West Ham United 0 Manchester City 0
A masterclass in defending from Sam Allardyce’s team yesterday gained West Ham a thoroughly well-deserved point against Premier League champions Manchester City, yesterday evening at the Boleyn Ground.
The Irons could even have taken all three points, had skipper Kevin Nolan’s early strike not been ruled offside- incorrectly, later replays suggested. However, a point from the champions is no mean feat and it is testament to the solid defensive framework and organisation that Allardyce has brought to the club.
The last time that West Ham drew 0-0 with Saturday’s opponents was the first home match of the 2002/2003 season- which of course, ultimately ended in tears for the Hammers. That game summed up our entire season, and the point we gained there was less to do with any sound defending on our part and more to do with newly-promoted City’s woeful finishing. There could not be more of a contrast between that game and the next 0-0 draw between the two sides, ten years down the line.
United defended resolutely throughout against a multi-million pound strikeforce- so much so, that the ever-unpredictable City hitman Mario Balotelli was virtually eliminated from the game and resorted to skulking about the pitch like a child deprived of his favourite comic, until his manager substituted him halfway through the second half. The whole team managed that rarest of feats in modern football: defending as a unit, and there was much to be pleased about in the way that our boys pulled together. Particularly notable performances came from often maligned right back Joey O’Brien and right winger Matt Jarvis- the latter producing much of our attacking threat. Had it not been for a poor decision by the linesman four minutes in, the Irons could have been in what would have been classed as dreamland in previous years, but under Big Sam, what is simply the type of result we expect to get.
It was not as if City were lacking attacking threat; former Iron Carlos Tevez (who received a rapturous reception from the Boleyn Ground crowd as always and enacted his trademark ‘crossed hammers’ sign) and the brooding Balotelli constantly hustled and harried the Hammers’ back four. However, unlike the 3-1 home defeat to the visitors last time out against them at Upton Park, the verb ‘terrorised’ was not one being used in any match report on Sunday morning.
The effect of Andy Carroll is also still growing. Whilst the big striker’s critics can point to his poor recent scoring record in the Premier League (2 goals in his last 33 matches), they cannot deny the positive effect he has upon our frontline. Manchester City can boast arguably the strongest defence in the country but Kolo Toure, Kompany and co never looked entirely comfortable when confronted with the pony-tailed Geordie, who was unfortunate not to score with a clever bicycle kick after using his physical presence to create space for the effort.
Hammers keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen was, in actual fact, rarely tested by the City attack, such was the excellence of the defensive display going on in front of him- and when he was, he looked nothing other than completely comfortable and in total control. The most pleasing thing about the whole performance was the strong yet inflexible structure of the team- when Gary O’Neil came on to replace Momo Diame and Carlton Cole entered the fray for Carroll, the team completely retained its shape and the substitutes fitted seamlessly into the roles of the players which they had replaced.
In the end, City had no answer to the claret and blue brick wall and had to settle for a point which made the home support a lot happier than the travelling Blues.
Report by Alex Shilling
WEST HAM UNITED: Jaaskelainen; Reid, McCartney, Collins (Spence ’84), O’Brien; Noble, Jarvis, Benayoun, Noble, Diame (O’Neill ’71); Carroll (Cole ’77)
Subs: Spiegel, Spence, Chambers, O’Neill, Cole, Maiga, Hall
MANCHESTER CITY: Hart; Kompany, Clichy, K Toure, Nastasic; Nasri (Sinclair ’90), Barry, Y Toure, Dzeko, Tevez (Garcia ’84); Balotelli (Aguero ’69)
Subs: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Sinclair, Garcia, Razak, Aguero