Sunday, February 8, 2009

EPL Liveblog: West Ham v. Manchester United

He won't have been so pleased to see Liverpool's miracle win yesterday

Everyone else has gained their points, and now it's United's turn. While I pray for some sudden backbone in Zola's men despite losing a few players in the January window, I fear another competent, workmanlike romp for Fergie and his band of joyless, Satanic robots.

Put on your claret and blue and give us your best United hate songs in the comments. Teams and commentary below the jump.

Starting Lineups:
West Ham: Green, Neill, Collins, Upson, Ilunga, Behrami, Parker, Noble, Collison, Cole, Di Michele.
Subs: Lastuvka, Nsereko, Boa Morte, Kovac, Spector, Tristan, Sears.

Manchester United: Van der Sar, Rafael Da Silva, Ferdinand, Vidic, O'Shea, Ronaldo, Scholes, Carrick, Giggs, Tevez, Berbatov.
Subs: Foster, Park, Nani, Welbeck, Fabio Da Silva, Fletcher, Eckersley.

I'm calling a late 1-0 win for the visitors, in a result so utterly appropriate for those automatons at the top that it should be renamed after them. It was their hallmark last season, and recent games have brought the same outcome (see: Stoke, Sunderland, etc.)

Upton Park is not the easiest place to play, but it's hard to imagine any result other than 3 more points for that drunk Scottish prick.


Too soon?

The fact that Carlton Cole made the England squad is mindblowing to me. Then again, maybe it'll inspire him to a goal or two today. I'm not sure whether his inclusion is indicative of his recent quality, or the complete lack of striker options England truly have beyond Rooney. Then again, it's only a friendly. I already know we're not winning the World Cup next year!

Hey look, LFC are top. Not for long, mind you.

West Ham operating in the 4-4-2, and Man U are going with the same. I thought the 4-4-2 was dying... where's the 4-5-1 that has become so hopelessly fashionable? Hate that formation.

And we're off! Hammers kick off...

Carlton Cole has a breezy jog down the left, but cover arrives in time and the chance is gone. Call me crazy, but West Ham will regret losing Bellamy, regardless of the influx of cash from Citeh, aka the ATM of the EPL.

Scrappy possession early, but West Ham are up for it! Not ready to just roll over like the Baggies did.

3 mins: United knock it around at the back, and Ronaldo's first touch is greeted with a chorus of boos. It's only fair. Tevez tries to get something up the middle with a couple of 1-2s, but he eventually fouls. The Hammers give the ball back immediately from the free-kick.

5 mins: Ronaldo gets free down the left and manages to bang in a low cross, but it's cleared easily.

The tone of the game is becoming apparent rather quickly; Man U will attack all day and West Ham are going to sit on it for the most part. The Hammers attack in pairs, and Man U throw the kitchen sink forward in response.

7 mins: Another good run for Ronaldo, nipping past two on the wing and putting a dangerous low cross in for Tevez, forcing Collins to shin it out for a corner. Giggs to take...

... and Vidic wins it but puts the header miles over the bar. If West Ham allow the visitors that much space moving forward, this game will be over by half-time. Just calling it like I see it.

More pressure for United as Berbatov releases Giggs down the right (amazed he's playing right-wing, by the way) with a wonderful, outside-of-the-foot pass. Giggs appears to trick Upson into slide-tackling too early, but the tackle does the job and West Ham clear.

11 mins: A West Ham attack! Vidic puts the ball out for a corner under little pressure, and Lucas Neill gets a good shot off that Van der Sar smothers at the near post.

The Hammers break again! Carlton Cole gets in behind Rio Ferdinand and despite the heavy shirt-tugging, Cole forces a good save from Van der Sar as he shoots for the far post. If Cole had gone down, Rio would surely have been sent off for the professional foul. 9 times out of 10, you'd fancy the striker to milk that contact for a free kick or penalty, but Carlton does the honourable thing.

