David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 2, Norwich 0. Smooth And Clinical.

Last year, I was at The LS for our fourth match. Wolves. In block 214, there was palpable anxiety about losing our fourth match in a row to start the season. With tougher matches ahead, the prospect of losing seven straight was staring us in the face. Even in the final season at Upton Park we had those two August losses at home to Leicester and Bournemouth (Maiga scored against the Cherries. Just throwing that in there for effect). Then there was the amazing story of Adebeyor simply not showing up for a planned medical. The August spiral towards the abyss was on again in full force.

That’s what these four points mean. Today was more about curiosity and a bit of excitement. Not the normal Fear & Relief cocktail that is often served up to begin a new campaign. Sure, a loss to a newly promoted side would shock only a few. Pukki netting at least a brace? Of course. Lanzini rupturing his appendix trying a Rabona the day after his new contract is confirmed? Shrug them shoulders. Except nothing went wrong, and a whole lot went right.

The visitors started the match brightly. They pressed high up the pitch, forced West Ham to make quicker and less accurate passes than they obviously wanted to. Leitner and Aarons in particular looked lively. And I have to say, I preferred the purple to those neon yellow kits. West Ham, on the other hand, chased the ball rather aimlessly and without purpose. Not the beginning the natives would have wanted.

Despite the sluggish start, the first chance of the half belonged to West Ham. Lanzini got on the ball near the penalty spot and touched it to Yarmolenko on the right. The Ukrainian tried to draw a penalty by going down after trying to get the ball back to Lanzini, but the referee had none of it. West Ham then won their first corner of the afternoon but Lanzini’s delivery went over everyone. A minute later Anderson was sent in with a good through ball by Yarmolenko, but a key tackle by Zimmerman deflected Anderson’s shot out for a corner. Haller may have a word with his new teammate as he was rather open in the center of the eighteen yard box.

As someone who has watched a lot of Ice Hockey in my life, I’m used to seeing a hard challenge on a player answered by an even harder challenge later on against the original perpetrator. So when Haller went in hard on Zimmerman in the 21st minute for what should have been a yellow card offense, I had visions of some Norwich substitute plowing into our record signing sometime later in the match. The pain of that challenge manifested itself a few minutes later when Masuaku broke down the left and sent a low cross to Haller, who was steaming down the center. Zimmerman could not keep up, showing the effects of Haller minutes earlier. For years we have lacked a true, mobile number nine who can get on the end of those. Not anymore it seems. Haller guided it past Krul.

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West Ham 1
Norwich 0

Norwich came inches away from an equalizer in the 31st minute. Aarons was sent down the right with a terrific looping pass from Trybull. After beating Masuaku, Aarons sent a cross right into the path of Cantwell. But the ball was just behind the young Englishman and his header went over the bar.

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I am a big fan of Anderson. Whenever he gets on the ball with any space around him, you give the match your full attention. But he still needs that voice in his head reminding him that this is the Premier League, and you don’t often get time to consider your options. So when he beat the hobbled Zimmerman in the 37th minute and went to the races into the box, his decision to hold his run, not shoot, and look at the scenery doomed what could have been a solid shout for a second goal.

Halftime
West Ham 1
Norwich 0

The second half began with fits and starts. A good run by Lanzini that was not followed up by any run at all from Haller, and a shot off the bar by Cantwell that was eventually flagged offside.

Yarmolenko is often slagged off on social media. But at the end of the day he is a skillful player, and with all skillful players that return from long term injuries they need both physical rehabilitation and a run of games. In the 55th and 56th minute, we got our first glimpses of what that skill can bring to the table. First, Noble sent a pass over the Norwich defense that Yarmolenko one timed off the post. Just when the worry that such a missed opportunity would come back to haunt us, he got another. It started with a terrible back pass from Cantwell that Yarmolenko latched onto. He passed to Noble, who then tried to find Haller in the box. That pass was deflected back into the path of Yarmolenko. He must have liked the feel of his volley moments earlier, so he tried it again and the home side doubled their lead. The extra treat came right afterward when he ran to the bench to thank the West Ham physio team. Possibly the first time I’ve ever seen that happen.

