Crystal Palace 2 West Ham United 3
Tuesday, 26th January 2021
by Chris Wilkerson
It's six wins on the spin for West Ham United as a dominant performance and impressive comeback got them a 3-2 win at Crystal Palace, and a place in the top four.If a run of form that could make you start believing in conspiracy theories, the Hammers have yet to lose in 2021 and looked increasingly impressive today as they look to separate themselves from the mid-table pack.
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KUMB Man of the Match: Tomas Soucek
KUMB Man of the Match: Tomas Soucek
They were taken there by two Tomas Soucek goals, rounded off by a header from Craig Dawson and only conceded the second to the last kick of the game. The joy will be mixed with some frustration that the contest had not been finished sooner, Michail Antonio guilty of missing three or four simple chances to absolutely blow Palace away.
However, the game could hardly have started worse for David Moyes?EUR(TM)s side, Zaha scoring inside the first three minutes of the match.
It was too easy for Palace, who showed flashes of neat and intricate football throughout the game and were at their best when they did. This time it was brilliant from Zaha, collecting the ball on the edge of the area, skipping past Ogbonna in a tight space and then striking it down low to Fabianski?EUR(TM)s right and inside the post.
The home side scored before West Ham had really woken up to the game they were in, and they looked flat even right up until their equaliser only five minutes later.
To their credit, this goal was all about clever touches and great movement. With Fornals looking short of options down the left, he curled a chipped ball to the byline just inside the area and ahead of Antonio. He did all he could do with it, hooking a volley into the middle and hoping someone was there to meet it.
Right now, it was never going to be anyone else but Tomas Soucek, the Czech midfielder bombing forward and rising to power a header home from a few yards out and restore parity. Fornals?EUR(TM)s pass was brilliant, if intended, and whilst there was little else Antonio could do, he did it perfectly.
It definitely woke the side up, and opened the first half up as an entertaining affair. It was relatively end-to-end, the attacking quartets of both sides looking threatening.
Soon West Ham started to get the better of things, Fornals and Benrahma showing excellent guile allied with fantastic work-rate to turn the screw in the away side?EUR(TM)s favour. And it was soon rewarded too, that set-piece prowess coming to the fore once again.
Cresswell took the freekick 25-30 yards from goal on the left and curled it to the back post. It went just over the head of Antonio and off Soucek. The midfielder cushioned it down with his thigh and then volleyed home, squeezing the ball between goalkeeper and post from a tight angle to score his ninth goal of the season.
VAR looked to see if Antonio had touched the ball, a flick off his head would have seen Soucek ruled offside, but no touch was found and the goal stood.
It should have been three straight from kick off. Kouyate was given the ball at that back from the restart and casually passed it to Cahill as Antonio rushed to pressure him. The pass was loose, scuffed on a pitch so wet that the ball was consistently held up.
Antonio seized on it, taking the ball and driving to the edge of the area where he shot, beat the goalkeeper but hit the inside of the post before bouncing across goal and away. His connection wasn?EUR(TM)t perfect, and maybe that just stopped it smashing into the back of the net.
From here, West Ham took over. Soucek?EUR(TM)s confident was clear to be seen, driving onto an interception and hammering at goal from range as he searched for a hat trick. There was even time for some throw-in confusion that left Cresswell less than happy with the referee, right in front of the cameras and the TV microphones.
There was still time for another glorious chance for Antonio. This one came after a West Ham move down the right, Benrahma squeezing a ball into the box that rolled towards Fornals. The Spaniard was relatively central but stepped over the ball, leaving it to Cresswell on the edge of the area.
The left back?EUR(TM)s shot was poor, heading wide but right to Antonio. He opened his body up and stabbed the ball at goal, only yards out, but his effort cannoned off the post and the striker was again left frustrated.
The Hammers remained 2-1 in front heading into half-time, clearly the better of the two sides and rightly irritated to hold only a slender lead.
