West Ham United 1 Newcastle United 1
Saturday, 19th February 2022
by Chris Wilkerson
West Ham could not take their chance to push back into fourth place in the Premier League this Saturday lunchtime, another tired performance ending in a second consecutive unconvincing draw.The Hammers took the lead once again, but just like last week at Leicester, lapses at the back handed Newcastle an equaliser on the stroke of half-time, the game ending 1-1.
It was another performance full of more questions than answers, with the form of key players sliding away and the side looking short of the energy to force themselves through to victory. There can be few who leave happy with their performances, with only Dawson and Zouma as undoubted successes of a midday kick-off against an in-form but relegation threatened Newcastle.
Eddie Howe?EUR(TM)s side have given themselves some breathing space at the bottom after a run of victories, but were without key players Trippier and Saint-Maximin, the pair joining Callum Wilson on the injured list.
David Moyes made three changes from the draw last weekend. In came Zouma, Fredericks and Benrahma, the latter changed forced as Lanzini missed the fixture, whilst Coufal and Diop were the other two changes.
The first half was full of action. Newcastle came out of the traps fast, looking confident in a good spell of form.
They had early chances to score, with Joelinton getting to a bouncing ball in the box on the blind side of Rice, who was lucky a kick at the ball didn?EUR(TM)t bring the Newcastle midfielder down as his boot hit the back of the Brazilian?EUR(TM)s leg.
The shot from close range was deflected wide for a corner, which the away side quickly played short. The cross bounced around in the box and it was Newcastle getting to each loose ball first. Three shots were blocked before another corner came.
West Ham looked flat, and Newcastle looked dangerous. Another cross was allowed into the box and this time Willock had space to volley at goal at the far post. His effort was poor, striking Wood and flying wide.
If there was one consistent part of West Ham?EUR(TM)s game, it was how many crosses they allowed without pressure. Thankfully, Dawson and Zouma were both strong in their defensive basics all game and made it look easy at the back.
The first signs of life from West Ham came on the ten-minute mark. Antonio and Benrahma combined well centrally to give Antonio half a chance on the edge of the Newcastle box. The pass may have been for Soucek, but Antonio stretched to get to it before his low drive was blocked.
The striker looked sharp, although most of his work will again have gone unnoticed by critics who rate performances by goals. He was working hard, defending from the front and making good channel runs. The best work done by any West Ham player in attack was Antonio?EUR(TM)s, who did more on the wing than any of the supporting cast and gave a presence up front that Bowen could not match when he went central.
Bowen is the name on everyone?EUR(TM)s lips right now, but it was not a game where he could carry that form into a flagging side. He had one half chance, Fredericks heading the ball down in the box and Bowen had an opening from a very tight angle. He forced a good save, Dubravka tipping the volleyed effort against the bar from point-blank range. It was the only real moment of threat that Bowen showed.
At the other end, Fredericks did very well to head away a dangerous cross that he would not have expected to get through to him, cushioning the ball wide when forced to make a low header on the edge of his six-yard box.
With Newcastle?EUR(TM)s early threat dealt with, West Ham had grown into the game and it was Antonio?EUR(TM)s work on the ball that presented them with a dangerous set-piece. The forward beat one man and drove at the box, only to be cynically floored by the next defender.
It gave Cresswell a crossing opportunity about 10 yards from the corner of the Newcastle box down the left. The line was high, and Cresswell delivered a perfect curling ball into the space between the defence and the goalkeeper.
As perfect as it was, it was eclipsed by the run and header of Dawson, breaking through a crowd of bodies and timing his arrival perfectly to bullet a header low into the corner and give his side the lead just after the half-hour mark, scoring for the second game on the spin.
All the energy for West Ham came from Antonio and Fornals, the pair looking sharp and looking forward with their movement and passes, rather than sideways and safe. Had any of Bowen, Benrahma, Rice or Soucek been able to match them going forwards, West Ham would have pushed on and won this game.
Instead the rest were flat, and West Ham struggled to create anything. They had control at the back, thanks to their dominant centre halves, but the mistakes have started to creep into this side.
This time it came from the most unlikely source. Reliable as he has been for a long spell, it was Declan Rice who presented Newcastle with a chance that they had not looked like earning.
Fredericks and Soucek can take their blame too, both men blocking the crosser on the left and leaving the runner on the overlap. That man got the ball just inside the area and flicked in a cross to the middle where Rice was under no pressure.
Trying to turn it away, he misjudged the flight and only headed it towards his own goal. It was heading wide, but it gave Willock an opportunity to stretch and flick it at goal.
From the tightest of angles, it squeezed past Fabianski who had rushed out to smother. Rolling beyond him, it hit the inside of the far post and rolled just across the line as the clock hit 45 minutes. Just like last week against Leicester, a goal almost comic in its absurdity had given the opposition a way back into the game.
As such, for the second week in a row West Ham went into the dressing room at 1-1 with no-one to blame but themselves.
This week, the manager reacted by withdrawing a right back, Fredericks taken off but replaced by Ben Johnson after an inconsistent half where he was booked. Coufal remained on the bench, relegated, seemingly, to third choice.
The second half was abysmal. One early Craig Dawson half-chance, a sweetly struck half-volley blocked by Dan Burn, is about the only thing worth remembering.
Neither side looked capable of winning, but neither did they look defensively good enough that be assured of a point.
It should have brought a tense game to a thrilling conclusion as both teams looked to get what could be precious points at either end of the table.
Instead, both teams fell flat. Antonio faded, and with him went any West Ham threat as Bowen failed to get into the game and Benrahma disappointed once more.