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West Ham 2
Norwich 0

West Ham, through a careless header by Fredericks, could have invited serious stress in the 67th minute when the young right back gave the ball right to Pukki. The man with five goals to his name could only muster a soft shot right into the waiting arms of Fabianski. Moments later Fredericks almost atoned when he tested Krul with a shot from a tight angle that was palmed away for a corner. The ensuing set piece landed on the skull of Diop but his shot was cleared off the line by Amadou.

Norwich almost got back into the match in the 76th minute when Lewis beat Fredericks on the left and sent a ball over a diving Fabianski to Aarons on the right. But Ogbonna was there to cover, giving Fabianski the time needed to get back into position. It eventually led to a Norwich corner, but Masuaku did his job well and cleared the ball from danger.

It should have been a three goal lead for the Hammers in the 77th minute when Lanzini was the recipient of a cross instead of the delivery man. Masuaku found the Argentine in the center of the box, but Krul made a brilliant save and put ball over the bar for a corner. Moments later it was again Krul to the rescue with a double save on Anderson and then Haller. Minutes after that Anderson did a bit of magic to send Haller into the box, but a clumsy challenge from Trybull that should have resulted in a penalty was waved off. Then it was Snodgrass with a low shot that Krul saved with his leg. The next wave came from a header by Diop, but that didn’t beat Krul either.

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The third goal did not come, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Pukki did what he could in the 90th minute when he tried to re-direct a cross from Lewis, but his header was soft and easy pickings for Fabianski. Two minutes later McLean threaded a pass in between Ogbonna and Masuaku that Drmic got his foot on. Fabianski was livid. Nine times out of ten he scores. Not today.

Final Score
West Ham 2
Norwich 0

Deep breath. And another. One more.

Seven points from our opening four matches is about as good as any reasonable West Ham supporter could have hoped for. The operative word there is reasonable. Yet as good as the point tally is, it’s seeing West Ham play well and win the kind of matches we so often disappoint in. Today could have been 5-0. Easily, in fact. From a neutral’s perspective his performance in the second half could have earned Krul the Man Of The Match. Anderson was fantastic, Haller physical and clinical, Lanzini silky smooth, Masuaku had perhaps his best match in Claret and Blue, and the Diop – Ogbonna partnership looked sharp.

Other than expressing frustration that there is no match next week when I’m over for work, I really don’t know what else to say. I’m not equipped for such positivity.

I’m going to do some yard work to clear my head.


David Hautzig's Match Report

Watford 1, West Ham 3. Haller, Haller Haller Haler. Halleeeer, Haaaaaller.

I hate to feel sucked into that trap. You know what I mean. The trap early in the season that catches you and tells you this game or that game is HUGE. Yet here I am. Third game of the season, and I am in full tilt obsessing mode. We were OK for bits in game one, Ok for slightly more bits in game two, and we had better show quality in game three. I’m not even panicked about a win per se. A draw would probably let me sleep just fine. But a loss would have me question everything. Right or wrong, it would. Why did he start Ogbonna? Why are we consistently woeful at the back year after year? Will this cycle of mediocrity at best ever, ever end? Maybe Haller will see to it that it does.

It only took a minute to see how much we missed Haller and Anderson last week at Brighton. After a good run by Deulofeu into the West Ham box that ended with him tumbling, a long ball was launched to Haller. He controlled it, laid it off for Anderson, who one touched it back to Haller and he was off. A bad touch in the box ended what might have been our record signing opening his account. The Hammers worked the ball around the box to Lanzini, who cut to his right and was clattered into by Doucoure. Chris Kavanagh pointed to the spot, VAR agreed, and Noble did the rest. Welcome back, Cap.

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Watford 0
West Ham 1

Watford came inches away from equalizing a few minutes later when Deulofeu was played in on the left with a looping pass over the West Ham defense, but his shot banged off the bar. Seconds later West Ham were on the attack, with Anderson on the left. He passed back to Lanzini in the box but The Jewel’s side footed attempt went wide. Back down came Watford with two corners, but they couldn’t find a shot on target.

