West Ham United 0 - West Bromwich Albion 1
Well I thought that was brilliant. A really gutsy and intelligent performance that we probably should've won more comfortably.
I was really pleased with how strong the team was and we started really well.
I thought a few things combined to give us a really good first half.
Firstly, the introduction of Edwards on the left gave us pace that meant, with Phillips on the right, West Ham had to drop a bit deeper. With Semi in the team we squeezed the pitch higher but with West Ham having to drop off a bit Krov had loads of space in the hole.
That doesn't guarantee anything but the quality of Brunt and Barry to find a way into his feet quickly and the how well Krov received difficult passes into him on the turn (some brilliant first touches) meant that time and again we broke the lines and looked threatening.
Before we scored Austin wasted a brilliant opportunity, being played in wide he lashed horribly at the ball from a distant tight angle when support was arriving, and he was nearly played in (and with a better touch might have been in) in the lead up to Townsend's goal before the ball rebounded to our left back who drilled a smart finish into the far corner from the edge of the box.
For the rest of the half we pretty good - I felt most players did a decent job and really we should've scored more with the situations we created. Austin missed a couple including one sitter of a header, Krov never looked assertive enough when he had a couple of chances and Phillips also should've got his head down and leathered it a couple of times.
Despite what was to happen later, Semi and Hegazi looked a great partnership and I can't recall Bond having to do much.
At half time you felt West Ham could only get better and that we might regret not making more of our dominance.
Second half West Ham made some changes to bring on pace and power up front but again our slicker, efficient passing up through the lines meant we created the better chances with Krov bending one just wide during the opening.
Noble's introduction occupied Krov more and West Ham had more of the ball but we largely looked comfortable and if anything more likely to score, even as Tulloch and Zohore came on for Phillips and Austin.
With 20 to go Semi saw red for a silly challenge given he was on a booking (although his first seemed very harsh) and as Krov made way for Bartley we had to dig in much more.
I thought for the last 20 minutes Zohore was excellent - holding up the ball, running down the minutes and Tulloch did not look out of place at all. West Ham had a lot of the ball but we restricted them to shots from distance and, again probably shaded creating the clear cut opening with Edwards and Tulloch not really getting shots away when openings were created.
There was one moment right at the death when Noble put it over from 12 yards that we looked in deep trouble - and that really came from an all action and no brains moment from Bartley charging out in a Klopp-esque gegenpress when everyone else was sitting deep, but we deserved our luck and held on.
Losing Semi, Pereira and Diagana for Cardiff is a blow but there is enough in this squad to go and get a win there to kick-start our run-in, especially if we put the graft in like that.
There is no finer sight than seeing those Green and Yellow striped arms aloft at the end of an away game! Can't wait for the draw.
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