Sunday, December 14, 2008

Huge Point For Hammers !!

The pundits, both here and in England, were playing "name the score" when it came to how badly Chelsea would defeat struggling West Ham at Stamford Bridge in the days leading up to Sunday's match. There was minor speculation that Hammers would raise their game to mark manager Gianfranco Zola's (pictured gesturing on the touchline) return to the Bridge with the proper amount of effort, but the prevailing thoughts were focused on a Chelsea rout. But West Ham had other ideas, as they took a 1-nil lead and eventually fashioned a 1-1 draw in West London that took the side up to 16th place with 19 points, just ahead of Manchester City. As I've stated previously -- and as my dear sons Alex and Ben have discussed with me many times in the last few weeks -- it's just soooo !! tight in the Premiership this year -- that I honestly think at least 8 teams will go into the last three weeks of the season with a chance to be relegated. But, back to Sunday's match. Striker Craig Bellamy is the proverbial "straw that stirs the drink," and his fine finish (pictured above) -- body over top the ball, laces parallel to the ground, falling forward on the follow-through -- gave Hammers a first-half lead against the run of play, although they were defending well. Chelsea's in-form Nicolas Anelka equalized early in the second half, but three Hammers players made sure a point was delivered back to East London. Carlton Cole, Robert Green and Matty Upson were impeccable on the day, although of Coley (pictured above, tussling with Chelsea's John Terry) could finish inside the 6-yard box as well as he plays higher up the field with his back to the goal, holding up the ball, he would truly be dangerous. Green, who is again displaying England form after a slight hiccup, made his usual cache of brilliant saves (one of them pictured above). There was a hairy moment when he lost a cross in the lights, but the ever-industrious Scotty Parker was there on the line to head clear. And what can you say about Upson? I would not be surprised if his former club Arsenal recognizes the errors of their ways and makes a big-money bid for the central defender in January. For my money, Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, as well as Terry and Upson are the best central defenders plying their trade in the Premiership right now. Also, I have been a bit critical of Hammers' Aussie right back/captain Lucas Neill in the past, but he played a binder today. Well played, Hammers.