Sunday, August 24

Zarate kid storms the Palace

Crystal Palace 1 West Ham 3

The arrival of 24,242 football fans has taken the catering department at Selhurst Park by surprise. There’s only one outlet open and a huge queue. Oh and there’s no food or hot drinks so we make do with a dodgy plastic bottle of Carling. The West Ham fans in the tightly packed concourse amuse themselves by throwing beer around and singing “My Name Is Ludek Miklosko!” and “Big Fat Frankie Lampard!”

Inside the stadium it’s down to myself and groundhopping Lisa, as Matt has been working his Dr Feelgood-style “stop work whistle blow” nightshift, Nigel’s walking the Welsh coastline, Michael’s preparing for Peter Capaldi and Fraser is doing creative writing (presumably in which West Ham win trophies). It’s also a return to the narrow exits, wooden seats and pillars in your sightline that made last season’s 1-0 defeat so unpleasant.

Nolan has sustained a shoulder injury in training so Zarate gets a game. The home crowd is lively early on and a dangerous Palace cross is headed just over. The away fans respond with “Who’s the w**ker with the drum?”

After that West Ham look more assured though and take control of the game. Kouyate looks good from the start. He’s big and strong, wins tackles, makes several rampaging runs down the wing and as Big Sam says, looks like a young Patrick Vieira. Cresswell looks a decent left back and Mauro Zarate has quick feet, coming back into midfield to link with Mark Noble. He makes several decent dribbles, though luckily the ref Clattenberg misses a late tackle on O'Keefe that could have been a red card.

We are still missing chances though. Cresswell pokes wide and Zarate just takes one touch too many after a one-two and dribble sends him through into the box. Three West Ham corners waft harmlessly into Speroni’s hands.

Until the 34th minute it looks like we might pay for “not being clinical enough” as Sam says after every game. But then Noble’s shot spins up in the air and Zarate, showing great technique, volleys the dropping ball into the corner. He runs to the West Ham fans and might even get his impressive quiff ruffled in the celebrations.

Three minutes later something incredible happens. West Ham put together a fluent passing move in midfield and find Downing on the right wing. He cuts inside to arrow a beautiful finish into the far corner with his left foot.

The West Ham fans go mental and then enter into a rousing chorus of “Tony Pulis — he left ’cos your you’re s**t!” followed by “How s**t must you be we’re winning away!” There’s even a faint chorus of “We’ve got Sam Allardyce!”

Vaz Te then has a decent effort saved by Speroni. “I’ll be confident when it’s 4-0,” I tell Lisa.

After the pom-pom waving Crystals perform at half-time, WHU almost get a third as Tomkins hits the bar from a corner. Palace immediately go downfield, West Ham reject Chamakh is allowed too much space, and he fires a great finish into our net. Two-nil and we’ve f••ked it up?

Those dodgy wooden seats
West Ham have a dodgy ten minutes but Kouyate, Tomkins, Reid and co stay firm at the back. On 62 minutes Tomkins fires in a direct free kick, Vaz Te makes a nuisance of himself and the ball drops off a defender to Carlton Cole who volleys home with surprising alacrity.

“We never doubted you CC!” I tell Lisa, having a moment earlier suggested we need to get Valencia on for him. CC receives a rousing chorus of “Always believe in Carlton Cole!”

We see out the game pretty well, as Sakho gets a run replacing Cole and has a header tipped wide. Poyet gets seven minutes replacing Zarate. “Is there a fire drill?” wonder the West Ham fans as the Palace supporters drift away.

We retreat to Selhurst station in happy mood as Matt texts that the last time we beat Crystal Palace away Mike Small scored. Palace might be struggling, but it’s much better than last week, and with Valencia still to be integrated, this was a promising performance.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 5; O'Brien 6, Reid 6, Tomkins 6, Cresswell 6: Downing 7 (Diame n/a), Kouyate 7, Noble 7, Zarate 7 (Poyet 5), Vaz Te 6, Cole 7 (Sakho 6).


mj said...

Different team for Sheff u but if we win that and Southampton, Sam must stay!

Pete May said...

It would certainly be a decent start after the defeat to Spurs. We played some nice passing stuff in the middle too with Noble and Zarate linking well…