David Hautzig's Match Report
Whenever I get the urge to exercise, I open up a nice bottle of wine and wait for the urge to just go away.
It wasn’t always this way. Before kids turned me into an American version of a Sherpa, I was pretty active. I put in close to 200 Miles per week on my road bike, went to the gym, played tennis, and so forth. In all of those physical activities, the days I remember most fondly are the days I didn’t necessarily have the easiest time of it. I always learned more about myself when I chose a ride with a brutal climb. Staring at my front wheel, trying keep my cadence, almost hypnotized by it all. Or when I played a set or two with someone a lot better then me. If I lost 6-3 I was still quite pleased with myself. Yeah, they were better. They knew it. And I knew it. But damn it, I didn’t put up a goose egg. I gave it a right good go.
Today’s game with Unreal City had a far different feel than any game against a top club in recent memory. Holding on and praying for a draw wasn’t on the menu. Neither was an unrealistic sense of optimism brought on by beating two teams in the bottom three. If used properly, today could offer a sense of perspective of where we are….and how idiotic and awe inspiringly narcissistic Fergie has become in retirement.
Wonder who he was rooting for?
The starting eleven wasn’t a surprise to me, but it was to Harry Sherlock of Goal. We got into a little Twitter chat about West Ham playing two up front. He thought it was risky. I thought it was sensible in that the only way we would get anything from the match would be by attacking them. Sitting back at all would invite catastrophe. Might as well go for it and see what happens. Famous last words? The subs did worry me. With Tomkins out, I would have liked to see Reece Burke on the bench instead of Vaz Te.
The first fifteen minutes didn’t fill me with much confidence. In the second minute Jenkinson gave the ball away to the one guy you never want to give anything to. Sergio Aguero. His curling shot might or might not have reached the top corner, but Adrian wasn’t taking any chances and palmed it out for a corner. A few minutes later Mark Noble did the one thing he still gets criticized for at times, a badly timed challenge from behind. David Silva’s free kick was close. Too close.
In the 7th Amalfitano became the first name for Atkinson to jot down in his little black book for a poor sliding tackle on Navas. The energy was there, but was it a case of being too eager? Too caught up in the moment? Pressure from Sakho on a ball into Joe Hart’s domain did create our first corner, but nothing came of it.
The 19th minute gave us our first glimpse of the newer, improved version of West Ham. Ironically, it was the result of a long ball from James Collins, about as old West Ham as you could get. Except in this version the flick on from Sakho was useful, finding Valencia storming in on goal. Hart made the save with his face. Ouch.
When Alex Song joined, we all knew he was a top player. Pure class, the likes of which we don’t often see at Upton Park. In the 21st minute, he showed what the fuss was all about with an absolutely stunning pass to Valencia. The Ecuadorian threaded a ball across the goal mouth, just out of the reach of Zabaleta, right at Amalfitano’s feet. And just like after he scored against Liverpool, his celebration looked like a DVR on pause. A few seconds of nothing, and then he hit the crowd.
West Ham 1, Man City 0.
It almost was level seven minutes later. Toure made a nice pass to Silva, who then turned a quick one-two with Aguero to put Silva in on goal. Cresswell showed why the EPL isn’t as much of a step up for him as it may be for others by closing in on Silva and breaking up the play.
This West Ham team clearly doesn’t know, or doesn’t care, what kind of team we have been in recent years. We pressed all over the pitch. We did not allow Man City the kind of time on the ball they are used to, and maybe even feel entitled to. The look on their faces was one that seemed to say “Hey! Wait a second! Just stop. You’re not letting us play!”
City did start to string passes together with frightening regularity in the final ten minutes of the first half. It’s clear that if things started to break their way they could score goals. Lots of goals. But their shots were off target. Or blocked. The football gods were messing with them. Song pulled Aguero back in the 35th minute, winning Man City a free kick. The kind of free kick that normally hurts us. But Navas’ kick bounced off Dzeko and out for a goal kick. Two minutes later it was Reid who caught Atkinson’s scorn and Aguero had a go with another free kick. First the wall did their job, then Collin’s belly did the rest.
Cresswell found Valencia in the 42nd minute but his shot was wide. Vincent Kompany decided he had had enough of West Ham strikers giving him a hard time so he took matters into his own hands. Feet, actually, and he was booked for a sloppy challenge on our Ecuadorian hero.