16 mins: I take back the bad words about West Ham, they're clearly up for the challenge. Berbatov gives the ball away cheaply in midfield, seemingly frozen while figuring out which 5-yard pass to make, and Collison breaks but wastes possession looking for Di Michele through the middle. A lot more pace since Cole's chance, and they're not about to become the latest 3-0 plaything on United's fixture list.

20 mins: Lots of sideways passing from United without much intent, and the Hammers are content to shepherd them across the field before finally winning possession. Ronaldo's stepovers are not fooling anyone.

Berbatov has it in the net, but he's miles offside. Nice try, you slimy Bulgarian.

22 mins: Another United corner after Rafael works hard for it down the right. These Brazilian Nevilles will be rather good in a couple of years time.

25 mins: West Ham try to build an attack, but Cole loses it at the top of the box as United's 10 men behind the ball policy works well. They break via Tevez, who finds Berbatov with a gorgeous flick. Berbs finds Ronaldo wide, and Tevez continues his run but narrowly misses getting on the end of the cross.

Hammers break and Collison somehow gets free in the box, but instead of shooting on his left foot, he cuts back to his right and feeds it to Cole, who turns right into Vidic and loses possession. United swing back down the other end and Giggs' cross is put out for another corner. Giggs puts the corner right on Ronaldo's forehead, but his powerful header is wide of the post, and the Hammers breathe again.

29 mins: Good build-up by United is wasted by Scholes, who wellies the ball miles over the top. It took a deflection apparently, so Giggs gets another chance to swing one in. He does his job, putting it to the back post, but Carrick fouls in the air and the Hammers are safe for now.

Di Michele gives away a silly free kick wide on the right, deep in Hammers territory. Giggs plays it low to the top of the box, fooling everyone, where Scholes has a free shot. He blasts it low, and it's going wide until Ronaldo flicks it towards goal and forces a fine save from Robert Green to tip it over the bar. Giggs swings in the corner but nothing comes of it.

33 mins: Pretty even game thus far. The Hammers are proving not to be the typical mid-table fodder that rolls over and plays nice for United, while the visitors in their shiny white shirts aren't looking quite as deadly as normal. Problems with the final pass, and far too many touches on the ball around the West Ham area. To prove my point, Ronaldo dribbles into three defenders with nowhere to go. He kicks it into Lucas Neill and gamely shouts for handball, but Phil Dowd isn't standing for any guff.

Fergie chews his gum on the sideline, emotionless.

35 mins: Another promising Hammers attack, but Parker's through-ball for Di Michele is too strong and Van der Sar collects.

38 mins: A lot more action down at United's end, to be honest. Ronaldo seems hell-bent on skipping past every West Ham player when he gets possession, but it's not a good tactic against such a hard-working side. Meanwhile, Berbatov has been worse-than-lazy, and Tevez' energy is squandered in the form of side-to-side passing and not much creativity to get beyond defenders. The Hammers' discipline at the back will prove nigh-on impossible to break down, that is until Man U score with a dubious penalty in the final 5 minutes. That's how these things normally go with United, and it drives me insane.

41 mins: Fergie's on his feet! I presume it's to ease the pressure on his prostate.

Cole gives Van der Sar a London welcome, hip-checking him after Vidic's backpass wasn't very strong. No signs of goals in this one, sadly. After the drama of yesterday, we might well be getting back-to-back 0-0 draws today.

43 mins: Ronaldo shows none of the form of last season, getting possession on the left and immediately giving it away. Parker sprints forward and meets Vidic head-on, but West Ham win a corner nonetheless. Of course, like everything else in this game, it's wasted and frustrating.

45 mins: Cole gets the ball in the box again, and manages to turn and shoot... but Vidic takes some sting off the shot and Van der Sar's job is much easier. Only a minute of added time.

HALF TIME: West Ham 0, Manchester United 0
A rather lively half of football, although ruined by poor finishing when it mattered most. The Hammers, to their credit, are making a good effort of it, and United don't look so slick going forward. Despite having Ronaldo, Tevez and Berbatov all on the pitch at the same time, you wouldn't know it.

