West Ham United – Crystal Palace
A lovely London derby to carry on this run of festive fixtures awaits as I head to the London Stadium for West Ham v Crystal Palace.
West Ham go into this game with back to back wins for the first time since January 2017 after successive victories against Newcastle and Cardiff. Whereas Crystal Palace will be looking to bounce back after an incredibly poor display against Brighton in which they were beaten 3-1 against a ten man Albion side in a game which they would hope to carry on their change in fortune after a convincing display against Burnley a week earlier which they won 2-0 and recorded their first win in eight games.
Looking at the two teams in terms of form and squad strength on paper then this game ought to be a West Ham win but I can see it being a tough game for the hammers. Crystal Palace are yet to win in their previous two games at the London Stadium, losing one, drawing one, in both of those games West Ham’s squad was weaker than it is ahead of this clash whereas Palace haven’t had any drastic improvements.
West Ham are without talisman Marko Arnautovic after he pulled up with a hamstring injury midweek which will see him out of action for a month. However, West Ham do have depth in the forward position with Javier Hernandez, a newly fit Andy Carroll as well as Lucas Perez who scored two goals in five minutes after replacing Arnautovic against Cardiff.
From a fans perspective, Wilfriend Zaha is the player I will feel most nervous about every time I see him on the ball. He possesses a lot of traits that West Ham have struggled to deal with in the past and he has caused a headache for the hammers in past encounters.
I predict a close game and could see a score draw come full time on Saturday. However, as ever I am an optimist going into a game. West Ham are playing with a flair to their game that I haven’t seen in a few years so i’m going for a West Ham win, although I can’t see it being an easy affair. Despite not winning many of their recent games Crystal Palace have picked up draws against tough opposition such as Arsenal and Manchester United. My prediction – West Ham 2-1 Crystal Palace.
FT: West Ham 3 – 2 Crystal Palace
It was a weird feeling approaching the London Stadium ahead of kick off. Despite everything I mentioned earlier, form, squad strength and most other aspects that go into deciding who is a better side, West Ham came out on top, so I really should have been feeling confident that West Ham would make it three wins in three games.
However, I wasn’t, I was nervous heading through the turnstile and to my seat thirteen rows from the front. Despite what the statistics say I see this as the type of game that West Ham could win 3-0, lose 3-0 or draw, any one of those scores wouldn’t surprise me. I saw it as one of those cliché games where the first goal was going to be incredibly important.
6 minutes – Goal! West Ham 0-1 Crystal Palace, James McArthur.
As I said. The first game was always going to be a very important one in this fixture and rather irritatingly it was Crystal Palace who scored it. Not only was it an incredibly soft goal to concede, it was scored by James McArthur, someone I benched on fantasy football earlier that morning, salt in the wounds? You better believe it!
I was frustrated above all else that West Ham were trailing early on. After a fantastic 3-1 win midweek, which was a scoreline that Crystal Palace lost by on the same evening, I fully expected the momentum to be in favour of the hammers but the early goal could have handed the momentum a set back, especially against a team like Crystal Palace who are struggling in the league overall and therefore would try and sit back on a 0-1 away lead.
Rest of the first half.
As predicted, Crystal Palace just stuck nine men behind the ball, hardly ever had more than one player in the West Ham half and were looking to see the game out from as early as six minutes in.
One of the things that never fails to anger me in football, in fact, I would go as far as to say it is the thing that causes me the most anger when watching a game of football is time wasting. Something which Crystal Palace were being the masters of throughout the remainder of the first half. With the Palace goalkeeper being the worst culprit of it when taking goal kicks after West Ham’s attempts to find an equaliser proved unsuccessful.
Anger is the emotion I have most difficulty expressing. From past experience i’ve found the thing that works most is to put my headphones in and go for a run, 5k, 10k or whatever I can manage that day.
Obviously I can’t do this during a game of Premier League football, so when something within the game causes me to feel angry, I never know what to do other than just hope West Ham can get back into the game quickly and the part that is causing me anger can be pushed aside.
