West Ham United 2-2 Crystal Palace
Saturday, 28th August 2021
West Ham held onto their unbeaten start to the Premier League season, but were held to a disappointing draw as Crystal Palace scored two second half goals.After a first half full of skilful and inventive play, the Hammers were notably sloppy after the break. Palace?EUR(TM)s hardworking midfield trio halted the flowing football, whilst the hands off refereeing encouraged this season allowed the nastier side of the visitor?EUR(TM)s play to disrupt what West Ham were trying to do.
David Moyes named an unchanged side for what has proven to be a tricky fixture in recent times. The start was cagey, with little to remember from the opening 15 minutes.
From there, the Irons took over. Benrahma and Fornals in particular were showing just why this Moyes side excites the fans so much, interplay and fluid movement keeping the Palace defence guessing.
Fornals, fresh off a call-up to the Spanish squad, moved back to the left with Benrahma in the middle as the Spaniard was tasked with protecting Cresswell from the pace on the break.
Whilst the football was lovely to watch, West Ham were contriving not to score, playing balls across the face of goal on multiple occasions without a goalscoring touch even near.
There were half chances for Cresswell and Dawson, whilst Antonio worked hard but found Guehi and Anderson up to the task against hun, whilst former Hammer Kouyate often dropped back in to limit space around the box.
The pressure remained, and whilst Palace held some threat on the counter, there was very little to push the home side back as wave after wave of attack searched for an opening goal.
With just over five minutes left of the half, the deadlock was finally broken.
It came from another set of elaborate passes. Benrahma passed through a ball for Antonio to chase, and as the striker looked set to shoot around the area, he instead faked the shot and cut back onto his right foot.
In support was Fornals, the pair exchanging passes when fans begged for a shot, before Antonio looked in down the left and pressured by the goalkeeper. He rolled it across to Fornals once more, who passed it through the legs of the defender in front of him and into the empty net.
With time running out, it could have been two. A counter attack with Benrahma, Antonio and Fornals saw the Spaniard roll a pass across to Benrahma in space for a clear shot, only to push it too far ahead of him and the chance went to waste.
There were no changes in the half-time break, but it was clear Patrick Vieira would not allow his side to play so passively in the second half. Conor Gallagher was vital in this, harassing Rice on the ball whenever he could.
It is worth noting that their physicality changed, with a clearly concerted effort to unsettle the West Ham players with some snide challenges. Benteke and Ayew in particular were guilty of leaving something on their opponents unnecessarily, but were only encouraged by a lack of punishment.
An early chance was wasted by Benrahma when played through by Bowen, the Algerian in behind the defence and inside the area, but shooting tamely for Guaita to save.
It gave hope of the momentum from the first half continuing, but the extra man in midfield allowed Palace to take a grip of the ball much better than the first half and put West Ham under pressure. The Hammers struggled to cope, losing any fluidity and failing to build any attacks of their own.
With the pressure on, the defence were tested. Not for the first time this season, Craig Dawson failed that test.
An aimless ball down the West Ham right was chased by both Benteke and Dawson. The defender got their first, but dallied when dealing with the striker breathing down his neck. Instead of clearing his lines or making an early pass, the defender delayed and then tried to pass back to Fabianski.
His pass was blocked and taken by Benteke, who ran from the angle at goal and was only stopped from having a clear effort on goal by the excellent defending of Ogbonna.
But whilst Ogbonna forced the ball away from goal, Palace kept possession and moved it wide once more. Zaha looped in a cross and it was won by Benteke, and his header down fell for Gallagher to flash a shot goalward from close range to equalise.
West Ham were rattled, Palace now in the ascendancy and purring. Kouyate showed a discipline not seen in his time in claret and blue holding the midfield, and winning aerial battles in the middle too. Soucek played a disciplined game too, rarely seen in the box and holding a deeper position.
Still the Hammers took the lead once more. Where the first had artistry, the second was a little more old fashioned.