Best thing about watching this? We get highlights from yesterday's game, and I'm reminded of Spartak's wonderful draw at home to Hull (Stamford Bridge has lost its aura, me thinks), as well as that GLORIOUS MIRACULOUS SPECTACULAR WONDERFUL late win at Fratton Park. Easily the best thing ever.

What's that? You want to watch highlights? Alright, here goes!

Oh, I forgot! Jose is in attendance! He can't be too worried about United in the CL based on the first 45 minutes this morning.

We're off again! Pray for goals, and an end to Van der Sar's perfect streak!

46 mins: Carlton Cole is given enough space and time to control a cross from Ilunga, and although he can't get through, the ball comes to Behrami who smacks it toward goal rather speculatively. He wins a corner off Vidic's back, but Carlton Cole fouls the keeper as the ball is whipped in and the game remains scoreless.

48 mins: Is anyone else amazed that Berbatov sold for 30 million? It seemed a fair price in July, but christ, he is awful. He loses possession again and the Hammers get some good pressure in the United half that culminated with Neill curling one in and forcing a decent save from Van der Sar. It all stemmed from Dimitar's inability to retain the ball for more than one touch. He is not value for money.

50 mins: United win a couple of corners, but Giggs' delivery isn't up to scratch.

51 mins: Fergie mutters and chuckles in his wicked throne as Man U see another free kick decision go against them. Ronaldo plays Giggs in behind Lucas Neill but Giggs' backheel return pass is safely cleared. Ronaldo didn't continue his run and the move broke down. Dire stuff at the moment. Bordering on unwatchable. I might have to put on those Pompey/LFC highlights embedded above...

Meanwhile, the most exciting thing is becoming this developing meme in the comments. Keep 'em coming! Can do older players too.

55 mins: Home crowd in full song, and they're sensing their chances of sneaking a win. United dilly-dally too much around the area, as if they assume their talent is enough to win without added effort. They are sadly mistaken.

Ilunga gives the Rafael the stonewall, giving away a free kick. Giggs finds the tiny Tevez amid the crowd in the box, but his header is well wide.

57 mins: West Ham have caught Arsenalitis! After dispossessing Ronaldo easily, West Ham waste their counter-attack with a series of simple passes culminating in a shot by Parker from 20 yards and fizzes into the crowd. If the goal was 15 feet wide, West Ham would have a 4-0 lead by this point.

Fergie takes a moment to give Ronaldo some instructions while play pauses for a Lucas Neill yellow card. I presume he was saying nothing more nuanced than "dribble forward and shoot." As successful as Fergie is as United manager, I fancy that his tactical nous isn't that strong.

Vidic rips Cole's card in half as Carlton attempts to muscle his way up the middle. No booking for Nemanja, but a free kick in a dangerous position. Hilariously, Vidic gets a yellow seconds later for infringements in trying to set the wall. Karma is a bitch, although if karma were really in effect, United would be losing right now.

62 mins: Another Giggs corner! Another corner wasted!

GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL... utterly undeserved. I punch my coffee table and take another shot of bourbon. Ryan Giggs gets it miles wide on the left, cuts inside one sliding-tackle, cuts inside another challenge and shoots off his right foot, low and hard inside the far post and through a crowd of West Ham players. A brilliant goal out of nowhere from a player who is allegedly past his best. Well done, Ryan Giggs. Bastard. West Ham 0, Manchester United 1

Fergie is jubilant, as if he had anything to do with the goal.

64 mins: West Ham look to respond immediately, winning a corner thanks to Lucas Neill's enterprise. Collins leaps for it but Vidic manhandles him and clears.

More Hammers pressure, but Behrami gives away a stupid free kick to ease the pressure. There is space for West Ham to attack, but they're trying to pass it into the net and that'll never work against this lot.

67 mins: Subs any time soon?

Cole has another crack at goal from 25 yards, getting good contact but slicing it wide. Tons of venom and power in the shot, and he skipped past Scholes rather effortlessly to set up the shot. He's been impressive today in ways that I did not expect.

