HE'S BETTER THAN ZIDANE
Sunday, April 3
Kouyate red card allows Palace comeback
In Ken’s Café Michael the Possible Whovian has brought along a bona fide Whovian in his Rangers-supporting mate Charlie, a man who has acted in Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas and was once an auctioneer at a West Ham function (even if they had mistaken him for Charlie Ross off Bargain Hunt). We’re joined by Lisa, a late replacement for Matt who’s suffering from lack of sleep and vertigo, and Nigel, who’s just got a new job, narrowly avoiding becoming a dodgy dvd seller in the Central. There’s a late cameo from DC and his wee man and astonishingly Michael gets to eat his big breakfast before the kick-off.
“We’re playing a team that hasn’t won in 2016, what could possibly go wrong?” I venture at the kick-off.
Luckily Matt the vicar’s son isn’t here, as you’d fear for his blood pressure with Mark Clattenburg in charge. Early on Clattenburg waves play on after Emenike is felled on the edge of the box, setting the tone for an erratic performance. Soon he’s booked Noble and Reid too.
Palace’s luck appears to have turned after 15 minutes, as Adrian palms a free kick up in the air and straight on to the head of Delaney, who heads home from a tight angle.
But Palace betray their lack of confidence by conceding within three minutes. Antonio overlaps to get in a fine cross, Sakho heads it back and it’s deflected by a defender into the path of Manuel Lanzini who controls in an instant and fires past Hennessey. That’s Manuel’s seventh of the season.
Palace isn’t the easy match many anticipated though, and at 1-1 Puncheon knees over an inviting cross from Bolasie.
But the thing is we’ve got Payet. Dimitri has already sent one early free kick over the bar, when he’s felled by Ward on the edge of the box. Hennessey puts seven defenders in the wall, but it night as well be 17, as Payet simply pings the ball up in the air and dipping into the top corner. A sumptuous goal and the whole ground bursts into a rapturous, ‘We’ve got Payet!” It’s still sung in a tone of incredulity by most fans. We’ve got the East End Messi. Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott has just been proved wrong; you can change the the laws of physics, Captain.
Nigel’s happy that Welcome to the Jungle by Guns and Roses comes on the PA at half-time and all seems for the best in the best of all possible worlds as we then spot Time Lord Donald Sumpter in the concourse. Michael and Charlie ponder whether to say, “Get off my planet!” to him as we consider appearing at the final home game in full Time Lord regalia.
It’s a scrappy start to the second half though, and we’re not looking like a Champions League side. Kouyate plays a poor back pass forcing Adrian to dash from his goal and makes a decent save. The ball falls to Sako and only a brilliant goal line clearance by Cresswell prevents a goal.
KOUYATE RED CARDED
With his mind still on that dodgy back pass, Kouyate then miscontrols and lunges into a sliding tackle on Gayle. He wins the ball but his feet are off the ground and Clattenburg gives a straight red. Harsh, as a yellow would surely have been sufficient as it was a clumsy rather than malicious challenge. Though Kouyate should have known not to take chances with a ref like Clattenburg.
“It’s always difficult to play against ten men,” I counsel, though Palace don’t seem to agree. Our subs don’t work either, as Valencia still looks jet-lagged and Carroll doesn’t get much service and fires shots into defenders’ legs.
“You’re just a c••• with a whistle!” chant the home fans.
“Good old East End wit,” muses Nigel.
There’s a warning when Sako volleys horribly wide from Bolasie’s cross. Palace equalise with a bit of a comedy goal as Ogbonna volleys Souare’s cross against the legs of Reid and Gayle pounces for an easy goal and celebrates in front of the away fans.
The stadium clocks have still stopped, and as time seems to coagulate it’s a case of respect the point at this stage as only a great block from Reid denies Sako a winner. The final whistle blows to a rousing chorus of “the referee’s a wanker!”
Still, maybe it’s a sign of progress that a draw feels like a defeat as Man City have won 4-0. We retreat to the Central where the dodgy dvd seller is back, the Old Speckled Hen is chilled and Michael and Charlie are looking forward to an evening watching East End Edna at the Carpenters in Kings Cross.
A shame Payet’s goal didn’t win it as we’ve seen another moment of genius. But as Slaven says, we have to keep playing football and get on with it. Perhaps the pressure got to West Ham a little today, and we need to cut out the defensive errors in the six-pointer against Arsenal.
PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 5; Antonio 6, Reid 7, Ogbonna 6, Cresswell 7; Noble 6 (Obiang 6), Kouyate 5, Payet 8, Lanzini 7; Emineke 5 (Carroll 5), Sakho 6 (Valencia 5).