The Hornets kept swarming (dear oh dear, did I use that cliche?), with Doucoure on the ball ten yards in front of Fabianski. Diop made a key block, but it meant a third corner for the home side. The delivery flew over everyone and out, but Watford certainly reacted well to the early goal while West Ham looked rather disorganized.

That disorganization led to the inevitable based on the run of play. With Noble screaming at the four forward players to come back and help on defense, Hughes rolled a pass to Gray as the Watford frontman made Masuaku look every bit the poor defender we know he is. Gray got the ball just where he likes it, at his feet, and he beat Fabianski with ease for Watford’s first goal of the season.

Of course it was.

Watford 1
West Ham 1

West Ham came very close to regaining the lead in the 22nd minute when Lanzini sent a long pass across field to Yarmolenko, who headed it back into the box towards Haller. The French International had just overrun the pass but tried an audacious back heel that would have been a spectacular first goal, but instead was a rather simple save for Foster.

Watford should have taken the lead in the 27th lead when Watford broke down the left. Deulofeu rolled a pass to Gray in the box….unmarked in the box I might add…but he scuffed his shot and The Hammers were let off the hook.

West Ham were lucky to win a corner in the 33rd minute when Anderson took a pretty silly shot from half a kilometer away, but it took a deflection and went out for the corner. Ogbonna got his head to it, but the pace resembled me mowing the lawn and Foster handled it with ease.

The first half rumbled on, albeit at a slower pace than the opening minutes, with a similar theme to the opening forty-five at Brighton. The home side controlled the play, West Ham looked sluggish and very poor defensively, and you wondered what Pellegrini would do to change that.

Watford had two chances that they simply squandered in the 40th minute. First Doucoure somehow missed a good cross that zeroed in on him in front of the Hammers goal, and then Cleverly skied a delivery from a corner with nobody around him.

West Ham won a corner a minute later, and Anderson got on the end of Lanzini’s offering with a flick of the head. It bounced off the far post, but not far enough to find the waiting Yarmolenko to tap it in. At that point, Antonio for Yarmolenko at halftime looked in the cards.

Watford had yet another moment they might look back at with regret in first half added time when Kiko made a run down the right at crossed to Cleverly in the box, but he slipped while attempting his shot and the threat was gone.

Halftime couldn’t come fast enough.

Watford 1
West Ham 1

As I sat down for the second half, I was struck with a familiar sense of worry and dread. A feeling I sincerely thought might be a thing of the past. Yet from the opening kick I was more worried about conceding than hopeful of scoring. Maybe that’s The West Ham Way.

In the 50th minute, Lanzini set up Yarmolenko at the top of the Watford box. Visions of his wonderful strike last year at Everton danced in my head. Today’s version was a lot slower and Foster gathered it up.

In the 55th minute, Gray got behind the West Ham defense and around a diving Fabianski. With the goal completely open, Gray sent a low cross to a wide open Hughes. But the universe seemed to be against the idea of Watford scoring there and sent the ball off of his shin. Seconds later, the recently inserted Antonio got on the end of a through ball from Lanzini. He was all alone, bearing down on Foster. But as often happens with Antonio, a heavy touch undid the good work that led to the moment. Foster got there first, and then out muscled Anderson outside the box and cleared the ball downfield.

Moments later Fredericks led an attack down the right. But when he should have run at the defense he held up, opting to wait for help from Anderson and Haller. That allowed the the Watford defense to regroup, and West Ham didn’t even get a shot.

I really like an app called FotMob. For a few bucks, quid, drachma, whatever, you get results and live ticker action all over the world. It also gives you goal alerts. Which is great. But when you are watching on a stream, the action can be a few seconds behind. So with nothing of note happening on my TV, my phone gave me the good news. Anderson took the ball to the end-line, looked up and found Haller in between the Watford defenders for an easy tap in.

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Watford 1
West Ham 2

West Ham came very close to doubling their lead in the 73rd minute when Anderson sent a ball into the box that Antonio dove to reach with his head, but it went off the crossbar and Watford put the rebound out for a corner. The set piece found Antonio’s head again, and when Foster couldn’t handle the rebound Haller was there with the kind of instinctive finish only a true goal scorer has. Bicycle kick time, Brace Time, Haller Time.