Cresswell curled a long ball over the Crystal Palace for Antonio to chase, but the pass was stopped by the head of Anderson. Unfortunately for the centre back, his clearance was directed right at Antonio, the ball bouncing off his head and into the area in front of him.
He reacted well to smash the ball in at thr best post with his left foot for his 50th Premier League goal for the club and his fourth goal of the season.
The celebrations that followed were as much relief as joy, the crowd well aware that had been well below par for the second half. The second goal came from nothing, but felt significant.
Almost immediately, Crystal Palace were level again.
Zaha was dangerous down the left again, combining with McCarthy neatly as West Ham failed to get reorganised. The Scot turned in a little space and fed Gallagher in the box. The midfielder turned his man and shot to score his second of the game.
The Hammers were deflated, whilst Palace seemed content with their lot. The forward runs decreased, the midfield settled in and the side looked to protect their point.
The last twenty minutes were poor from both sides, ambition limited for both. Even West Ham, chasing to recapture their lead, looked more concerned with losing their point.
In the end, it was West Ham?EUR(TM)s defending me just offered the only excitement. Yarmolenko in particular deciding to dribble and then pass inside his own box with seconds remaining a questionable choice.
It ended 2-2, a draw the fair result, albeit disappointing after the start West Ham had made. Top of the table they remain, at least for the time being, but attention will turn to the boardroom now with the lack of signings evident.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Little to do except the two goals. Hard to criticise him on either, the mess in the box much more down to poor organisation in defence.
Both goals came down the defender?EUR(TM)s side, although both were more to do with poor defending and organisation in the box. 12 crosses, three that were accurate.
Handled his defensive work well and combined really well with all the attackers down the left. His less subtle but more direct play helps a team that has a few who?EUR(TM)d rather play the extra pass.
Sloppy mistake for the goal was sadly expected too. You could see he?EUR(TM)d taken too long. The mistake lead indirectly to the goal, and Benteke had control of him all game.
Looked to have saved Dawson?EUR(TM)s blushes, but the disorganisation was punished. Clearly the better of the two, including in his use of the ball. Needs a new partner soon.
Glimpses of his best, but the extra man in the Palace midfield, and a constant need to support anyone defending against Zaha, meant he and Soucek were limited in what they could do.
Solid if unspectacular; limited in the same way Rice was. Isn?EUR(TM)t making his way into the box as much. Either he?EUR(TM)s expecting less crosses or is needing to do more defensive work.
His influence waned, but it was no surprise to see him doing his defensive work and covering gaps. The goal was taken brilliantly and the passing was superb. He looks to be improving further and making more impact on the scoresheet.
Back in the middle, Benrahma was very involved in an exciting first half. Played Antonio through in the lead-up to the opener. Not quite as good as Lingard at dropping into midfield and bringing the ball forward. Would have helped today.
Effective but limited today. Only 11 passes in his 78 minutes. The play does focus down the left with more short passing, but it is a worry from last season too. Works hard always, the auxiliary wing back role necessary in this open side. Just a little on the periphery, considering Coufal played 44 passes.
9/10 quieter game than the hammering of Leicester, but it?EUR(TM)s to his credit that he snatched a second half goal when the service to him was awful. Excellent presence of mind on the first goal, both in the fake to shoot and then the passing with Fornals.
(Replaced Bowen, 78) Neat on the ball and tried to battle but came on to a game drifting to a draw.
(Replaced Fornals, 87) Barely involved, but the stupidity of his touches in our area when defending deserve to be chastised.
Did not play.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Aaron Cresswell, Craig Dawson, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Pablo Fornals, Said Benrahma, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Pablo Fornals 39 Michail Antonio 68 .
Sent off: None.
Crystal Palace: Guaita, Ward, Andersen, Guehi, Mitchell, Gallagher, Kouyate, McArthur, Ayew, Benteke, Zaha.
Subs not used: Butland, Tomkins, Riedewald, Schlupp, Kelly, Hannam, Street, Rak-Sakyi, Mateta.
Goals: Gallagher (58, 70).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Stuart Attwell.
Man of the Match: Pablo Fornals.