David Hautzig's Match Report
Because of where I am from, the many traditions associated with English football don’t mean as much to me as those of you who grew up with it. Saturday 3pm kickoffs, for example, don’t hold any weight for me. But today I would have given up a lot for it. I was shockingly jet lagged from my return on Thursday, and my eyes opened minutes before the start of the match. With one point from our previous matches away from home, sleep might have been the better choice. Not today it turned out.
West Ham started brightly, with Anderson making a good run down the left before the ball eventually made its way to Rice near the top of the Spurs eighteen yard box. His shot was quick but over the bar. The Hammers continued to press, playing the type of football we have rarely seen in the opening moments of a match.
Fabianski will be Hammer Of The Year. Of that I have no doubt. He has made more saves than any keeper in the league. Which is awful news. We clearly still have issues at the back, and if it weren’t for our new keepers heroics we would be a typical West Ham team with a goal differential of -87 or something. The 11th minute gave us yet another example of why the Polish international has been so important when Son was sent in by Alli with a terrific through ball, but Fabianski was up to the task. Minutes later Diop blocked what would have been a dangerous shot from Alli in the box.
Marko Arnautovic has clearly not been himself since January when the China affair dominated Hammer fans everywhere. But some have argued, Nigel Kahn included, that Marko has not gotten any service. That argument was indisputable in the 19th minute when Anderson broke down the left. Had he been a botanist the run would have been impressive because he stared at nothing but the grass the whole time. Had he looked up, he would have seen Arnautovic all alone at the penalty spot. Instead he rolled a useless low shot right at Lloris. Marko was livid, and rightly so.
As the first half progressed, the tone became clear. Spurs would press, West Ham would hold on and hope for a chance to hit them on the break. Strategically it made sense. Practically it was nerve wracking.
Fabianski was again called to the rescue in the 36th minute when a deflected clearance off the foot of Antonio came back to Eriksen right in front of the West Ham keeper. Masuaku had assumed the ball was on its way down the pitch and thus played the Spurs straggler onside. Fabianski went down and smothered the shot.
The first half could have ended on a high note for West Ham when Anderson let loose with a hard shot from 25 yards out. It took a deflection off the derrière of Davies and Lloris had to adjust. Maybe if it had hit the other cheek it would have gone in. We will never know.
West Ham 0
The Hammers started the second half well, winning two corners in quick succession after good balls into Arnautovic. Unfortunately neither delivery did much to trouble the home side, but it was a good sign to start the second forty five in their half. Minutes later, Arnautovic showed great skill in harnessing a long ball from Fabianski and then getting off a low shot that Lloris handled rather easily. But it showed that if he can get his Austrian head screwed back on straight he might get back to where we know he can be.
Spurs were awarded a free kick from 25 yards out in the 59th minute, and with Eriksen stepping over the ball it was not inappropriate for West Ham hearts to pause. The wall did its job, and West Ham were able to break. Antonio did what he always does, ran like a freight train with no breaks. The ball went to Anderson, pretty much by chance, but his shot was deflected out for a corner. Spurs cleared the set piece, but with half an hour left we were still in it.
A lot was made before the match that Spurs had not conceded a single goal at their new stadium. West Ham made that fact a piece of history when Rice fed Arnautovic on the right side. Antonio began a run into the box, and Marko looped a pass over the Spurs defense to Antonio in the box. Antonio did very well to chest the ball down and set himself for a hard shot that flew last Lloris and into the back of the net.
West Ham 1
Spurs had a great chance to level the score in the 73rd minute when Alli sent a through ball into the box that Davies ran onto, but Fredericks made an excellent tackle to break up the run and allow Fabianski to smother the ball.
After a decent spell on the ball, West Ham gave themselves a chance to double their lead when Arnautovic tried a curling shot from the left side of the Spurs eighteen yard box. Lloris had to dive to his left to make the stop. Moments later a long diagonal ball from Diop found Antonio on the run. He used his speed to break in alone on Lloris and force the save.
When Diop began his run in the 86th minute, you kept waiting for him to pass. He didn’t. His shot came off the side of his foot and dribbled towards Lloris. He could have let it roll wide, but he made sure and pushed it out for a corner. Masuaku had his own break on the left but his ball into the center of the box found nobody in Claret & Blue.
Antonio had yet another chance to put the game away in the 89th minute when he drove in on goal, but one too many touches gave Sanchez the chance to catch him and clear the ball from danger.
Spurs pressed for an equalizer, and in the 94th minute it looked like they had it. And you know, in other years it would have happened. But for reasons I almost cannot fathom, Balbuena was there to clear that shot off the line.
West Ham 1
At the end of the match, so many questions went through my mind. Would The Avengers use time travel to defeat Thanos? And if they did, would everyone come back? Will Captain Marvel be a good member of the team? Will she date Thor? Oh. Yeah. I’m on my way to see Endgame now. West Ham’s Endgame is yet to be deciphered.
But today was awesome just the same.