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Watford 1
West Ham 3

Watford came close to closing the gap in the 81st minute. Sarr got the ball on the right and ran across the top of the West Ham eighteen yard box before laying it off for Cleverly. The steady English professional turned to his right but his shot went over the bar. Moments later he was again at the center of the action, rolling a pass to Doucoure on the left. However his shot, or low cross if that was his intention, was stopped by a combination of Ogbonna and Fabianski.

As Sanchez came on for Lanzini, without seeing it I could smell the fury on social media over his insertion. But the truth is with Obiang gone, Sanchez is our only defensive midfielder after Rice. And while he hasn’t done much this year, he hasn’t really done a lot wrong either. Maybe the key for him is to just be a rock. Not quartz, just a pile of slate. That’ll do me just fine.

Final Score
Watford 1
West Ham 3

“They’re a better team with Noble for me”. That’s what Tony Gale said as the match wound down. I have to say, it’s hard to argue. Every year someone looks poised to keep him out of the lineup. And every time, Noble sits pack and waits. In no time at all, the Captain returns and shows why his time isn’t over just yet.

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One statistic surprised me a bit at the final whistle. West Ham had ten attempts to three for Watford. But watching the match Watford looked to be the slightly better side today overall. The difference? Haller. Yes, Antonio should have started in hindsight and likely he will against Norwich next week. But Haller’s hold up play started the moves that led to the penalty, and of course he scored two. I’m reasonably confident that no other striker in recent memory would have scored that third goal. He will be key to everything we do, because we will win more games 4-2 than 2-0.

A loss today would have put the club and supporters in pre-crisis mode leading up to an absolutely must win game at home next weekend. Instead, our first win in August since the first ever game at the rental gives us a chance to have a decent start for the first time in years.


David Hautzig's Match Report

Brighton 1, West Ham 1. Just Take It.

Before the season began, I was a guest presenter on Moore Than Just A Podcast with Sean and Nigel. We discussed the opening fixtures, and as I looked at them it wasn’t Manchester City that scared me. Nor was it Manchester United in a few weeks. It was the fixtures in between that brought on my normal levels of fear. It’s the matches agains the likes of Brighton, Watford, Norwich, and Villa that we have historically fell well below expectations. My mood started to spiral downwards as I envisioned a total of like two points going to Old Trafford. Add to that the news that our two most prolific signings were injured, I sipped my coffee in dread. In the end, it was a result I could live with.

The opening minute gave us a possible warning of what the day could bring. Brighton won a free kick seconds after the start, and the delivery into the box went over the smaller West Ham defense and found Burn. His free header went over the bar, and the offside flag went up. But the danger was there for all Hammers to see. Set pieces could equal disaster.

In the opening ten minutes or so, you could see the kind of quick passing game Pellegrini has asked his players to implement. And it is pleasant on the eye. But there still is a void in the final third. That’s where the passing seems to break down. The optimist says that when that part of our game is polished we will be a force. The pessimist….HI!….sees a lot of danger in losing the ball with too many men forward.

A lot was made about the left back position during the window. With Cresswell and Masuaku the choices on hand, it seemed to boil down to either a decent defender who is poor going forward, or a weak defender who is better on the wing. The weak defender in this case handed Brighton a chance to open the scoring in the 22nd minute when a truly awful clearance was easily intercepted by Gross. His hard shot was palmed over the bar by Fabianski for a corner. The ensuing set piece found the head of Duffy, but Fabianski made the save. Moments later Rice gave the ball away in midfield, which led to a good strike by March that Fabianski did well to save.

The sloppy play by West Ham finally led to what in every other year would have been an opening goal by Trossard. The goal was a direct result of Masuaku looking completely lost in the West Ham eighteen yard box and Trossard losing him. But VAR showed Burn to be clearly offside on the initial free kick that started the whole play. No goal. Nigel texted our group that it still took too long. For the record, I like VAR and I’m 100% happy it’s in the game. I’ll wait a few seconds to get decisions right.

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After a reasonably bright start, West Ham started to unravel as the first half plowed on. Long balls lost, runs into the abyss, sloppy defending. Brighton had possession and moved the ball around the West Ham area, a sight Brighton fans likely enjoy after years of Chris Hughton. Masuaku conceded a corner in the 40th minute, and with such a height advantage in the box it required Fabianski to take charge and punch the ball away.

