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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Hammers lose heartbreaker at Villa

   Penalties cost West Ham a vital win today in a drenched Villa Park. Mark Noble tripped Christian Benteke inside the box during the 74th minute. This led to a very easy first goal for the Villains. Just to make things worst Charles N'Zogbia scored 4 minutes later on a free kick that the Hammers defensive wall could have easily blocked. Not to mention Jussi Jaaskelainen basically fell to the ground and watched the ball go into the net. He had a lot of trouble throughout the game. In the second minute he bobbled an easy

   Earlier in the game, though, the defense was playing a stellar game. While Villa had most of the possession, they were not able to get many shots off. Key blocks were mostly made by Andy Reid and recently added defender Emanuel Pogatetz.

   The offense early on, however, was not as effective. They seemed to have a lot of trouble completing even simple passes. They were so uninvolved, in fact, that the team finished the first half with no shots on goal and no corner kicks.  Aston Villa would finish the half with 62% of the possession.

   West Ham was able to improve in the second half, firing many shots at goalie Brad Guzan. They just seemed to be unable to put the ball in the net, which is a problem that has been consistent lately. The Irons have just 8 goals away from home this season, which is the lowest amount in the Premier League.

    They did manage to catch a late break though. In the 88th minute Ashley Westwood accidentally headed the ball over Guzan and West Ham came within one. With only five minutes left, the Hammers went full blast on offense, and twice came close to drawing the game. Guzan was top notch, however, and West Ham finished by earning their twelfth loss of the campaign. Aston Villa, on the other hand, can celebrate that for now they are out of the relegation zone.

   Defender Joey O'Brien had to leave in the 23rd minute after he appeared to stretch his hamstring. The Irish international had just recently returned from a similar injury, so when he will return is still unknown.

   The front line of Andy Carrol, Joe Cole, and Kevin Nolan  all played good games and were given plenty of opportunities to score. The best chance actually came in the final seconds of the game. On the final corner kick, Joe Cole lofted the ball to Carlton Cole, who was stopped by Guzan, ending the Hammers chances for a draw.

   With the loss, West Ham will just have to use the FA Cup break to prepare for a tough derby against Tottenham Hotspur.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Big Sam slapped with big fine

   Sam Allardyce's comments about referee Phil Dowd have caused the FA to fine him £8,000. The comments were about Jordan Spence receiving a handball penalty in an FA Cup replay against Manchester United. The penalty led to Wayne Rooney receiving a free kick, and although he missed the kick, the West Ham manager was upset that his team did not receive a similar call. Earlier in the match, Manchester United got away with handballs inside the box twice. This led to some questioning the integrity of the officiating. 

   "You see it time and time again", said Allardyce, "There's no doubt about the difference between Rafael's handball and Jordan Spence's. Spence plays for West Ham and the way team, while Rafael plays for the home side at Old Trafford." While he says his comments did not question the officials, the FA decided to fine him anyway and warn him about his behavior in future interviews. 

   It has been said before that a big crowd during big games can have some influence over certain decisions made during the match. But one needs to ask themselves, if Phil Dowd had called those penalties, would the game have ended that differently. True, West Ham might have been able to score and win the game. But they could have also not scored and maybe concede more goals. Truth is we'll never really know. We can say, though, that Sam Allardyce made a gutsy move by openly criticizing the officials, which ultimately resulted in him getting fined. Although the fine may be small compared to others the FA has made, it did send the message the such statements will not be tolerated. 

   It did little to change Allardyce's opinion, however. "I was fined for speaking the truth", was his response. He did say, however, that he would like to move on and focus on the rest of the season. West Ham needs to prepare for a big game against Aston Villa, that if they win, they could return to the top half of the EPL table. 

   His job, in fact, is still not guaranteed for next season. Owners David Gold and David Sullivan won't start contract negotiations until the Hammers are safe. And if they fail to win this weekend, it will leave the owners and the fans really questioning his ability as manager.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

West Ham earns big win against Swansea: 

   Andy Carroll made quite the return by scoring the game-winning goal in a 1-0 win against a usually tough Swansea City side. Carroll had previously been out for two months with a knee injury, which really affected the Hammer attack up front. With Andy's return though, it seemed the whole team's form improved in one match. Kevin Nolan played his best game in a long time, getting a few shots off of Andy Carroll passes.

   The Hammers still didn't score enough goals as they probably should have, but that did not seem to matter. The defense was in perfect form as they kept the Swans offense at bay for most of the first half. Matty Taylor and Joey O'Brien covered both sides and stopped any strikes that came there way. The defense had to be the top highlight from the match. Unfortunately, although they had a few excellent shots, the home side was not able to score either.

   That all changed in the 77th minute. Mark Noble lifted a beautiful corner kick to the middle of the box. And who else would else would be there to receive it, but the former Liverpool star, Andy Carroll. With a slight touch of the head, the ball flew past Tremmel and West Ham finally had the goal that they were looking for.

   Swansea responded by firing a few last minute shots, but it was all in vain as the Cockney boys got their first league victory in over a month. Big Sam can breathe a little easier as the Hammers can go with their heads held high into Villa Park.