West Ham supersubs grab victory from the jaws of defeat
PUBLISHED: 12:30 18 March 2019
PA Wire/PA Images
'Chicharito' shows he is a fox in the box yet again
Make no mistake, West Ham may have won this seven-goal thriller at the London Stadium, but at times they were as clueless as they were at Cardiff the previous week.
At 3-1 to Huddersfield, the game looked all over bar the booing and though you can never forgive people leaving early to beat the rush, you could almost see their point of view.
The Terriers were 16 points from safety at kick-off, they had only won three games all season and they had not scored away from home since last year.
And yet, despite going a goal down to Mark Noble’s penalty, they contrived to forge into a 3-1 lead, punishing West Ham’s dismal defending at set-pieces and looking like they were the side comfortable in mid-table.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini made changes, but they did not seem the right ones to make.
Where was Fabian Balbuena? Issa Diop looked a shadow of himself out there. We all clamoured for Marko Arnautovic to start, but he was awful on the day.
The fact that the Hammers managed to haul themselves back into this game and clinch the three points right at the death says as more about why Huddersfield are destined for the Championship rather than West Ham’s character.
It does tell you that the Hammers have a decent squad. It was the subs that won the day on Saturday.
Samir Nasri unlocks defences, Javier Hernandez is lethal off the bench, while even Lucas Perez played his part.
“This was a match for the fans,” said manager Manuel Pellegrini, though he didn’t mean those who left early.
“Maybe, when everyone was disappointed when we were losing 3-1, the biggest merit of the team was we never gave up and continued working.
“We showed a lot of character. They scored their first two goals from set-pieces and after that a great goal, but we had a reaction at that moment.
“We knew it would be difficult to score the goals to come back, but we tried and we did it.”
When Felipe Anderson arrowed in a cross in injury time and Hernandez flicked his header into the net it almost took the roof off the London Stadium.
‘Chicharito’ has hardly been flavour of the month. His illegal goal against Fulham and his embarrassing dive against Cardiff rightly saw him drop to the bench.
But he has always been a supersub and he has always been a fox in the box and so it proved again here.
Nasri expertly picked him out with a superb cross which he stooped to head home and then came the coup de grace in injury time.
“Javier was playing well recently, but he had a little pressure of not scoring, so it was good for him to come from the bench, and he played very well and decided the game with two goals,” said the boss.
“I also think Samir Nasri changed the game and Lucas Perez was always dangerous in the box, so the three substitutes did very well and that’s the reason why you need a good squad and not just a team.”
It certainly is, but why the starting line-up were so hopeless for an hour beggars belief, was it just the wrong team to pick?
“The complete team did not play well in the first 45 minutes. We didn’t play with the pace that we need, we didn’t do the movements we needed to do, and the playmakers that had to put good balls for the attackers,” said Pellegrini.
The word complacency rears its ugly head once again. Hopeless Huddersfield became the tenacious Terriers and it was West Ham that allowed them to do that.
They were punished for their poor marking and defending against the bottom team, just imagine what a better team would do to them.
But in the end West Ham came through to make it three wins on the trot at the London Stadium.
It means they are still in the hunt for seventh place and with Wolves and Watford still in the FA Cup, perhaps that distraction will be enough for the Hammers to sneak it.
We shall see.