Sunday, May 14, 2006

Ashton vs. Gerrard

Before the game Alan Pardew had argued that if you put Steven Gerrard in the West Ham side then the Hammers would be the favourites. Pardew as usual was proved right. Most of the Sunday papers report that West Ham were the better side, even ex-Red Alan Hansen claims that "West Ham were the better side and should have won." It was only an outstanding performance from Gerrard that saved Liverpool, and in the end his two stunning goals snatched the man of the match award from Dean Ashton.

Before this game I still had doubts about Ashton, particularly his lack of pace, and thought that West Ham should have started with Bobby Zamora. However Ashton yesterday showed what an awesome player he is, and the watching England manager must have realised the mistake he has made in not including the player in his world cup squad.

Pardew started the game with Harewood up front and Ashton playing a little deeper. This was an outstanding tactical decision, Ashton not only proved effective in disrupting the Red's passing game by playing Alonso out of the game, but established Ashton as West Ham's own playmaker. The forward was instrumental in West Ham's opening goals. His superb pass to Scaloni led to the first goal and his header to Etherington proved decisive in his own goal. His marking of Alonso effectively led to the Liverpool player being substituted early in the second half.

If Ashton can remain fit then the future looks rosy for the Hammers. His skill on the ball seems particularly suited to the European game and should ensure West Ham have a decent run in the EUFA cup next season. And who knows he may even make possible West Ham director Scott Duxbury's stated ambition that West Ham challenge for the Champion's League.

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