Friday, July 24

Poyet penalty saves Hammers

Birkirkara 1 West Ham 0 (After extra time, West Ham win 5-3 on pens) 

(Europa League Qualifier)

A hardy contingent of Matt, Lisa and Fraser are watching the game in the Jetlag Sports Bar in Fitzrovia. Being a part-timer, I'm taking my daughter on a pre-booked showing of The Cult of Bacchae at the British Museum. Matt suggests that that geezer Euripides was probably a fan of the flat Bacchae four. The play involves a lot of semi-clothed women drunkenly cavorting as they worship the cult of Bacchus and Dionysus — so not too dissimilar to the Central at chucking out time.

We start the game with a somewhat bizarre formation, with only the tiny Zarate up front. Just as KIng Pentheus of Thebes is getting into a ruck with Dionysus, Matt's text arrives informing me that the game in Malta is starting to resemble a Greek Tragedy. Birkirkara have scored after 14 minutes as Tomkins and Collins are outpaced and Miccoli nips ahead of O'Brien for a poacher's goal. Then Tomkins has been sent off for a shove on Vukanac. That's two red cards in four Europa League games now, a tendency that has to be stopped with our squad already stretched.

After watching King Pentheus get torn apart by the Bacchae, there's more news on the bus home of West Ham getting torn apart in Malta. The game's gone into extra time and Matt Jarvis has had our only shot on target, though the numbers have been evened up as Mazzetti has been sent off. Late on Maiga has goal disallowed for a tight but correct offside flag.

So it's down to penalties. Noble, Zarate, Cresswell, O'Brien and Poyet score for the Hammers while one of the home side's penalties is ballooned over the bar. Credit to Diego Poyet for his coolness at the end. Phew. Lisa suggests that we have found a new Lucky Pub. At least the Jetlag Sports Bar has never seen us lose a penalty shoot-out. 

Big Sam would surely have been vilified for a result like this, while Bilic will not be, as yet. But at this stage of the season I'm not too concerned about an undoubtedly poor performance in the 30C heat. We're still playing what are essentially pre-season games and the important thing is we got through in the end and had a 120-minute workout. Lest we get distracted by Europe, the most important game is still the away trip to Arsenal on August 8. Now it's FC Astra at the Boleyn — and surely time to put out a full-strength side for this one.

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