BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 25TH SEPTEMBER, 2010
WEST HAM UNITED 1 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)
Referee:- Martin Atkinson
Assistants:- Mr. P. Keane & Mr. D. Richardson
Fourth Official:- Mr. M. Halsey
West Ham (4-4-2):- Green; Jacobsen, Da Costa, Upson (Capt.), Gabbidon; Dyer (sub Barrera, 42), Parker, Noble, Boa Morte; Piquionne (sub Cole, 64), Obinna (sub Kovac, 89)
Subs not used:- Stech; Ben Haim, McCarthy; Faubert
Booked:- Boa Morte, Cole
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Cudicini; Hutton, Corluka, Bassong, Bale; Lennon (sub Keane, 66), Jenas, Huddlestone (Capt.), Modric; Van Der Vaart (sub Giovani, 78); Crouch (sub Pavlyuchenko, 80)
Subs not used:- Pletikosa; Palacios, Sandro, Kranjcar
It had to happen, didn’t it?
It had to happen, didn’t it? West Ham beat us for the first time since “Lasagne-Gate” in May 2006, and got their first Premier League win of the season. Even Rob Green played well, making at least two quite special saves. I could handle each of these scenarios one at a time, but not all on the same day! Well, in truth, I hate losing to West Ham, and to lose twice within 5 days to our two nearest rivals, who have gloating rights over us for a while. I have not been so angry about defeat since last October’s 3-0 loss at The Emirates.
Why did we lose? Well, once again our opponents wanted it more; worked harder; looked fitter; challenged harder; dominated the middle of the park and of course got the one crucial goal. Spurs were a team full of flair, but desperate for guts in the engine room where it mattered. Maybe this was a game for Palacios who remained unused on the bench. Our captain for the day, Tom Huddlestone currently holds one of the lowest ratings on the “Spursometer”, so it is not just me who thought he was absent from duty for too much of the time. Missing a second half sitter didn’t help either.
With Ledley King being saved till Wednesday night’s Champions League game, it seems that our injury problems in defence run deeper than we might think, as Harry had to try yet another pairing for this game in the shape of Corluka and Bassong in the middle with Hutton at right back, and Gareth Bale at left back, where he rarely ends on the winning side. The omens were not good. Aaron Lennon’s form has been a concern for quite a while now, but he must have been playing to instructions by spending so much of the time down the inside right channel, rather than offering himself on the wing, where he belongs. Modric was nominally on the left of midfield, but also had licence to roam, as well as Van Der Vaart, playing behind Crouch. Van Der Vaart was once again Spurs’ best player, but he was taken off for the ineffective Giovani after 78 minutes.
West Ham included Kieron Dyer for a rare start, but he didn’t last the first half as recent signing Barrera took his place just before the break. Parker and Noble dominated the midfield. Noble had the guile, Parker had the graft. We had neither asset where it counted today. Spurs were on the back foot from the start with Obinna getting an early right foot shot wide after just one minute. Van Der Vaart won a free kick out on the right of the area, but his shot was blocked by Piquionne. Spurs defended poorly after a throw and Dyer was allowed a shot on goal, which Bale touched out for a corner. Cudicini got down well to another Dyer shot after another West Ham corner. Piquionne got the better of Hutton and hit a low cross/shot to which Cudicini was alert.
At last Spurs managed a meaningful effort, and it came when Van Der Vaart fed Jenas who unleashed a terrific right footer which Green parried. Hutton was an asset going forward and started a move which involved Modric, Lennon and Van Der Vaart, whose shot was saved to concede a corner, with Green looking sharp. Bale started another good attacking move through Modric and Van Der Vaart, who ended the move with a shot just wide after Hutton’s ball.
Sadly after that bright spell, Spurs fell behind, when West ham won a corner from a break. I thought that their striker was offside as they won the corner, but that is irrelevant as Spurs failed to defend it and Piquionne rose to head past Cudicini. This is the man who scored for Avram Grant’s Portsmouth in this year’s FA Cup semi-final, and now he scored again for Grant, leading to the home fans chanting Grant’s name.
After good work by Lennon and Van Der Vaart, Luka Modric brought a fine save from Green who managed to push the ball onto the bar and out for a corner. It was a powerful right footed drive by Modric. Green was at it again, as he saved a Van Der Vaart header from Modric’s corner. Huddlestone and Hutton did well in another Spurs attack, which ended with another Van Der Vaart effort being blocked. Despite being behind, it looked as if Spurs were more than capable of getting back in the game.
It took a while though before Spurs made a threat on goal. Bale crossed and Huddlestone’s shot was on target, but deflected out of play by his own team-mate – Peter Crouch in front of the despairing travelling support. Huddlestone had another chance two minutes later after a Hutton ball, but fired this one wide. This could have been the “sitter” when Green was beaten.
Cudicini made a great save from Obinna, who had got the better of Hutton before the shot. West Ham were sniffing blood now, and Cudicini made another good save after 73 minutes from Noble’s shot. Jenas ran forward and had a good exchange of passes with Keane before hitting a slightly weak shot wide. Keane got a shot on target himself after Modric’s ball, but hit it comfortably into the arms of Green.
The home fans had a whale of a time then, and independent viewers might have enjoyed the game too. Spurs fans were not happy with Green’s fist-clenching celebrations in front of them at the final whistle, but I don’t begrudge him that, after all the stick he has taken since the World Cup. It’s just a shame he did it against us. Spurs did not collect one yellow card in this Derby match. Doesn’t that say something about our desperate need for a tackle or two in the middle, where it was most needed?
I know it’s early in the season, but I am already convinced that we are not going to qualify for next year’s Champions League, and that we will win nothing this season. We’ll just pay through the nose to watch it all happen. The next expensive episode is on Wednesday night!
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