Late in the first half Snodgrass made a forceful run down the right and got to the byline. His low cross was deflected out to Rice at the top of the box. He tried to one time it but missed horribly and skied it to Marwood, a coffee place and bar near the train station.

Like that place. So a shameless plug inserted here.

Halftime
Brighton 0
West Ham 0

The second half brought one substitute, with Wilshere giving way to Antonio. For all the talk about our choices in midfield, the center of the pitch was pretty awful from the Claret and Blue in the first half. Not that any part of the pitch was positive, mind you. And it didn’t look any better as the second half began. The idea of a draw felt soothing because a win looked impossible.

Another West Ham giveaway on the left side sent Brighton in on an attack with numbers in the 56th minute. Dunk laid the ball off beautifully for Trossard alone in front of the West Ham goal. A touch and it’s in. But the moment got the better of him and he skied it over the bar. Yet another let off for The Hammers.

In the 60th minute I sent a text to our group chat saying that it was time to see what the Ajeti kid could do. I pressed send on my iPhone, and immediately my football app dinged showing me a goal by West Ham. The app was a few seconds ahead of my stream. I looked up to see Lanzini break through the Brighton midfield and lay a perfectly weighted ball for Chicharito who put it past Ryan.

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Brighton 0
West Ham 1

Brighton answered the disappointment well, with good attempts from both Dunk and Trossard. In the 65th minute, Brighton got what they deserved based on the run of play when Murray bullied Diop off the ball. Ogbonna got turned completely around and lost Trossard, who drilled a shot past Fabianski for the equalizer.

Brighton 1
West Ham 1

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I have an idea. Anytime Antonio attempts a long shot like he did in the 71st minute he has to pay a fine. For the life of me I cannot recall ONE that was EVER close to being on target. A minute later Maupay was teed up in front of Fabianski for what should have been a second Brighton goal, but the one time rumored West Ham transfer target put the ball high over the crossbar. So I guess it’s a malady that affects more than just our guys.

In the 75th minute, Yarmolenko sent a ball forward that Antonio chased along with Dunk. Dunk looked to get a piece of Antonio’s leg, sending the West Ham winger to the turf. VAR looked at it while play continued and deemed the no call the right decision. Moments later Propper had an open header in the West Ham box and should have scored but bounced it right to Fabianski.

In the 86th minute, Lanzini made a truly stunning 60 plus yard run. Weaving through more Brighton players than one could count, he eventually passed to Snodgrass in the box. A good low shot by the Scot forced an impressive save from Ryan.

West Ham’s defensive frailty was on display again in the 90th minute when Ogbonna gave away a cheap corner when a simple clearance should have been well within his capacity. Thankfully the Hammers back line took care of it. A minute later Antonio won a corner out of absolutely nothing, and then almost scored from a ball played back into the box after the delivery was cleared.

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Final Score
Brighton 1
West Ham 1

At the final whistle, I thought about Sam Allardyce. OK, not really. I just wanted to get a rise out of some of you. But one artifact from his reign, at least in my circle of West Ham friends, are the arguments over a draw. Respect it, loathe it, somewhere in between. George from Moore Than Just A Podcast immediately said “take that”. My best mate Jon was not as impressed, saying he did not respect that point. Mr. Reasonable himself, Nigel, pointed out it was our first point ever at Brighton in the EPL. Considering our record not only there but in August overall I’ll go with Nigel and George. We were poor for much of the opening half, but much improved in the second. Brighton were the better side, which in and of itself should be annoying on paper, and will feel the three points were there to be had.

I’ll sleep well knowing they didn’t pry it away from us.


David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 0, Manchester City 5. Glad It's Over.

With so many of the pre-season matches televised over here on ESPN, it would have been a good idea for me to have my little pre-season and maybe do a report or two. You know, as a warm up. Obviously like any pre-season, the result of my writing would not have mattered. Just getting that game time in, letting both of my pointer fingers get some minutes under their belts would have been useful. It didn’t happen. Thankfully, the transfer deadline has passed. And with Iain busy up in Edinburgh chatting with movers and shakers he didn’t have time to line up a replacement for me from KUMB or Claret & Hugh.

