West Ham have an end-of-season feel as they cling on for a point at Palace
PUBLISHED: 12:42 11 February 2019
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Very much a game of two halves for the Hammers at Selhurst Park
If ever the term a ‘game of two halves’ was the most appropriate it was in this game.
West Ham were in charge of the first half, had plenty of chances and deservedly went in 1-0 ahead through Mark Noble’s first goal of the season.
But the second half was like the charge of the light brigade. West Ham sat too deep, invited Palace on to them and after missing some glorious chances, they finally levelled through Wilfired Zaha’s deflected effort.
What is it about Zaha and West Ham? Last season it was the same story with the winger scoring in injury time.
This time after having a superb battle with Ryan Fredericks, he got lucky, although the countless chances they had before and after that goal, illustrates just how much they deserved a draw.
“Each team had 45 minutes, so a draw is the logical result,” said manager Manuel Pellegrini.
“I think we played the first 45 minutes better than Crustal Palace. We scored one goal and we had another two or three very clear chances.”
He was sort of right, though Palace still had some great opportunities with only the excellence of Lukasz Fabianski denying James McArthur and Christian Benteke when through on goal.
Fabianski was a rock in both halves, only beaten by a shot that was harshly deflected off Issa Diop and into the roof of the net.
Palace were also so wasteful in front of goal, it is little wonder that they have only won three league games at Selhurst Park all season.
“In the second half we made the mistake of dropping inside our own half and we allowed them to have the ball too much,” said the boss.
“They have very dangerous players, they created chances and were a bit lucky with their goal, but they had other chances and we didn’t create another one in their box.”
That sums it up pretty well. If West Ham had been more clinical in the first half when they were on top, then the second half would probably have been a breeze.
The Palace crowd didn’t help. They booed the referee throughout after he gave an obvious penalty which even keeper Vicente Guaita didn’t complain about.
They boeed Michail Antonio for being fouled and screamed for handballs that were never going to be given for Palace.
In the end, referee Craig Pawson cracked. He played advantage after Luka Milivojevic scythed down Noble, but instead of going back to give the Palace skipper a second yellow card, he bottled it and allowed him to stay on the pitch.
Whether Palace would have been able to mount that final assault and get themselves level is a matter of debate, but it would seem unlikely without such an influential player.
But the Hammers almost seem to be in end-of-season mode already. If they were still battling for survival then they would have won this game.
But Palace simply wanted it more and by sheer effort they managed to force an equaliser.
“In the second half, we didn’t want to do it, but we ended trying to keep the 1-0. It’s an unlucky ball for the goal, but the draw is fair,” concluded Pellegrini.
He was right, but if West Ham want to finish as high as seventh, then they must do better than this.
The display was all right, but no more than that and in the context of the battle for sveenth spot, it is not quite good enough.