At the interval it was West Ham 0-1 Crystal Palace. West Ham had failed to get back into the game after conceding an early goal and put in a lack lustre performance to level the score, so my anger was still very much at the forefront of my mind.
At the end of the day what could I do? It could be worse, Crystal Palace could have doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time with a free kick that struck the West Ham crossbar. All I could do was accept the situation, hope that manager Manuel Pellegrini had a masterplan and West Ham could get back into the game and get at least one point or in an ideal world all three. That would be the only way to clear the anger and frustration and have a positive rest of the evening.
48 minutes – Goal! West Ham 1-1 Crystal Palace, Robert Snodgrass.
Exactly what the West Ham fans wanted! Barely three minutes into the second half, hardly any opportunities for Crystal Palace to run the clock down and West Ham were level after a fine strike from Robert Snodgrass.
Just like that my anger was wiped and replaced with joy. Both for the quality of the goal and for the goalscorer who has really deserved that in recent weeks after a tough start to his West Ham career. The attitude that Robert Snodgrass shows is what I aspire to have with everything I go into, I know I may not be the best at a lot of things I do but as long as I can do them to the best of my ability i’ll be happy with my input.
I was delighted that West Ham were back in the game, no other way to say it, I was consumed with happiness but I was fully aware that we basically had a full 45 minutes still on the clock, meaning the game could go either way, so there were slight anxieties swimming amongst the joy. All I could do was watch the game in front of me and see what happens.
62 minutes – Goal! West Ham 2-1 Crystal Palace, Javier Hernandez.
Boom! Javier Hernandez doing what Javier Hernandez does! A set piece from 25 yards out is saved by Hennessy but falls perfectly for West Ham’s fox in the box to rifle it into the roof of the net, West Ham 2-1 Crystal Palace.
The best way West Ham could stop Crystal Palace from running the clock down and causing a cloud of anger to form within me would be to not allow Palace to retake the lead, and 15 minutes after levelling the game West Ham took the lead and I couldn’t be happier, with the goal West Ham took full control of the game and it was a simple case of roles reversed as Palace began to chase the game. However, West Ham’s methods at running the clock down weren’t as painfully obvious as what Palace were doing.
65 minutes – Goal! West Ham 3-1 Crystal Palace, Felipe Anderson.
What an unbelievable strike! West Ham’s record signing makes it 3-1 with a superb curling effort from 25 yards out. From where I sit in the London Stadium I had a perfect view of all aspects of this goal. The pass, the control, the way Anderson opened up his body to take the strike, and of course, the curl that took it past the goalkeeper and into the top corner of the Crystal Palace goal.
Due to my view of the goal my appreciation and emotional response were more than just ‘Wow, what a goal’ which would normally give me a 7/10 level of joy and warmth. All things considered, the anger from earlier was as good as extinct and my happiness levels were functioning at a solid 9/10. A feeling that is up there with one of the best as a football fan.
76 minutes – Goal! West Ham 3-2 Crystal Palace, Jeffrey Schlupp.
A goal back for Palace meaning they were trailing by just one goal and the nerves were creeping back. I was still living in the high of West Ham’s third goal so the frustration in the way that the goal went in didn’t really hit me.
The feelings I felt was an arise of anxiety, there were still 14 minutes plus stoppages to play, West Ham had made changes to their attack so another goal seemed unlikely and I had the fear that Crystal Palace would adapt an all out attack mentality and go all guns blazing to get an equaliser and split the reward to one point each. All I could do was hope West Ham could hang on and make it three wins in three. I just knew that the rest of this game wouldn’t be pleasant viewing and I was thinking the sooner this game is over the better.
West Ham managed to hold on to the win and make it nine points in seven days, and I was ecstatic. It was the first time West Ham had won three games in a row in just under two years, a feeling I had almost completely forgot about.
To add an extra sprinkle of joy to the situation I checked the Premier League table upon arrival at Pudding Mill Lane Station to see that West Ham were in the top half of the top flight for not only the first time this season, but the first time since I can remember. It really is the most wonderful time of the year.