So here I is, ready to rock and roll for my seventh season spinning my words for you folks.

August is not a time for optimism. The last time we won in the muggiest of months was in 2016 against Bournemouth. Gokhan Tore assisted on the goal, which should add perspective. So to expect more than a performance worthy of our praise would be a stretch to say the least. It’s arguable if we got that, even in spurts.

The first attempt of the match came in the tenth minute when Mahrez forced Fabianski into a diving save to his right. But the fact that it was the Champions first real look at goal, and that the Hammers had looked comfortable on the ball and even pressed City into a few mistakes was encouraging. I bet in their minds a few of the visitors were even annoyed we refused to let them do what they wanted to do.

Manchester City probably should have taken the lead in the 21st minute when Mahrez got the ball from Sterling inside the West Ham eighteen yard box, beat Cresswell, and had an open look at goal. He should have scored. He didn’t even hit the net. The Hammers countered moments later, but Wilshere tried to roll the ball to Anderson on the right but gave it away instead.

The inevitable happened in the 25th minute when Walker went past Cresswell like the left back was standing still. He latched on to a perfectly weighted pass and sent a low cross into the box. Diop tried to slide in for the block, but deflected the ball into the path of Jesus who flicked it past Fabianski.

West Ham 0
Manchester City 1

The goal seemed to wake up the title holders. They pressed Fredericks into a bad giveaway in the box, and then Walker fed Mahrez on the right but the ball into the box just missed Jesus for what very well might have been an early brace.

West Ham tried to assert some authority and get back into the match, and for a second it looked like the home side might have had a penalty shout when Zinchenko took down Lanzini in the box. But replays, both at home and likely in the new VAR headquarters, showed it was a good tackle. Moments later Haller got the ball ten yards from goal and tried a half bicycle kick, a bicycle kick with training wheels if you will, but it was an easy stop for Ederson.

City played their free flowing football as the opening forty-five minutes ticked on, and the Hammers on the whole looked a bit deflated. They put most of the side behind the ball, with Haller and sometimes Antonio up the field hoping for a long pass. De Bruyne tested Fabianski with a quick strike from 15 yards out, but the Hammer Of The Year made easy work of it.

In the 41st minute, West Ham won a free kick from just inside the Manchester City half. While the desire to play the ball on the floor to a goal scoring opportunity is laudable, at times a ball into the box is warranted. I, for one, was hoping for a hopeful delivery into the box. Instead we got three or four short passes before losing possession.

The one thing Diop needs to work on is his decision making. It’s as if his mind and his feet have regular arguments on the pitch, and those fractions of seconds lead to problems. In first half injury time, Diop got the ball in the West Ham box. Internal conflict ensued, and he gave the ball right to Jesus. The Brazilian tried to lob the ball over Fabianski but didn’t get the required height and West Ham were spared.

Halftime
West Ham 0
Manchester City 1

I kind of expected a substitution for the start of the second half. Fornals coming on was one of them. But with Zinchenko looking vulnerable I thought Pellegrini would stick with Antonio a bit longer. That’s why I sell wine, I guess.

The Champions doubled their lead in the 51st minute when De Bruyne led an attack down the middle. His ability to hold the ball, to keep a run going until the last possible second is impressive. He rolled a pass to Sterling on his left, who calmly slotted it past Fabianski. Then, while writing this paragraph, history was made. Manchester City scored a third after some lovely work on the left. But there was a call for VAR, and the armpit…..yeah, the armpit….of Sterling was an armpit hair offside and the goal was disallowed. Technically, he was off. But in terms of the spirit of the game, it was so close and there is no way a human being could have seen that. Well, maybe Iron Man with those gizmos in his suit, but sadly he is no longer with us.

West Ham 0
Manchester City 2

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Yet that moment in history may have also been a sneak peak into something many supporters of so called smaller clubs have said for years. The big sides get all those breaks, and now the playing field may have leveled a bit. You would not be wrong to wonder if the exact same play had been on the other side of the pitch, would the flag have gone up simply because the linesman would likely assume such a goal could not be scored against a behemoth like City?

