Saturday, February 09, 2008

West Ham 1 Birmingham 1

Cautiously Curbishley could have had a heart attack at the start of this game. The match had a very lively beginning and the play at Upton Park was for a change excitingly open, with West Ham looking the more dangerous.

West Ham won a corner in the first minute and Ashton had a good chance from Ljungberg's set-piece only to swing his foot at the ball and miss it completely. Two minutes later Ashton actually made contact with a Neill cross but his volley flew straight into Taylor's arms.

In the seventh minute West Ham's early pressure was rewarded with Ljungberg's first goal for the club. McCartney made a long throw in from the left wing and the ball was flicked on by Cole and Ljungberg ran in at the back post to score from two yards.

The game then swung back and forth with Bowyer and Cole both just firing wide with good efforts before Birmingham in the 16th minute got their equaliser. The goal came about when McFadden escaped Neill in the box and the Australian dragged him down to give away a penalty (it was almost as if a leaden footed Neill had spent half the week on long-haul flights). McFadden then stepped up to take the kick. Robert Green guessed right and dived to his right but McFadden's shot flew into the bottom left of the goal.

West Ham didn't let this set back get them down though and continued to pepper the Birmingham box. In the 26th minute Mullins lobbed the ball over the top of the Birmingham defence and into space. Etherington ran onto the pass but shot tamely wide. Three minutes later the lively Etherington put a low cross into the box and a stretching Bowyer shot straight at Taylor.

In the 35th minute Forsell and Cole at different ends had a chance to snatch the lead with close range headers. However both forwards headed straight at the opposition goalkeeper.

In the 38th minute McCartney and Etherington both managed shots on goal. McCartney's shot flew well wide from 20 yards but Etherington's shot required a good save from Taylor diving to his left at the expense of a corner. A few minutes later Mullins tried a shot from twenty yards out but Taylor saved the shot easily.

The two sides went into the break with honours even but West Ham probably felt that they had done enough to be in the lead.

Whatever the managers said to the players at half time it was enough to kill the game. The highlight of the first twenty minutes after the break was the substitution of Cole for Faubert.

Faubert's entrance into the game seemed to lift West Ham a little and in the 66th minute West Ham managed their first shot of the half when Mullins shot from 25 yards, only to put the ball wide of the right hand post. In the 69th minute Faubert found space at the back post but hooked the ball across the box instead of going for goal. The ball eventually found its way to Ashton but he mishit his shot from 10-yards out.

In the 74th minute Matthew Etherington's free kick from wide right was met by Upson with his head from the centre of the penalty area 12 yards out but Taylor got down well to save. A minute later Ashton tried a long range effort from 25 yards but never troubled Taylor in goal.

In the 76th minute Forssell had Birmingham's best effort of the half, but his effort from 6 yards shot across the face of the West Ham goal and past the far post. That was Forssell's last contribution to the game as he was then brought off for Jerome.

Two minutes before the final whistle Lee Bowyer was given a straight red for having both feet off the ground in a tackle. Seconds before full-time Ashton was subbed and was booed by a small section of the crowd. Birmingham probably had the best of the final ten minutes but West Ham were the better side for most of the game.

I think we have probably seen the end of West Ham's European dream for this season.


At 8:11 PM, Blogger portugal said...

think your assessment of it being the "end of the european dream" for this season is relaistic,even if it may seem harsh to some. we needed to take 4 points from 6 from these last 2 fixtures ,and have failed to do that . playing teams in the business end of the season who are threatened with relegation but still believe they can survive ,isn t easy ,but regardless we should have been able to have beaten at least one of these 2 clubs sitting in 17 th and 18 th places. with bellamy s return now delayed,with us not having picked up a striker in the window,and with ashton not showing any improvement,it s hard to see where goals will come from. it may not look attractive,but perhaps our only chance at really pushing on this season is to revert to a 4-5-1 ,with cole alone up front, and packing the midfield with mullins plus the 4 other most creative midfielders we have available and fit. it s shocking to see how in the space of 10 days we can go from beating liverpool ,to now looking like reaching 50 points will be a struggle.


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