West Ham 1
Noble 90 pen
“January, month of empty pockets! let us endure this evil month……..”
Thank **** it’s February tomorrow. Although we’ve got through two rounds of the cup, it’s been a sod of a month. Draw after draw after draw and now this. One nil should be one nil whichever way you look at it but, try as one might, the knife is turned with more purpose when it’s determined by a 90th minute penalty! Things can’t get much worse? It’s probably an overreaction but that’s what it felt like last night!
Rafa’s post match comments were basically the same as his post match comments after oh… the list of games seems endless!
“We had chances but couldn’t take them.”
How many times have we heard variations of that quote over the last few years? When are we going to seize the moment and make the most of the opportunities we are presented with? Sadly last night the malaise was not confined to upfront. We failed to defend tightly, West Ham could have ensured the game was before over by half time with a serious of decent, but poorly finished chances. In the end however and although we looked as if we were lacking confidence which was summed up by an alarming amount of misplaced passes, a point would not have been undeserved.
The first half was poor. End to end stuff not necessarily because it was a game of entertainment but because of both side’s inability to hang on to the ball. Chances were swapped, Torres, dragging wide, and Benayoun, trying to chip Green when he should have just belted it across the goal, for us. West Ham had the best of them with two excellent opportunities, one of their own making, the other a gift from us. Boa Morte slashed wildly over from close range when he should have hit the target. Then, from a Noble free kick and a Finnan deflection, they hit the bar with Reina stranded. Right at the end of the half Cole might have scored from a corner had Benayoun not got a good block in.
We began the second half with more purpose. However our recent poor defending from set pieces, three out of the last four conceded have been from corners or free kicks, let Boa Morte in who fired comically wide. Finally we created something of note. Lucas fed Torres on the right and continued his run. Torres crossed and found The Brazilian who just forced it wide. Lucas then repeated the trick setting up Gerrard for one of his squash buckling (I’m desperately trying to make this sound good!) up field runs to collect the final pass before lifting his shot over the bar. No goals but good link up play from the Brazilian on both occasions.
It wasn’t to be Torres’ night. He twice fell foul of referee Wiley’s incompetence. Firstly being accused of hand ball when it wasn’t and then being pushed and hacked by Lucas Neill only to find himself carded for showing frustration that Wiley had failed to see what everyone else had. He then had point blank effort from about six yards saved by Green’s leg after Babel’s good cross. Sadly although Torres was having an off night, none of his fellow strikers picked up the baton. Kuyt was wholly ineffective yet Benitez didn’t respond. Crouch remained on the bench and Babel was only given seventeen minutes to make his mark.
Neill then further chanced his luck or rather his arm by pulling Lucas’ shirt and then possibly handling Hyypia’s flick on from a corner. However, it was us that paid the penalty. In our desperation to get three points we left ourselves a little short at he back. Ashton led the breakaway and in the stampede to man the barricades Carragher upended Ljungberg. Noble made no mistake and there was no chance to get back.
After the game Rafa remained defiant and maintained that we would still qualify for the Champions League. However, current form and our inability to “snap out it” must be a serious concern now? Even though we are now seventh you always think that it will be alright in the end but, on the strength of January’s efforts, why should it?
West Ham: Green, Neill, Ferdinand, Upson, McCartney, Ljungberg, Noble, Mullins, Bowyer (Ashton 58), Boa Morte (Etherington 59), Cole (Spector 81).
Subs Not Used: Wright, Solano.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Aurelio, Benayoun (Babel 72), Gerrard, Alonso, Kewell (Lucas 61), Torres, Kuyt.
Subs Not Used: Itandje, Crouch, Skrtel.