West Ham had a free kick from the left side of the City eighteen yard box in the 60th minute, and Snodgrass was the man to take it. His delivery was good, Haller got on the end of it, but it went over the bar.

The home side made their third and final substitution in the 65th minute when Anderson came off due to an apparent injury. On came Chicharito in his shiny new number 9 kit. From a Man Bun to a platinum blonde from a bottle, that number has seen some interesting times.

As the second half moved into it’s final chapter, West Ham came inches from making the match interesting. Chicharito got on the end of a cross and forced Ederson into Good Save Number 1. The rebound came out to Lanzini who tried to head it into the near corner, but Ederson made Good Save Number 2 with his right hand, and even kept the ball in play to deny West Ham a corner.

Seconds later, Manchester City came back down the pitch. Mahrez sent a ball over the West Ham back line and onto the run of Sterling. The England international received the ball and cooly lobbed it over Fabianski. VAR took a look again, but this time the goal stood. The fine margins that could have seen it 1-2 with some excitement at the end turned on its head to 0-3.

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West Ham 0
Manchester City 3

In the 83rd minute Fabianski made a very bad clearance right to Mahrez. Diop did the best he could I guess under the circumstances but it was still a penalty. Aguero did not strike the ball well, and Fabianski made the save. Buuuuuuuuutttttt. VAR saw Rice encroach, and the penalty was retaken. No mistake that time.

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West Ham 0
Manchester City 4

In added time, Sterling scored again, sealing his hat trick. Diop was flat footed. Yuk.

Final Score
West Ham 0
Manchester City 5

I’m going to go against my own grain here and throw some positivity out there. We played better on the attack against them than I can recall since Pep arrived there. We lacked that final ball into the area, but our possession stats suggest the style of play will work against the majority of the sides we will face this season. But the goals we conceded were partly due to our frailties at the back. It’s one thing to lose by two, even three, on the opening weekend. But five leaves a bad taste, even against these guys.

I’m glad we got this one out of the way.


David Hautzig's Match Report

Watford 1, West Ham 4. Bottom Of The Top.

Much has been made about the effect money has had on football. Well folks, today at Vicarage Road was quite literally about money and nothing else. Sure, finishing in the top half would be nice. In today’s universe the two million pounds per place in merit payments are nicer. And that’s precisely what we got.

The opening minutes were all Watford. On twenty seconds Deulofeu broke in and beat Fabianski low to his right, but the flag went up. Two minutes later the former Barcelona man again found himself in a dangerous position but likely took his shot a bit early and Fabianski made a routine stop. Five minutes later the pressure continued, with Watford earning a corner. Hughes tried a YouTube worthy bicycle kick but didn’t catch it fully and Fabianski made the save.

West Ham had their first opportunity at the ten minute mark when Antonio won a free kick on the left side of the Watford eighteen yard box. Lanzini stepped up and drilled it right into the first two rows behind the Watford goal. The word “wasteful” came to mind, as well as out of the mouth of Tony Gale on television. At least the ball was on the other end of the pitch for a few minutes.

The last few weeks have seen a rebirth of sorts from Mark Noble. Fantastic performances against both Spurs and Southampton had to quiet the naysayers for a little bit. In the 15th minute, he began a run with a quick give and go with Antonio. When Noble got the ball back thirty yards from goal, the most likely scenario was The Captain looking for a run by Antonio or perhaps Anderson. Going at it alone wasn’t on anyones mind. Other than Noble, that is. A little shoulder dip to his left opened him up for a shot. Which he took. And it beat Foster. It might have been the best open play goal I’ve ever seen Noble score.

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Watford 0
West Ham 1

Watford pressed for an equalizer, and again it was Deulofeu at the heart of the attack. He was on the receiving end of a cross from Pereyra, and did well to create space for himself inside the box to send a left footed shot at Fabianski that didn’t trouble our Hammer Of The Year. Moments later it was Pereyra inside the box that received the ball, but his low shot was right at the Hammers keeper. A minute after that Pereyra broke in on goal after Zabaleta slipped but his shot was blocked out for a corner. The first did nothing but create a second. The second created a throw. The throw was cleared out by Balbuena. But if the tide continued that way West Ham would be in danger of being washed away.

