Birmingham City 0 - 1 West Ham (Noble - 70 (Pen))
Attendance - 24,961
1. How To Make A Comfortable Victory Thoroughly Uncomfortable
Hey! Where are my fingernails?
2. Easy Redefinded
I don't quite know where to begin in analysing this victory. Now let's not forget - it was a victory and for that we should all be deliriously happy. I don't think I shall begin with that first half which was a truly marvellous advertisement for golf.
The second period saw us sweeping forward in waves and battering the home side. Mark Noble and Matthew Etherington in particular were outstanding as we continually penned the home side back until they finally buckled.
It should be noted that we required an almost heroic level of hopelessness in order to still be deadlocked by the time that Noble finally opened the scoring on 70 minutes. If I didn't know better I'd suggest that our front players were involved in some sort of competition to see who could manage the most ridiculous miss. Zamora and Bellamy both made sterling attempts but Kieron Dyer comfortably won with his last minute butchering of a gilt edged opportunity. More on that later as it really deserves further analysis.
On the plus side, we outplayed a Premiership team without Ljungberg, Neill, Ashton and Parker.
3. The Statistics
For this game at least the statistics do a pretty good job of reflecting the balance of power. ESPN's Gamecast (http://soccernet-akamai.espn.go.com/match?id=219074&cc=5739) shows us having a 53% slice of the possession and a 15 to 7 advantage in terms of shots at goal. Under no circumstances should this be considered as anything other than a battering. With the exception of a late first half effort that was smartly saved by Green, I can't recall the home side threatening us in any way other than via Gary O'Connor's elbows.
Of our 15 shots we mustered just 5 on target, which is the type of conversion ratio that gets missionaries fired. Bobby Zamora managed 3 attempts himself, of which none were on target at all, reinforcing my belief that the genius of Carlos Tevez wasn't just restricted to getting the best out of himself.
4. The Opposition
I'm wary of getting too medieval on Birmingham's ass, given that one swallow does not make a summer. That said, they were appalling. Devoid (devoid, I say) of creativity and reliant solely upon our worrying propensity for conceding needless fouls. Indeed we managed to make no less than 15 fouls during this game which would have been impressive but for the fact that City managed to give up 16.
That sure is some brainless tackling.
It is a pet peeve of mine that when we play teams such as Birmingham, whose sole ploy for attacking our goal is to win free kicks in areas where they can hit our box, that we continue to commit horrendously stupid fouls.
For God's sake - when Gary O'Connor has the ball miles from our goal - LEAVE HIM ALONE. Let him try and shoot - no, encourage him to try and shoot. He's Gary O'Connor! He aspires to uselesness! There is a word for defending like this and that word is Pfft.
4a. The Opposition Manager
I never normally do this but I seriously despise Steve Bruce. He pulled a typically beautiful piece of Brucist philosophy by conducting his entire post match interview with a lemon in his mouth. He began by claiming that he didn't blame Bellamy for the penalty and then spent the rest of the time making snide comments about the incident.
All of which ignores the rather pertinent fact that a foul comitted anywhere within the 22 yard box is a penalty irrespective of the location of the ball, the intent of the defender, slumping global markets or unpredictable weather patterns. In addition, Bruce also managed to forget the first half foul on Dyer that was denied, presumably because at some point Kieron had made inappropriate advances to the referees daughter.
Steve, may all your Christmases be shite.
5. The Referee
Mark Halsey was a busy fellow, allowing a shocking tackle from Mehdi Nafti to pass unpunished after barely a minute, booking Hayden Mullins for some shirt pulling two minutes later and then awarding a foul every other challenge for the rest of the game.
Missed the foul on Dyer in the first half and made up for it by giving us one later after Bellamy ran fully thirty yards to induce the most pointless challenge ever from City keeper Colin Doyle. Or at least it was until Jonathan Spector then tried to tackle Gary McSheffrey using only his backside.
6. He Wasn't That Dyer
Kieron Dyer had a mixed sort of debut. For the first 5 minutes he stood on our right wing looking cold before he came inside a bit and, well, looked a bit colder. He was unceremoniously hauled to the floor by Stephen Kelly after 16 minutes which should have led to a penalty but didn't. He then spent the rest of the half fitting right in by constantly giving the ball away.
His second half perfomance was much better and his pace and movement added a splendid new dimension to our attacking. According to the rather tremendous stats filter at the end of this report in The Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/main.jhtml?xml=/sport/2007/08/19/sfgbir119.xml), he didn't receive a pass from anyone other than Spector in the game. I must say, he was fairly isolated as we tended to go through our left hand side, but even this seems ridiculous to me.
He had a glorious late chance to seal the game but had obviously read the West Ham handbook (Rule 13a: Thou shalt never make a game safe by accruing anything more than a one goal lead) and made a complete hash of it. To papraphrase a previous H Listism, this doesn't make him a bad player, it just makes him a West Ham player.
If he stays fit he'll be fine. If he doesn't nobody is going to be very shocked.
7. Department Of The Obvious
Mark Noble was our man of the match. In the same way that Luke Skywalker was "quite key" in bringing down the Galactic Empire. Quite apart from his coolly taken penalty he was easliy our best player, hitting the post with a free kick and generally making his more senior colleagues look a bit work shy.
I want....hmm what's the word I'm looking for? Yes, that's it - more.
8. They Did What?
Two curious moments in the first half. We took not one, but two, consecutive good free kicks. Firstly Noble hit the post from nary 30 yards, and then he and Zamora pulled off a very well worked routine that nearly snuck Bellamy in at the near post.
Noble's effort wasn't actually "good" in the sense that it was struck straight at the wall but they rather nambily jumped out of the way and allowed it through to hit the woodwork. Still, it's a West Ham free kick so the standards are fairly low.
After this brief foray into competence we quickly returned to uselesness but hey, it was nice while it lasted.
Some particular praise should be reserved for Matt Upson who endured a moderate booing and played pretty well in the meantime. No praise should be reserved for Jonathan Spector who did a passable impression of a kebab.
Craig Bellamy showed exactly why we were interested in him. He runs constantly, doesn't finish as well as he should and argues for every decision. What's not to like? (Apart from the finishing and the whinging).
10. Of Note
Succesful West Ham penalties (06/07) - 1
Succesful West Ham penalties (07/08) - 1
I'm just saying.
11. A Clarification
I had a question last week about the lack of slaughtering for Michael Dawson. In short, I've given that up. I'm sure that even Trojan Donkeys have feelings and in fairness, he's not even playing at the moment. Broken hoof, probably.....