Right before the half West Ham had a chance to double the lead when Amalfitano sent a low ball right across the Man City goal but neither Valencia nor Collins could poke it in. Not wanting West Ham to have the last word of the half, Aguero and Silva again combined for a chance on goal but Adrian deflected it wide with his leg. Kick save and a beauty, as a famous ice hockey announcer in New York used to say.
Halftime. Nobody to make a meal for. My daughter had a football tournament this morning and was already there with my wife. My son was happy to watch TV in the other room so I watched the halftime show here on NBC.
In the 52nd minute Kompany came perilously close to a second yellow for a sill tackle on Valencia. Yeah, Enner made a bit of a meal of it. But that’s OK. I’m in a forgiving mood.
I have a confession to make. I had never heard the term Rabona before Lamella’s goal for Spurs on Thursday. For all I knew it was another killer virus from a far away land. But when the announcer talked about Song’s Rabona that ended up on Cresswell’s chest and then to Downing I at least knew what he was talking about.
I’m noticing little things now more than ever before. Like in the 58th minute when Cresswell tried to pass to Sakho but Mangala intercepted. Yet the fear factor of the pressure Sakho had been putting on him all day made Mangala just loft it out for a West Ham throw in. As much as anything, that fear in opposing defenders is making West Ham effective up front.
Edin Dzeko’s day ended in the 59th minute when he was replaced by Jovetic. I was unhappy because Dzeko had been awful all day. Que sera sera.
On another day Aguero would have tied it up in the 60th minute. But today, Adrian made a great save. On another day, the rebound would have gone in. But today Collins cleared it. On another day, the ball sent back into a dangerous area would have caused panic. But today Reid was there. On another day, Toure to Navas to Aguero would have been the easiest goal you’ve ever seen. Today it hit the bar. I’m trying to remain composed….but it’s very hard.
We often complain about Sam making defensive substitutions when we want to see West Ham try to score another goal. Thing is, we haven’t had a Kouyate to be such a substitution in the recent pass. So when he came on for Amalfitano that was a move I could not only live with, but was happy about.
In the 72nd minute Kouyate, Song and Sakho combined and almost doubled our lead. I wish my notes were better at this point, but my nerves had taken hold of me. I was pacing. I was a wreck. I might have gotten physically ill when Silva set up Toure only to see his strike clang off the bar.
When the season is done and dusted, regardless of where we finish, I reckon Aaron Cresswell will be looked upon in the same light as Sakho, Valencia, and Song. His cross to Sakho in the 75th minute was near perfect, as was the technology used to tell the world that the ball had indeed crossed the line.
West Ham 2, Man City 0.
As I did a silly dance in my living room, much to the delight of my seven year old son, I saw a Tweet from my mate Liam Spencer from the Iron Views blog. “No. This isn’t real. I refuse to accept it” is what it said. A minute later we were reminded why when Silva finally found the back of Adrian.
West Ham 2, Man City 1.
Song was eventually named Man Of The Match, and I have no arguments with that. But quietly, James Collins was right up there for the honors. His challenge on Aguero a minute after their goal saved it from being level.
Kevin Nolan entered the game in the 89th minute, a move I questioned not because of who it was but because of when it was. Man City had won a corner. I thought making defensive subs before a corner was akin to taking a bath with a toaster. It won’t end well. But the cross came in and was cleared….by Nolan.
Five minutes of added time. To be honest, it’s a blur. Jovetic got around Kouyate in the 93rd but Adrian made a good save. Then Collins simply threw himself everywhere, Jenkinson pressed…and the whistle blew.
I’m guessing a level of euphoria will hit me sometime tomorrow. Maybe even tonight. But right now, I’m oddly devoid of emotion. Maybe it’s because I’m just not used to this. The capacity to feel joy about our club is a skill I have never allowed myself to have. That may annoy some of you. Sorry. I’m wired that way. Start a Match Day in an awful mood and hope for a few surprises.
Then something happened to me. My son ran over to me, jumped in my arms, and yelled “Yayyyy West Ham!”. I would have cried except that it might have scared him. “Dad, are we going to win the Premier League?” he asked. “No, buddy. But what a day!” I replied.
“Why not?” he asked, clearly not knowing the way the universe works. I told him we were good this year, just not that good.
“I think we will win it” he said as he walked away to get his shoes on so that we could head out to his sisters football tournament.
If he grows up to be as passionate about West Ham as I am, today will be the day it all started. A good day. No, a great day.
I took his hand and led him to the car.