That slim lead was nearly gone inside two minutes of the second half. A muddle in the middle of the park gave Palace an opening, Rice and Dawson both missing the same ball and Eze coming out the other side to play Zaha through on goal.
The Palace talisman, his face full of faux outrage all game, burst into the box and was confronted by Fabianski, the goalkeeper doing well to save the first shot and smother Zaha?EUR(TM)s second attempt as the forward tried to beat the Pole from a tight angle.
It looked like a sign of life for Palace, but instead they were forced back again and dominated once more by this impressive West Ham side. With a little more composure and a little more luck, Moyes?EUR(TM)s men could have had six or seven goals. Antonio is the man who will feel most responsible, his first half woes continuing into the second 45.
Benrahma was again brilliant down the right, floating past players into spaces that didn?EUR(TM)t look to exist moments earlier. This time he fired it across goal and found Antonio all of three yards out. He flicked it at goal and forced a great save from Guaita, but almost anywhere else and it would have gone in. It should have, there was no excuse for not scoring this time.
It seemed like just one of those days where any luck had run out and the ball just wouldn?EUR(TM)t go in one more time. A Coufal effort ricocheted off a defender with the goalkeeper diving the other way, but the deflection only hammered it into Guaita?EUR(TM)s legs.
With frustration starting to build, Craig Dawson was the man to give the side some breathing space and the dominant lead they deserved. Bowen?EUR(TM)s corner from the right was superb, a great delivery in an otherwise very quiet game for the winger, and Dawson escaped Cahill to rise into the air and head into the Palace goal from the middle of the six yard box.
It gave relief with 25 minutes remaining. But it didn?EUR(TM)t signal a drop off in energy or a retreat of the defensive line. This West Ham side isn?EUR(TM)t scared of its progress, isn?EUR(TM)t always looking over its shoulder for the next setback.
Instead, they went looking for another. And if the ball could have fallen for anyone else in front of goal, they might have got it. But Antonio couldn?EUR(TM)t escape big chances, which isn?EUR(TM)t a bad habit to get into, even if they really need to be finished better.
This time it was Rice creating, combining well with Benrahma, crossing from the left to the back post. The ball itself wasn?EUR(TM)t great, drifting deep and to the edge of the area, but Coufal met it on the volley to aim it towards goal.
The shot was heading wide and into the path of Michail Antonio once more. Once more he opened his body up and tried to guide it to goal with the inside of his boot. Once more he diverted it wide when yards from goal. Save it all up for when we need them, Michail.
Brief moments on the counter were there for Palace, but they found the increasingly excellent performance of Craig Dawson at the back. One attack where the home side had four flowing forward at three West Ham defenders was halted by a quite superb tackle on the edge of the box by the on-loan defender.
There was time for Fredericks, Yarmolenko and Noble to come on and try see the game out, and they did it almost perfectly. That was until the 96th minute when Michy Batshuayi collected a wonderful backheel by Ayew and slotted it beyond Fabianski to make it 3-2, and even that deficit flattered Hodgson?EUR(TM)s team.
It was the last kick of the game too, no nerves frayed, no nails bitten. And it was a final whistle that brought not only three points for the Hammers in a fixture they have floundered in recently (Palace unbeaten in four against us), but also West Ham?EUR(TM)s sixth win on the spin ?EUR" the first time the club has ever started a calendar year with such a run of victories - four in a row in the Premier League and a temporary stay in the top four in the division too.
That is real momentum and the kind of progress that this group of players deserves to see when they look at the table. They?EUR(TM)ve all bought in to what Moyes has asked of them, working relentlessly hard on the pitch, a side with steel and grit that also plays with flair and style, something very rare in East London.
The season feels not too dissimilar to the last at Upton Park, and that year saw minimal investment in the January window that hampered progress, rather than using the chance to pounce on this opportunity. Hopefully history doesn?EUR(TM)t repeat itself.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Not really sure he could do much about the first goal, it was placed so brilliantly, whilst the second was so close to goal. But the double save on Zaha early in the second half was vital and proved how valuable he is to the team.