69 mins: Ronaldo scampers down the left wing, losing possession to Neill thanks to a heavy first touch, and he responds by fouling Lucas Neill. Wonderful stuff from the Portuguese fella.

Another good chance for West Ham, snuffed out by Scholes at the last second. The ginger takes the ball off Cole's foot as he lines up a free shot. Another attack down the right yields another corner as Vidic bundles out a dangerous near-post cross for a corner. They waste the corner.

United sweep downfield in a flash and Ronaldo has time to shoot from the top of the box. He cuts inside and shoots low to the near post, but it's deflected out for a corner. Giggs to take, and we see Ji-Sung Park warming up on the bench.

Giggs' corner is headed out firmly by Cole, and the Hammers have 20 minutes to find an equalizer. On this performance, I'd fancy them to do it, but this is United, a team guided by black magic and terrorism.

73 mins: Berbatov wins a lucky free-kick right when it looked like he'd lost possession for the 43,852nd time this game. He's absolute crap. He feigns some kind of injury after Matthew Upson's zesty challenge, but quickly jogs off the pain.

76 mins: Lucas Neill caps another West Ham attack with a shot miles off target, as he's done so many times today. Don't West Ham have strikers, a guy named Carlton Cole? It's beyond me that 50% of West Ham's shots have come from their right-back.

Sub for West Ham: Scott Parker Mark Noble off, Savio Nsereko on. His third appearance for the Hammers, and I know nothing about it. Anyone? He's from Serie A? Can he shoot better than Lucas Neill?

80 mins: Things are petering out. Man U don't look like conceding, at least not to Lucas Neill. Nsereko has made himself useful in the last 5 minutes, at least useful to United in terms of the number of fouls he commits per minute. Amazing stuff, really.

The Hammers aren't dead yet! Ronaldo gets a talking-to from Dowd after a cheeky foul. Nsereko plays in an awful free-kick that United clear with ease. Nsereko then shows that he doesn't know how to play a 1-2 pass, putting the return ball out for a goal kick with Collison seemingly running in the opposite direction.

84 mins: Berbatov springs to life down the right wing, but his cross is off-target and West Ham survive.

86 mins: United begin the keep-ball routine, and hope is fading for Zola and co. When they do decide to advance, Tevez has a decent effort, shooting just over the bar. That's his last act of the day, as he's replaced by Ji-Sung Park as a bit of insurance. Good response by the fans as Carlos makes his exit (perhaps part of the reason he was pulled off and not Giggs)... so easy to forget that Tevez single-handedly saved the Hammers from the Colaship drop a couple of seasons ago.

West Ham make a change, albeit to much less fanfare, as Tristan replaces Valon Behrami.

89 mins: A strong penalty shout for Ronaldo, but it falls on deaf ears. Perhaps a case of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf"... he fakes so many fouls that when he does actually get fouled, not a ref in the country could give a toss. Lucas Neill bundled him over and Phil Dowd casually waved play on. I enjoyed that.

90 mins: Ronaldo gets a free kick 30 yards out and dead center, but he belts it right into Scott Parker.

90 mins + 1: Berbatov gives surprising chase to a wide pass by Ronaldo... he actually broke out of a jog for that one. COME ON HAMMERS PUT ONE SHOT ON GOAL RIGHT NOW.

United do choose to live the remaining seconds of stoppage time dangerously, clearing twice from decent crosses by Nsereko. Last chance saloon... Ilunga hoofs it into the box, it's headed clear, and some possession in the final 1/3rd ends up with Collison blasting a shot comfortably wide of Van der Sar's post.

Fergie is up and ready to celebrate, I'm guessing his liquor of choice will be VSOP Cognac mixed with the blood, bile and semen of freshly-murdered orphans.

FULL TIME: West Ham 0, Manchester United 1
A deceptive game, one that was more even than I imagined. Still a narrow away win was probably the fair result. It puts them back at the top of the league, with LFC 2 points back. Not dead yet!


The Likely Lad said...

too soon? too late. he should take some of that wallbanger money and buy a Pelle Lindbergh model Porsche.
seriously, what a sickening match-up. i'll just have to sit here and root for hamstring injuries.

