Before I launch in to the excitable stream of consciousness this match report will inevitably be I would like to make 2 things clear:
1. Everything I say about how good Newcastle United were on Saturday is true. However, I am not unaware that West Ham were abject and have the kind of set-up we had when we paid silly money in transfer fees and wages for players who just didn’t care that much anymore.
2. Point 1 above is irrelevant because we were magnificent.
To the match then and my overwhelming feeling prior to 1500 hours was one of fear. United had a bad week, again, due to the erratic behaviour of our very own Vladimir Putin, Mike Ashley and his Chief of Propaganda, Keith Bishop.
The media, particularly the Murdoch media of Sky and TalkSport, has been absolutely lapping it up. The narrative that has been engendered by these utter charlatans is that the fans expectations are unrealistic, Rafa is asking too much, Rafa is too negative and that he’s on the verge of leaving. As utterly ridiculous as these idiots might be they do have the power to influence people’s thought processes. Some fans questioning Rafa and criticising him for complaining at the fact he’s been lied to is exactly what Bishop/Ashley wanted. What I wanted to see, hear and feel on Saturday was a show of absolute belief in and dedication to Benitez and the lads in Black & White.
AND DIDN’T WE GET IT?
The Gallowgate Flags decision to display only the Rafa flag was a show of support and strength that set the tone for the whole game. The atmosphere from the off was energetic, powerful and an undoubted display of unity. Fans, manager, players, United.
The manager made one change from the defeat at Huddersfield, bringing in Joselu for an under-the-weather Gayle and, based on his what he showed coming on last Sunday, I was happy to see him given his chance. Despite Mitro scoring midweek he was left on the bench which I think is again indicative of the lack of trust that Rafa has in him. An event later would offer a prime example of that belief.
The team started as it went on throughout the match. Chasing EVERYTHING, harrying, working for each other and
showing signs of real quality. The first couple of chances to come our way were both from Joselu crosses. A lovely move and cracking ball in that Zabaleta nicked off the head of Atsu and another Joselu cross from the resultant corner which ended with a swerving shot from outside the box by Hayden going over the bar.
West Ham’s first attack of any real note ended with Cresswell lashing the ball over the bar after a cross from Noble (who was abysmal throughout).
Then came the goal. The pressing game that we were playing at it’s finest. Ritchie scares the shite out of youngster Rice, Perez puts his foot in, the ball breaks loose, Merino picks it up, takes a few strides and plays a beautifully weighted pass to Atsu who has timed his run impeccably…Atsu squares it on the 6 yard line and Joselu determinedly gets in between the two centre backs…..GOAL….GOAL you absolute beauty. The adulation, the relief, the noise, the players celebrating. A perfect, perfect moment. Joselu’s celebration was just lovely.
We had them now. Psychologically, physically and tactically we were completely on top and I don’t think anyone around
me felt that we weren’t going to win this.
Atsu had a decent effort that Hart got down to save (in general Hart was poor) and that was more or less the last moment of significant action before the HT whistle.
The Hammers brought on Lanzini for the 2nd half. He replaced Rice who looked like he was on the verge of tears due to the part he played in his team conceding.
The first real action in the 2nd half came from an intelligent bit of link up play between Joselu and Perez and ended with Perez bringing a decent save out of Hart. Regarding Perez, the kid is a talented footballer no question but I’ve always wondered what his real position is. Well, today he was brilliant and the confidence he took from pretty much playing up front with Joselu allowed him to show just how capable he is. His movement and desire were top class.
Next came the only moment of real worry for the rest of the match. A decent strike from outside the area by Creswell was parried (probably should’ve been caught or tipped away) by Elliott, Hernandez followed in and, with Antonio lurking, Clark did superbly well to clear off the line. Ciaran Clark, another player who is obviously shite because that’s what Aston Villa fans told us. West Ham huffed and puffed for a few minutes after that but they looked utterly devoid of shape, willingness and quality to maintain it or do any damage.
Joselu was taken off in the 72nd minute. He had a fantastic game. Powerful in the air, worked the whole of the West Ham back 4, linked up with Perez superbly and all in all just offered a brilliant outlet. Very impressed and what a couple of weeks for the lad. Unwanted at Stoke to getting a phone call from Rafa Benitez, scoring on your home league debut and getting a standing ovation from 50000 people. His confidence right now must be through the roof.
It wasn’t long before his replacement Mitrovic was involved because he got the 2nd goal. Didn’t he? Oh, he didn’t!? It was Clark which I think took some of us in Gallowgate Block V by surprise as the general consensus was that Mitro had scored immediately after coming on…a brilliant header from Clark after a free-kick won from a foul on Merino was cleared but, thanks to Ritchie doing what he does and hassling Lanzini into giving it away, playing a 1 2 with Hayden, taking a beautiful 1st touch and putting in a superb cross. Clark’s header in off the post. Game over.
Great work from Merino on the right led to Hayden putting a cross in that Mitrovic headed over. Perez and Merino combined to put Mitrovic through and Hart saved well. A third goal was happening and when it came it was another lovely through ball by Perez to Mitrovic. This time he showed calmness and composure in rounding Hart and scoring. 3-0. We all know now that Mitrovic smacked Lanzini in the face for no reason other than he’s a temperamental heed the baal and is probably facing a retrospective punishment. There are justifiable grounds as to why Rafa doesn’t trust him.
Jacob Murphy came on for the last couple of minutes for Ritchie who had an absolute belter of a game. The graft he put in was phenomenal and any criticism sent his way after the first couple of games was both premature and unwarranted. When things aren’t going your way this is the kind of lad you want in your team.
The final whistle went. What a day. After week that the club has had, after all the shit-stirring by the media and the team being written off by people whose gambling records suggest that maybe their predictions aren’t too clever, that was the perfect answer. Team, manager, fans….UNITED.
Man of the match: Merino. However, everyone was superb today. Every one of them.
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