Another game against Zaha, another dominant performance. Neither Eze nor Zaha got any change out of Coufal, the right back dominant defensively, strong in the tackle and making a lot of clearances too (seven). A terrific signing.
Solid in defence, supported attacks well and was almost always available when Fornals looked up in hope of finding him. The freekick delivery was a beauty. Most assists from a defender in the league this season.
For the first time, Dawson outshone Ogbonna. The goal was excellent, but it was the last ditch defending that kept his side on top. Barely missed a tackle and was as comfortable dealing with Benteke as he was Ayew, Zaha and the rest.
Beaten too easily on the edge by Zaha for the first goal, which is very rare with Ogbonna. Settled after that and played well enough, but not at his best.
Declan did the forward running in the second half as Soucek sat deeper, taking the ball on and dribbling upfield well. Clean and tidy in front of the defence, including one excellent challenge on Zaha when he looked like he?EUR(TM)d peeled away. For other players, his performance would constitute something really good. For Declan, this is bare minimum.
Didn?EUR(TM)t put a foot wrong. The goals were brilliant, the first for its timing of the run, the second for the composure and difficulty of the finish. But he was more than goals, he settled in and defended deep in the second half and nullified Palace through the middle, dominating that battle. He was terrific at both ends and won the game for his side.
Were it not for that corner delivery, wicked and whipped in towards goal, he?EUR(TM)d barely have registered. The play went down the left much more than usual, whilst it was Benrahma who made more inroads when play was down the right. He was as disciplined as ever, and maybe the threat of Eze and Zaha down the left caused a more disciplined display. Made less passes than any player who started the game, but too soon for his form to be of any concern.
Like Benrahma, he allied hard work with astute skill today. Created chances and openings, was abuzz with energy through the whole game and clearly has a very strong understanding with his teammates and of his teammates, clearly knowing how they play and what he can do both offensively and defensively to complement their game. He still goes underrated but is having a wonderful season.
Still struggling to find the credit he deserves from plenty of the West Ham support, today he was excellent. Can turn and dribble in tight spaces in a way no one else is capable of, and had Antonio had his scoring boots on, Benrahma could have left this game with multiple assists. The relationship with the other attackers, especially Fornals, is clearly starting to flourish. More notably, he never stopped running and worked really hard to press and pressure the Palace midfield and defence.
We could have been looking at one of the great individual performances of the modern era of West Ham had his shooting boots been on. He could have had at least four, should have had three, but still threatened goal all game, set up one brilliantly and showed just how much more effective he is for this side compared to Haller in his absence. Frustrating, but with two winners in his last two games, he can miss some when we win anyway.
(Replaced Bowen, 81) It might be an indication of the role Bowen was playing that Fredericks was his replacement. Came on, worked the flank up and down and covered Coufal well.
(Replaced Antonio, 83) With minimal time, it was good to see that he will put himself about up front. He was in no way scared of a physical tussle with midfield or defence, which will be important if he is to play up top for this side.
(Replaced Benrahma, 87) Wasn?EUR(TM)t on long, but enough to work hard, put some tackles in and calm things down on the ball when he did get possession.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play. Also unused: Manuel Lanzini; Ademipo Odubeko.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Aaron Cresswell, Craig Dawson, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Jarrod Bowen, Pablo Fornals, Said Benrahma, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Tomas Soucek 9 Tomas Soucek 25 Craig Dawson 65 .
Sent off: None.
Crystal Palace: Guaita, Ward, Cahill, Kouyate, Mitchell, Townsend (Batshuayi 66), Milivojevic (Riedewald 73), McArthur, Eze, Zaha, Benteke (Ayew 73).
Subs not used: Butland, van Aanholt, Dann, Clyne, McCarthy, Kelly.
Goals: Zaha (3), Batshuayi (90+7).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Stuart Attwell.
Man of the Match: Tomas Soucek.