Remember at the start of the pre-season it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Antonio would be sold? Crystal Palace wanted him supposedly. Now, the idea of him leaving is almost unthinkable. He has the ability to use his brute strength to get out of crowded situations when he has no earthly right to do so. In the 39th minute, Noble sent a perfectly weighted ball over the top for Antonio to run onto. He did just that, but his first touch was off. No problem. He just made a new opportunity out of it, fighting his way through a crowd to get off a great shot that clanged off the bar and directly into the path of Lanzini. Thank you very much said the Argentine.

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Watford 0
West Ham 2

The Hornets came oh so close to a goal in the final seconds of the half when a corner kick came to Kabasele, who headed the ball back across the face of goal where Deeney met it. But Fabianski dove down to his right and made a point blank save. “Save of the season” was the text from Nigel.

Halftime
Watford 0
West Ham 2

Zabaleta doesn’t make too many completely boneheaded errors. The start of the second half brought just that. On the opening kick he made an awful attempt at a back pass to Fabianski and instead laid it on a silver platter for Deulofeu who strolled around the keeper and rolled it into the open net only nine seconds from the start.

Watford 1
West Ham 2

Before I could finish the annoying paragraph above, Antonio ran onto a long ball and was brought down by Holebas. The linesman immediately got the attention of the referee, and out came the red card. Harsh if I’m being honest, but I’ve lost all ability for opposition sympathy in my advanced years. West Ham did nothing with the free kick, and Watford came storming downfield. Deulofeu beat Zabaleta, and if he had gone down it could have been red for the Argentine right back. Instead he tried to find Doucoure but Anderson did his defensive work and intercepted the pass and cleared it over the bar for a Watford corner.

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Which team was a man down again?

West Ham tried to reassert their authority by keeping hold of the ball and make Watford run around a bit. Noble eventually made a pass to Arnautovic at the top of the box, and Marko tried a turnaround shot but it went over the bar.

In the 60th minute, Zabaleta again made a horrific mistake in the box that should have cost West Ham a goal. Doucoure grabbed an errant ball from Zabaleta and passed to Gray in front of Fabianski. Masuaku got in the way, Gray went down, and every West Ham supporter likely expected a penalty. It didn’t happen. West Ham broke on a counter attack, with Anderson putting a lovely through ball for Arnautovic in the box. But when he should have shot, he tried one more move. That allowed Cathcart to make a great tackle and clear the ball from danger.

The Hammers should have finished it off in the 68th minute when Antonio headed a ball into the path of Arnautovic, but his shot had no pace and was from a tough angle. Foster had very little trouble.

Remember that match two years ago against Hull when they hit the woodwork four times, and the post was given Man Of The Match? Well, Mr. Lumber was good to us today, except on the attacking end. Zabaleta crossed the ball to Anderson, who volleyed it off the far post. Arnautovic was the first to react, and he dove to get the ball where it needed to be.

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Watford 1
West Ham 3

The visitors should have made it four when Antonio got on the end of a long ball from Anderson. He tried to lob the ball over Foster, but didn’t quite put the ball high enough and Foster grabbed it. But moments later, Fememia clattered into Antonio inside the box and the referee pointed to the box. Noble stepped up and drilled it into the bottom right hand corner of the net.

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Watford 1
West Ham 4

Serious question. What did the club see in Sanchez last summer? Let me know. Thanks.

Final Score
Watford 1
West 4

“Finish joint 7th with the five points we earned but we’re not awarded. Not bad.” was the text I got from my best mate Jon. Usually when I make such complaints to him he says there’s no way we could ever know. All I know is that relegation was not a realistic fear at any reasonable time this season. To that end, along with some very good wins, a top half finish, and a lot of positive play, it can be considered a season of progress. The last time we felt progress was at hand, well, we were given Sofiane Feghouli. But that was then, and this is now. Which means it could be a different approach. I hope so.

I wish all of you a great summer, and I will be back on my sofa in August with my IPad, hoping for greater heights for West Ham.

Cheers.


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