David Hautzig's Match Report

It’s a funny thing, perspective. When the season was put on pause in March and the scale of the pandemic began to come into focus, I wholeheartedly supported calling it quits on the season as so many other leagues did. No, it would not have been fair to Leeds, Slaven, and whoever wins the playoffs. And with our precarious position at the time, or pretty much any time, it would have allowed us to push the re-set button on a truly crappy year on every level imaginable. Life isn’t always fair was my reply to all of that. But now with the benefit of good old 20-20 hindsight, I can see why this was a good idea. No, not from the perspective of “integrity of the competition” or what have you. Personally I didn’t and still don’t give a toss about that. Not when the world is metaphorically on fire. What I mean is, sport is so often described as an escape from the rigors of daily life. And for our kids generation, and even for many of us older folk, this is the most difficult period the world has ever seen. Watching football has been like a portal back into the life I knew, miss terribly, and look forward to experiencing again. And if cricket, or baseball, or auto racing is your thing I suspect it has been equally helpful. In the end, despite all of the controversy surrounding it, it was the right thing to do.

And yeah. We stayed up.

A little social statement to start. I have yet to not be moved by the site of the players, officials, and coaches taking a knee at the start of the match. Particularly because the murder that ignited it happened so far away, yet the consistent solidarity shown by a league across the ocean, playing a sport that is still foreign to many Americans, is remarkable. It’s so common to forget important messages once the next news cycle begins. I hope the message continues next season.

If you want to let a player know he is no longer wanted at a club, David Moyes gave a lesson on the topic today when he put his starting right back the last two games on the left to cover for the injured Cresswell instead of playing his backup left back, Masuaku. If Arthur were a piece of clothing, Moyes would be dropping him off at the thrift shop after the match. On the end of the pitch, if you wanted to see how Antonio and Haller could work together up top wouldn’t today have been the perfect time to take a look? I think Haller will be here in September, so the decision to not give him a proper run out with Antonio today was a head scratcher.

West Ham should have opened the scoring in the 11th minute when Antonio was sent in all alone with a Allardyce special long ball over the top from Diop. In the form he has been in, the ball going well wide was actually a shock. Moments later Guilbert floated in a cross from the right to an unmarked Samatta, but his header had very little pace and was gathered up by Fabianski.

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By the time I gave it any more thought, the match was past the half hour mark and Fornals won a free kick 30 yards out after a foul by Guilbert. Noble rolled the ball to his right for Rice to do his best imitation of the wonder strike against Watford. Lightning rarely strikes the exact same spot twice, and maybe Rice will give those long range shots a rest when we return in September. Or maybe he won’t.

Noble won a free kick in the 41st minute near the top of the Villa eighteen yard box, but the captain couldn’t beat the first man so the most notable part of that moment came at Goodison when Everton drew level with Bournemouth. A few minutes later Grealish had a chance to ease the pressure even more when McGinn set him up on the left but his curling effort neither curled nor was much of an effort and Fabianski made the easy save. The missed opportunity became even more problematic when Bournemouth regained the lead just before halftime.

Thank God we aren’t part of this.

Halftime
West Ham 0
Aston Villa 0

Haller came on to start the second half! But Antonio came off. I guess we will have to imagine what they would look like together for at least seven weeks.

Villa started the second half brightly, with McGinn catching Johnson out of position to find Trezeguet on the edge of the area but he couldn’t find Grealish or Samatta with the cross. Seconds later Villa tried on the left, this time with Grealish looking for McGinn in the box but Diop was there to block the shot. Moments later Villa won a free kick on the right side, but Diop put the delivery out for a corner. Fabianski grabbed the set piece before anyone else could, but Villa asked another question in the 50th minute when Fredericks took down Grealish at the edge of the area. Villa couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity, and Bournemouth stayed in the bottom three.

The Hammers won a free kick in the 60th minute when Targett missed his target (had to, sorry) when he tried to tackle Noble near the edge of the Villa eighteen yard box. Yarmolenko stepped up to take it and curled the delivery over the wall, but could only find the side netting. Moments later Rice fouled Luiz 30 yards from goal, and Grealish won a corner when his delivery hit the wall and went out.

