Monday, September 24

Yarmy's miss costly, but good point for gritty Irons

West Ham 0 Chelsea 0

Will Chelsea be up for a wet Sunday afternoon in Stratford? Come to that will West Ham? It’s a midday trip on the Overground to Hackney Wick, where there’s now a grander entrance to cope with the footie crowds, complete with some strange concrete hieroglyphics last seen in Tomb of the Cybermen.

Inside the stadium Alison and Scott have forgotten their season tickets. They’ve had to queue up at the ticket office and in scenes reminiscent of Bodyguard prove their identities. Several other Hammers fans have also forgotten their tickets, including two lads in their twenties agreeing they should probably have gone to bed after their night out rather than go straight to the match. We’re joined by Fraser, Matt, Lisa and Michael the Whovian (fresh from meeting legendary Hammers fan and actor Donald Sumpter at The Prisoner), while Nigel is up in Liverpool seeking some Momentum.

There’s no Arnie and Pellegrini’s gameplan is rather Moyes-esque, with the side letting Chelsea’s defenders have the ball and sitting back with three holding midfielders. The game is also noticeable for Chelsea’s garish yellow away kit — they look like a team of lemons. Hazard shoots at Fabianski and Giroud miscues a volley, but West Ham’s system works pretty well.

With half an hour gone the Hammers suddenly look dangerous on the break. Anderson dummies to find space and releases Antonio with a fine through ball, only for Mikhail to slice wide. Then the excellent Rice intercepts and finds Yarmolenko with a good ball out wide. He runs at goal and is blocked, with the ball falling to Antonio, who fires against Kepa’s legs. Kante heads wide before the break in a late warning of Chelsea's quality.

The second half sees Yarmolenko cut inside and fizz a left-foot shot just over, while Fabianski saves Morata’s effort with his face. Antonio tries to beat Rudiger for pace but comes a definite second, rather emphasising his recent sharpness and fitness problems. He’s hooked for Perez, who this time has warmed-up.

Bizarrely a fan behind us spends most of the game swearing at Anderson for not steaming into tackles like Julian Dicks. Robert Snodgrass eventually comes on for Felipe and the chance for West Ham to win it comes as Snoddy gets in an excellent cross and the unmarked Yarmolenko seems certain to score, only to head wide of the post. Cue collective heads in hands. A shame, as making a crucial goal might have kick-started Snoddy’s Hammers career.

Mystic Matt produces a stat about how often Chelsea have scored after the 79th minute. Can the Hammers hold on for a gritty point? The crowd help with a chorus of “Stick your blue flag…” Kante forces a decent opportunity over the bar as Chelsea dominate possession with Jorginho setting a Premier League record of 180 passes. Though after a late flight back from Greece the Blues lack a cutting edge.

Substitute Barkley produces a great bending shot that Fabianski brilliantly turns round the post. The former Swansea keeper has bossed his area well today. There’s a nice ovation for Mark Noble as he goes off for Sanchez. We have a nervous four minutes of added time, which sees Willian slice wide, but Diop and co remain resolute. Mike Dean blows his whistle and it’s a fine point against a side that had won its previous five games and scored 16 goals.

Lost by the River Lea
After the match we take a very circuitous route along the River Lea to eventually find the Olympic Village and a bar called The Neighbourhood. Inside we find Gambling Dan, who has bet on every score except 0-0. Over pints of Mosaic and Goose we muse upon the impossibility of finding the perfect pub. Maybe George Orwell could help. Michael is impressed by the splash-proof urinals but not the prices, while we fear it might be too hipster for Nigel, who also rejects craft beer and Wetherspoon’s. Strange, as we happily all went along to the Central at Upton Park. Perhaps we are spoilt for choice.

Still, we enjoy a drink in the unexpected sun. After losing the first four games the pundits were suggesting we’d lose the first seven. Four points from two games is progress.

PLAYER RATINGS: Fabianski 8; Zabaleta 7, Diop 8, Balbuena 7, Masuaku 6; Noble 7 (Sanchez 5), Rice 8, Obiang 6; Anderson 6 (Snodgrass 7), Antonio 5 (Perez 5), Yarmolenko 6.


Mj said...

And who was it who gave Yarmy man of the match 5 minutes after that miss?!!

Pete May said...

Yes, that was unfortunate! He played quite well apart from the miss though. I see the players stuck a picture of a bloke with a square head on his locker - so at least good for banter.