West Ham United 0-0 Manchester City
Saturday, 5th January 2008
by Jacob Steinberg
This wasn't exactly the rip-roaring classic the FA Cup might have required from two Premier League teams, but despite the lack of goals, it was by no means drab. West Ham and Manchester City could probably do without the replay in ten days time back on City's patch, but stout defensive displays from each team rendered their hopes valueless.Both sides could have won it. Both could have lost it. A draw was a fair result. Anything else would perhaps have been harsh on defences which featured excellent performances from Matthew Upson and Anton Ferdinand and Richard Dunne and Micah Richards at either end of the pitch. Backed up by two England goalkeeping hopefuls in Robert Green and Joe Hart, a goal was never forthcoming.
City won 2-0 here back on the opening day of the season, one of two league victories away from home this season. Inspired by Elano, West Ham had no answer, but the Brazilian was struck down by flu yesterday and his absence from Sven Goran Eriksson's line-up was met with welcome relief by all with West Ham's best interests at heart.
Even without their talisman however, City just about edged the opening exchanges. Martin Petrov gave the Hammers captain Lucas Neill such a torrid time on the left, the Australian full back was withdrawn at half-time. His withdrawal was put down to a tight hamstring, something the more cynical may take issue with.
Petrov ought to have been awarded a penalty after 17 minutes when tripped by Ferdinand but Rob Styles saw nothing wrong with the challenge. The Hammers faithful drew in a large intake of breath. Then the Bulgarian's deep cross found Stephen Ireland, whose fierce volley was superbly turned over by Green.
Hart was busy too, Etherington producing a volley of his own which was parried at the near post. George McCartney curled a free kick into the stanchion, before Mark Noble tried his luck, Hart proving equal to the youngster's cheeky curler. Up the other end, Petrov caused havoc again, and when debutant Nery Castillo appeared certain to give City the lead, Ferdinand's last ditch tackle prompted grateful applause.
West Ham grew in the second half though. Despite missing so many injured players, driven by the tireless Noble they threatened to overpower City's five man midfield at times. Each attack, however, was met with clearance after clearance by City's stern defence. All the hosts lacked was that killer touch in the final third, as for all their pressure, they created little. A clutch of midfielders may return for the replay, and will make a difference.
City's threat came here and there, Green again denying Ireland's volley- eventually there won't be enough superlatives- and Petrov, quieter, sent a cross on to the bar. By then, the visitors were offering precious little.
For West Ham, if only Dean Ashton was fitter. He and Carlton Cole linked up well to trouble Dunne and Richards, and when Ashton was twice played in by Cole, he was too slow to turn and reach the ball. He retains predatory instincts however, and with seven minutes remaining, he was nearly the hero, heading Kyel Reid's cross at goal. Hart tipped over. It was the best chance of the match. In stoppage time, West Ham forced one last set piece. Noble delivered, Cole headed on and Vedran Corluka's arm appeared to get in the way. Penalty? A replay suggests otherwise.
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Player RatingsRobert Green
He made two excellent saves from Ireland and was generally sound plucking crosses out of the air.
Given a torrid time by Petrov. He wanted to deal with the winger by pushing him off the pitch, but he was too slow to catch him and his substitution was correct.
He misjudged the flight on one cross to allow Ireland in, yet was rarely at fault again and supported Etherington well.
Lucky to escape for his 'foul' on Petrov, he was otherwise assured and produced one moment of outstanding defending.
After a poor game at Arsenal, he showed his true colours yesterday.
He won't win you a game, but he helped to ensure the midfield battle was closely fought.
After a spell out of the team, he has his place back. He buzzed about the pitch all the time, snapped into tackles and made decent passes, but he was just unable to create that one good chance.
A cult hero and loads of effort, but he didn't have the same impact as against United.
It was good to see him back in the team offering width. Should have scored and eventually tired.
He can perform acts other strikers can't, and his touch remains on song. He's too heavy though. Whether it's bulk or fat, he needs to lose it because otherwise he just won't be able to move or turn like a striker should be able to. Capello wouldn't give him the time of day.
He got better as the game went on after initially struggling and became so confident he was pulling off flicks and tricks.
(replaced Neill, 46) Nearly one back header of doom but slotted well into the right back position, handling Petrov well.
(replaced Etherington, 69) Short on confidence and reluctant to take his man on, but produced a few dangerous crosses.
(replaced Mullins, 75) Back from injury, he had little time to get involved.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Robert Green, Lucas Neill, George McCartney, Anton Ferdinand, Matthew Upson, Hayden Mullins, Mark Noble, John Paintsil, Matthew Etherington, Dean Ashton, Carlton Cole.
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Manchester City: Hart, Onuoha, Ball, Richards, Dunne, Ball, Corluka, Ireland, Hamann, Petrov, Castillo, Vassell.
Subs not used: Schmeichel, Garrido.
Booked: Corluka (90).
Sent off: None.
Man of the Match: Mark Noble.