The Likely Lad said...

so you agree with my prognostication here, lingering? a late goal, perhaps from the spot, just to make it more bruising on your already black-blue-and-purpled soul.

The NY Kid said...

Man, Juve just robbed Catania of 1 point

Lingering Bursitis said...

Yes, it'll be some rubbish 1-0, 89th minute style. Probably from the man you let go in July.

NY Kid: agreed

The NY Kid said...

I predict an 83rd-minute Darren Fletcher goal.

And do you think Nigel Winterburn was just watching the derby?

The NY Kid said...

I still maintain that my 4-5-2 is unstoppable.

Lingering Bursitis said...

4-5-2 is genius

Ian said...

That white headband Tevez is wearing really goes well with the road kit.

Andrew said...

Ferdinand was holding Carlton Carl's shirt like Linus, in the box. Of course, no whistle. It's ManU.

The Likely Lad said...

that's the problem with these english players-- why they'll never win a major international tournament-- they stay on their feet too much. if rooney had gone down against portugal it'd be a different world (or not, but you see my point)

The NY Kid said...

and Cole does go down on a foul from Vidic with no call

The Likely Lad said...

tevez flies in from behind like ray lewis and... yup... no call.

phil said...

It's rather easy to field a stalwart defense, when inept challenges and blatant jersey pulls go uncalled.

Andrew said...

SAF emotionless? The brandy isn't working yet.

Spectator said...

I think Di Michele is Italian for "Terrible First Touch and Kicks Ball Out of Bounds"

Goat said...

I can't recall ever seeing a deliberate pass back to the goalkeeper called but there have been two in the past week. Of course, neither of those was against ManU just now.

Andrew said...

@Spectator: Di Michele is Italian in the same way Denilson is Brazilian.

Lingering Bursitis said...

@Spectator @Andrew: there's a reason Carlton Cole's new nickname is "Can't Control"

phil said...

I think Di Michele is Italian for "Terrible First Touch and Kicks Ball Out of Bounds"

which means Pavyluchenko is Russian for "hoofs sitters over the bar and has a suspect work rate."

Lingering Bursitis said...

I smell a new meme in the works...

Lucas is Brazilian for "fouls clumsily and is generally a poor midfielder"

Spectator said...

Eboue is Ivorian for "Shit"

Spectator said...

Okay, these Hooters commercials have taken the place of Proactiv as my most dreaded on FSC. It's just that annoying "Get on up, and get on down to Hooters" song that kills me.

Lingering Bursitis said...

@Spectator: AGREED! I mean if we're honest, if a soccer fan went to Hooters they wouldn't be showing any of the games. Their TVs are too busy with NASCAR, fly-fishing and bull-riding.

Spectator said...

Van Der Sar is Dutch for "No player may come within a breath of touching me"

Lingering Bursitis said...

Berbatov is Bulgarian for "overrated, sullen and lazy"

Spectator said...

Giggs is Welsh for "Ageless Wonder"

Spectator said...

This game feels like it's destined to end 2-0

Andrew said...

Tevez is Argentinian for "see you at Inter."

Andrew said...

C'mon Hammers, draw the game level.

Spectator said...

Wow, a 50-50 call that went AGAINST Man U. Pigs must be flying somewhere!

Andrew said...

Quickie: Carlton Cole and Titus Bramble were arrested on suspicion of gang rape in 2003? They were acquitted, but still, how did this get under my radar? How is this not brought up whenever Bramble is on the field? There has to be a terrace chant somewhere.

Spectator said...

Maybe because most teams have their own players who were once accused of rape -- rocks and glass houses!

Okay, enough sitting around for today, I'm heading out to wash my car and then buy socks and underwear. Awesomeness.

Ibracadabra said...

Andrew - judging by C. cole's first touch and clumsiness around a box in 2003, I highly doubt any rape allegations came true. He just couldn't finish back then in the box.

terrible. apologies. also going to buy underwear..

but check out this brilliant goal first: