Wednesday, September 23

Mersey beat

West Ham 2 Liverpool 3

Getting to West Ham is a marathon not a sprint. With no District Line tubes it’s a two-mile walk down West Ham Lane from Stratford station, taking in the ornamental Gardens of West Ham Park and the environs of Plashett Road before relaxing with an isotonic mug of tea in Ken’s Café. Matt’s back from Australia, which he found marginally easier than yomping from Canning Town.

It’s almost our first choice line-up with Behrami and Ilunga back and Diamanti playing behind the front two. Will the man from Diamanti be the new Di Canio? Zola says he has “crazy eyes”.

“Well, they say that Diamantis are forever” quips Matt.

We start well. In the second minute Cole challenges for the ball, the speedy Zavon Hines moves in to dispossess a dithering Carragher, he rounds Reina and hits the post. Should he have scored? Maybe, but it was a tight angle looking at the replay.

The Scousers soon show us their class. Gerrard plays Benayoun in with a fine ball but Yossi shoots straight at Green, and then Torres athletically volleys wide after another incisive move. Everything is going through Mascherano in midfield.

“He’s not fit to lace Hayden Mullins’ boots,” I mutter.

“He wouldn’t make it as understudy to Carl Fletcher,” suggests Nigel.

Liverpool take the lead after 20 minutes. Hines’ pass in midfield is intercepted by Mascherano who finds Torres on the left edge of the box. The Spaniard bamboozles Tomkins with a shuffle, outpaces him and then fires into the net from an acute angle, beating Green at his near post. A brilliant goal, but some naïve defending. Upson is injured trying to tackle Torres and Behrami’s sciatic nerve is playing up, so both players are replace by Gabbidon and Kovac.

But there’s still hope with Hines outpacing the Liverpool defence and finding 57 varieties of ways to make Carragher look slower than a District Line tube.

Carlton finds Hines on the left and he outpaces Carragher who brings him down for a clear penalty. Diamanti, who’s looked skilful throughout, shows an appetite for the big occasion by grabbing the ball and chipping the ball into the centre of the net. Or did he slip as he took the penalty and kick the ball with both feet? We don’t care, it went in.

Only 12 minutes later Liverpool get a corner, Gerrard rises to easily above Kovac and Kuyt prods home. Typical West Ham. But this is proving an exhilarating gamer. Skrtel brings down Hines and Diamanti’s free kick is deflected wide for a corner.

As half-time approaches a distraught Matt watches Noble jog up to the corner flag. “We’ll never score from this, they haven’t even sent Gabbidon up,” complains Mystic Matt.

Noble’s corner swings into the box and Carlton Cole gets between three defenders to head into the corner. Let’s hope we never send Gabbidon up again.

There’s still time for Mascherano to be booked for bringing down the effervescent Hines. Rarely can a young player making his home debut have exposed international defenders to such devastating effect. 2-2 at half-time and a great game.

The second half can’t possibly match the first and Liverpool appear to have kicked Hines out of the game. But it's encouraging to see Gabbidon making last-ditch challenges as of old, Parker is still making some great tackles and the crowd are really behind the Irons. Benayoun makes a mazy dribble into our box at one end, while Parker tries to dribble through the other penalty area instead of trying a long range shot.

Diamanti isn’t forever, he’s substituted for Kieron Dyer after 65 minutes. Dyer makes a fine run from the right but turns inside instead of shooting. Reminding Matt of why he was nicknamed ‘Jigsaw’ at Newcastle, “because he went to pieces in the box”.

Then on 75 minutes Kovac misplaces a pass, Johnson has a shot blocked and the ball runs to Babel who crosses invitingly for Torres to jump between Faubert and Tomkins and score with a header into the corner. Sod it. Credit the home crowd though, that goal is immediately followed with a rousing chorus of Bubbles.

We lump it long, Cole wins the ball late on and heads across to Kovac whose header is palmed away one-handed by Reina. But you can’t see Liverpool conceding again and they don’t.

We take the long march back to Stratford. Maybe the tube closures are simply a club plot to slim down some of the jelly bellies spotted on the pitch against Millwall. “Perhaps the players had to walk as well,” I suggest, thinking it might account for our long injury list. Poor old Deano probably made it for the first 100 yards.

But we eventually find a seat in the Park Tavern in Stratford and decide there’s cause for optimism. The quality of Mersey has been strained and young Hines was, ahem, full of beans. Our defence could be blamed for all three goals and the midfield gives the ball away too often, but with a fitter Ilunga and Behrami and Jiminez, Collison, Da Costa and Franco to come in we’ll surely soon move up the league soon.


Elliot said...

There was no 'appear' about it, Liverpool DID kick Hines out of the game. A bit of protection from the ref early on with a yellow card or two and he could have made a big difference to the final score later.

Maybe I'm seeing things through claret and blue glasses but we have looked good in both home Prem matches so far and there is surely better to come as players regain fitness and settle into the team.

Anonymous said...

looks like a relegation struggle this year

Pete May said...

Yep, three separate players were booked for fouling Hines. Liverpool were cynical but clever in the way they stopped him.
But I've rarely seen a more impressive performance from a kid in his second full league game - let's hope he's doesn't do a Stuart Slater but fulfils his potential.

We've had good moments in both home games and we seem to play all the top teams before Christmas so think we'll improve after Christmas. We have to be better than Portsmouth, Hull, Wigan, Wolves and Birmingham!