The Algerian is a problem for West Ham. When he was replaced with 20 minutes to go, he showed frustration to his manager, clearly caught saying "every time" with a pained expression.
He has a point, he will feel, in that when things aren?EUR(TM)t working, Moyes will always replace Benrahma.
But, and it?EUR(TM)s the most important part of this, the player isn?EUR(TM)t producing. He has moments, he had little bits of link-up play with Antonio that looked good, but he is failing to deliver in and around the penalty area. He does all the hard work, and deserves credit for that, but he carries half the threat of Fornals, Bowen or Antonio. He looks best placed as an impact substitute, but there?EUR(TM)s not enough quality or depth in the squad to keep him there.
That a passage questioning Benrahma?EUR(TM)s role in the side makes this report just shows how little there was to grasp onto for entertainment in the second half.
As the half wore on, Newcastle settled for a point and wasted time liberally. They worked hard to make things difficult for the home side and deserve credit for that. The hot takes on Eddie Howe?EUR(TM)s appointment were that he coaches soft sides who cannot defend and don?EUR(TM)t have the fight. Evidence is stacking up against such theories.
Vlasic came on for the disappointed and disappointing Benrahma but whilst he showed graft, he came onto the pitch and into a team with nothing in the tank.
All over the pitch, players were either making bad choices or failing to find the energy to go the extra yards. Rice was flat, Soucek almost only ever seen defending, Johnson tentative in possession, Antonio making bad choices and Bowen anonymous.
The crosses kept flying in to the West Ham box, allowed with such ease, but were dealt with again and again by Dawson and Zouma. The centre back pair were given time on the ball too, Dawson in particular becoming some sort of deep-lying playmaker.
And so it drifted to an end, the away side rightly delighted with a point on their travels, with margins so fine at the bottom. They may yet look back and see a game they could have gone on and won, but draws are valuable at the bottom, much more so than at the top where West Ham could not force their way back into the top four.
1-1 was probably the right result, but the performance again is worrying. Soon this side will play consecutive weeks of weekend then midweek football, yet look too tired to meet the required levels from weekend to weekend.
A conundrum for the manager to fix with eight days before a massive fixture against Wolves.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Had nothing really to do until the goal. Caught flat-footed by Rice?EUR(TM)s mistake, probably saves the shot if he stands still on his line rather than rushing out.
One moment he would do something good, the next something poor. Replaced at half-time, rightly so as he was on a yellow and his inconsistent veers between good and bad could have been dangerous.
The delivery for the goal was perfect execution. Otherwise, his delivery around the box was not good enough and it?EUR(TM)s another game where you?EUR(TM)re shocked if a cross doesn?EUR(TM)t just hit the first man. Both full backs allowed far too many crosses.
Positioning was perfect, just calmly dealing with crosses and making defensive interventions that look very easy because he?EUR(TM)s in the right place and making the right decisions.
Absolutely perfect header for the goal. Couldn?EUR(TM)t have been placed any better and the power was brilliant. Defended excellently too, winning headers all game and in the right place over and over. Chris Wood might be the perfect opponent for him.
He?EUR(TM)s getting judged by his own high standards, but he?EUR(TM)s not near his levels from the last two years. He?EUR(TM)s keeping the ball well and you can see the team tasking him with leading them through games, giving him the ball and expecting him to just make things happen. He doesn?EUR(TM)t look like he has the energy to defend and attack, so gets slightly caught between. The header for the Newcastle goal was a big mistake.
The middle of the park floundered without Lanzini able to drop in and help. Soucek battled away, but looked a step short and Newcastle made easier progress through the middle than they should because the spaces are too big between the two midfielders and lack of energy to fill it.
A generous 7 rather than a solid 6 because he was everywhere, worked hard when he looked to be running on empty and passed forward well, especially to start attacks. The passing in the team was not good enough, not smart or dangerous. Fornals at least played with his head up and with an intent to play passes that others seemed to turn down for safer options.
His energy levels were good, bursting forward and then having the discipline to get back. But he?EUR(TM)s in there to make things happen, the fresher player with space to play and he just hasn?EUR(TM)t done that, again.
Little moments of danger, but drifted out of the game and couldn?EUR(TM)t really get much change on the wing out of Targett. When he went central, he came up against Dan Burn who had a brilliant game.
His first-half performance was definitely an 8, but he was let down by a really poor forward performance from almost every other player. He drifted wide and did good work on the wings, but his decision making got worse in the second half and he started to tire.
(Replaced Ferdericks, 45) Both right backs got auditions to take Coufal?EUR(TM)s spot, and they both failed. Johnson looked short of ideas and confidence with the ball in the Newcastle half, but at least did his job defensively.
(Replaced Benrahma, 72) A touch harsh as he did make some progress down the left a couple of times, but he was put on down the wing and didn?EUR(TM)t have much impact. The team were not flowing in attack when he came on and Vlasic struggled with them.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Ryan Fredericks, Aaron Cresswell, Kurt Zouma, Craig Dawson, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Pablo Fornals, Saïd Benrahma, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Craig Dawson 32 .
Booked: Ryan Fredericks 21 Pablo Fornals 90 .
Sent off: None.
Newcastle United: Dubravka, Krafth, Schar, Burn, Targett, Willock (Bruno Guimaraes 88), Shelvey, Joelinton, Fraser (Almiron 79), Wood, Murphy.
Subs not used: Darlow, Dummett, Lascelles, Fernández, Gayle, S. Longstaff, de Bolle.
Goals: Willock (45+1).
Booked: Krafth (31), Fraser (76), Burn (90+5).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Chris Kavanagh.
Man of the Match: Craig Dawson.