winning any game. Effortless class at times: when he plays, we play.
The rejuvenation continues and what a richly deserved goal. A sign of his confidence; would he take that shot on even two months ago?
A goal made to look simple again by his brilliance in the box. Contributes more than he's given credit for in build up.
One great pass but otherwise very flat.
(Replaced Perez) Did more than Perez and his presence did worry Palace, but clearly still feeling his way to match fitness.
(Replaced Hernandez) Missed all of the fun, but is a lively option off the bench.
(Replaced Anderson) Brought on to add a level of security. Job done.
Adrian San Miguel del Castillo
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
West Ham United:
Lucasz Fabianski, Pablo Zabaleta, Arthur Masuaku, Issa Diop, Fabian Balbuena, Declan Rice, Mark Noble, Felipe Anderson, Robert Snodgrass, Javier Hernandez, Lucas Perez.
Robert Snodgrass 48 Javier Hernandez 62 Felipe Anderson 65 .
Issa Diop 38 .
Hennessey, Wan-Bissaka, Tomkins, Sakho, van Aanholt (Schlupp 55), Meyer (Puncheon 84), Milivojevic, Kouyate, McArthur (Ayew 66), Townsend, Zaha.
Subs not used:
Guaita, Ward, Kelly, Sorloth.
Zaha (90+1), Tomkins (90+4).
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