Can anyone tell me how and why those sports bra looking things became part of every kit? Not judging. Just don’t understand.

Haller had a sniff at goal in the 73rd minute when Noble one timed a pass from Fredericks to the Frenchman with the 45 million pound price tag in the box. But Haller’s header had no pace and Reina had no trouble. A few minutes later Diop was called for a foul against Grealish, though to be fair Grealish ran into Diop and drew the foul. The delivery of the set piece was sent out by Diop for a corner. Villa went short, and Grealish danced into the box and got off a shot that was deflected out for another corner. Villa couldn’t capitalize, which took on a very nerve wracking tone for Villa because Stanislas put Bournemouth up by two goals at Everton.

And then Lanzini did nothing with a free kick twenty five yards out.

Villa came inches away from securing their top flight status in the 82nd minute when Davis made a good run off the ball, and Grealish found him on the left side of the West Ham box. Davis made a little cut to his right and fired a low shot that just went wide.

Over the past few weeks, I have been called Nervous Nellie by many people. Sean, Nigel, to name a few. The main culprit to this bout of anxiety was Jack Grealish. I said many times, maybe even here, that if we needed the result today it would be Grealish that would put the sword to us. Thank heavens we didn’t need anything today, because when Grealish fired his shot past Fabianski it felt like his destiny.

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West Ham 0
Aston Villa 1

The part of the story nobody saw was the looping, deflected effort by Yarmolenko seconds later that somehow found the space between the goal and Reina’s outstretched hand.

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West Ham 1
Aston Villa 1

Villa won a corner in the first of the four minutes of added time, and they did what they needed to do. Play keep away, which they did for roughly a minute. Even then they kept the ball in the West Ham half, and the clock kept ticking. West Ham looked utterly disinterested in trying to score a winner. Although a winner would have put us ahead of Brighton and given 2 million pounds to our esteemed board!

Final Score
West Ham 1
Aston Villa 1

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It has to be said that Bournemouth have every right to feel hard done by. I say that because of the goal scored by Sheffield United on the first day of Project Restart that VAR didn’t catch. Obviously we don’t know if the game would have ended 1-0 had VAR not bottled it so badly. Sport doesn’t work like that. But the fact that the video system that was created LITERALLY to make sure that such potentially catastrophic things don’t happen failed. It simply failed. And Bournemouth may never recover.

But to kind of paraphrase my friend Sean Whetstone on Moore Than Just A Podcast, this isn’t a Bournemouth match report. It’s a West Ham match report.

The losses to Wolves and Spurs sounded many alarms in Claret & Blue. Mine included. But the past six games have been good, and as it turned out we bloody well needed it. 39 points is nothing to feel chuffed about. But the performances over the last six matches gives us reason to think we may achieve something we never had under the absurd leadership of GSB.

Stability.

Moyes has talked about the Red Bull model of buying younger players from lower divisions and developing them into top flight talents. But Red Bull have a plan behind it. They buy specific players with specific traits to suit specific needs. That’s why it works for them. Will our plan be similar? Or will specific players be defined by who is represented by Will Salthouse or some other favored agent? Considering how Sullivan in particular laments the power of agents he depends on them almost entirely. And if the latter is the case, will Moyes be able to shut that nonsense down? Time will tell. Thankfully the new season is only 7 weeks away, so I’d like to believe the good form we ended this season with has a better chance of carrying over to September 12th.

While I sarcastically said that if we go down I at least would get my weekends back since only limited matches are shown here for The Championship. But I would have missed this. The interaction with my friends in the UK has been very valuable to me during this awful time. I’ve been lucky to be able to stay home, and that my wife and children are OK. But chatting with Nigel and others about football was as normal as normal could get for me. Yes, we would have still done that had we gone down. But I wouldn’t have seen that much, so my participation would have been limited. I’m glad I get to keep that.

Take care everyone. Stay safe. Hug your family a couple of extra times, kids especially if you have any. Pets can fill in nicely if you don’t. I’ll be back in September, maybe earlier if I have something useful to say.

COYI