|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
Sébastien Haller’s stunning West Ham strike pegs back Crystal Palace
Jacob Steinberg at the London Stadium
Date Published Wed 16 Dec 2020 22.18 GMT
West Ham’s disappointment at failing to go fifth had limits. In the cold light of day this uneven performance might lead to a more realistic assessment of their prospects. Outplayed for long spells by Crystal Palace, they were grateful to earn a point, secured when Sébastien Haller answered Christian Benteke’s header with a splendid bicycle kick.
The positive for David Moyes came from his side’s resilience. Yet the manager will know that West Ham remain a work in progress and would probably benefit from attacking reinforcements in January, even though Haller earned the plaudits. Palace contained them for much of the contest, even after losing Benteke to a red card, and could argue that they created the clearer chances.
Confident after fighting back to hold Tottenham last Sunday, Palace were the more assertive side from the start. Varied in their approach, as though they were keen to show they have more than in their armoury than a threat on the break, they took the ball, controlled midfield and seemed to take West Ham by surprise by pushing high and passing with impressive intelligence.
The early threat came from Eberechi Eze, an enjoyably languid presence who had freedom to drift inside from his starting position on the left and unsettle West Ham with his clever dribbling. Eager to combine with Wilfried Zaha, who has been under less responsibility to inspire Palace this season, Eze was always popping up in dangerous areas, moving away from Declan Rice at one stage with a lovely turn. West Ham struggled to pin the youngster down and were grateful to escape when one of his centres flashed across the face of goal.
Benteke would also drop a header wide but Palace deserved their lead in the 34th minute. Worked into space on the right, with Pablo Fornals failing to track back to protect Aaron Cresswell, Joel Ward had time to look up and cross. The delivery was spot on and the forward play was resounding as Benteke darted clear of Issa Diop, hardly distinguishing himself in central defence on his first start since 19 September, to pound a firm header past Lukasz Fabianski.
Ponderous in midfield and flat in attack, West Ham tried to hit back. They had gone close to a breakthrough when Fornals headed wide and they almost equalised when Jarrod Bowen saw a deflected effort pushed away by Vicente Guaita. Too often, though, they were crowded out by diligent Palace defending. Saïd Benrahma, handed a free role, had failed to offer much beyond a couple of vaguely promising dribbles.
Quicker to the ball and smarter with it, Palace were in charge. Yet they were profligate at times. They should have pulled clear just before the interval, only for Benteke to miss from close range after a fine interchange between Zaha and Andros Townsend.
Palace would regret their wastefulness. Moyes had to act and a half-time change brought a stunning reward. On for Fornals, Manuel Lanzini injected urgency into a West Ham attack in the 55th minute, dropping a shoulder and feinting to shoot, before slipping a pass to Vladimír Coufal. Always available on the overlap, the right-back crossed and Haller, so timid during the first half, produced an astonishing equaliser, showing incredible skill and athleticism to blast an overhead kick past Guaita.
It was a timely reminder of why Haller, who has not always convinced in place of the injured Michail Antonio, cost £45m. Yet Palace gathered themselves. Only Fabianski’s fingertips denied Patrick van Aanholt a goal.
Then the mood changed. Booked for catching Angelo Ogbonna with a stray arm in the first half, Benteke left the action early after flooring Tomas Soucek in the 70th minute. West Ham, however, could not make their advantage count.
Daily Mail: MATCH FACTS AND TEAM RATINGS
WEST HAM (4-2-3-1): Fabianski 6.5; Coufal 6, Diop 5, Ogbonna 6, Cresswell 6; Soucek 6.5, Rice 6.5; Bowen 7 (Yarmolenko 80), Benrahma 6 (Snodgrass 88), Fornals 5 (Lanzini 46, 6); Haller 7
SUBS NOT USED: Randolph, Fredericks, Dawson, Noble
GOALS: Haller 55
MANAGER: David Moyes 6.5
CRYSTAL PALACE (4-2-3-1): Guaita 6.5; Ward 7.5, Kouyate 6, Dann 6, Van Aanholt 6; Milivojevic 6, McArthur 6.5; Townsend 6 (Schlupp 85), Zaha 6, Eze 6.5 (Aaew 76); Benteke 7
SUBS NOT USED: Butland, Tomkins, Riedewald, Mitchell, Batshuyai
GOALS: Benteke 34
BOOKINGS: Benteke, Milivojevic
SENT OFF: Benteke 70
MANAGER: Roy Hodgson 6.5
REF: David Coote 6