Cardiff City 0 West Ham 2 match report: Mark Noble effort wraps up points for Big Sam Allardyce
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s coronation as manager turns into a wake for timid Cardiff as West Ham lift themselves out of the relegation zone and celebrate the return of Andy Carroll
Cardiff City Stadium
Saturday 11 January 2014
The end justified the means. Sam Allardyce celebrated with a gusto befitting the oldest swinger in town, Andy Carroll sauntered his way through a cameo role as a matinée idol, and the travelling supporters burbled about bubbles until they were hoarse. West Ham took on the world, and won.
Truth be told, the Cardiff team who have replaced them in the Premier League relegation zone were timid and threadbare. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s coronation as manager fell flat, and those who turned up to gloat at Allardyce’s crucifixion were similarly disappointed.
This was a pivotal victory, hewn from fighting qualities notable by their absence during a debilitating week in which 11 goals were conceded. Defiance often strayed over into indiscipline – James Tomkins, George McCartney and Roger Johnson were booked for agricultural tackles – and there was an inevitability about West Ham being reduced to 10 men.
The miscreant was Tomkins, sent off with 19 minutes remaining for volleying the long-suffering Fraizer Campbell on the chin as West Ham held on with increasing desperation to the 42nd-minute lead given to them by Carlton Cole’s sweeping 12-yard shot.
Cardiff, buoyed by the familiar urgency of half-time substitute Craig Bellamy, laid siege to the visitors’ goal before Mark Noble, played in by substitute Carroll, placed a right- foot shot under David Marshall in added time. Allardyce danced unashamedly on the touchline, hugging anyone within reach, but, in a pointed gesture, decided not to bother with post-match media chores.
Modern football elevates the importance of the manager to unrealistic and inappropriate levels. They are feted and fawned over in the good times; pilloried and pursued when the pendulum swings against them. Ultimately, however, they are expendable.
The effortless manner in which Malky Mackay has been cauterised from Cardiff’s collective consciousness was a reminder of the realities of their trade. The locals were too busy buying Norwegian flags from roadside traders and parroting the supposed virtues of Solskjaer to spare their former hero a thought.
In football, undying love lasts a matter of days. It doesn’t matter how messily, or inhumanely, the king is overthrown. The king is dead, long live the king, even if he has the wide eyes and slight stature of a boy prince. The kingmaker, in this case the incomparable Vincent Tan, can behave as if he has been licking hallucinogenic puffer fish so long as he throws his money at the problem.
Allardyce would have been forgiven a wry smile at the unseemly haste in paying homage to his opposite number, who took to the microphone before kick-off with the aplomb of an X Factor judge. West Ham’s manager wears his scars with perverse pride and proved remarkably resistant to the criticism generated by his extraordinary self-regard in the build-up to the game.
He positions himself as a pioneer of old-school virtues, but comes across as a grotesque fusion of Victor Meldrew and David Brent. Yet West Ham’s owners appear to have reached the conclusion they have no option to buy further into the Big Sam myth.
Allardyce has never been relegated from the Premier League, and is the patron saint of pragmatism. Fate proved especially cruel yesterday, when Johnson, a classic panic signing, was involved in the sickening early collision which resulted in Guy Demel being taken to hospital with facial injuries and a suspected broken elbow.
West Ham had started with a greater sense of purpose. Stewart Downing’s cross from the right was allowed to travel diagonally across the penalty area before bouncing off the far post into the path of Tomkins, whose shot was smothered by David Marshall.
But it appeared to the naked eye that Cardiff had taken a 32nd-minute lead. Kim Bo-Kyung’s shot deflected off Johnson and seemed to go over the line off the crossbar, yet technology decreed otherwise. The follow-up effort, which involved bundling goalkeeper Adrian into the goal, was inevitably punished.
West Ham took advantage of a favourable bounce off referee Lee Mason 10 minutes later. Matt Taylor found Matt Jarvis, whose first-time side-footed cross was met by Cole, who had stolen inside full back Kévin Théophile-Catherine. That was his fourth goal in eight games, and he has done enough to earn a contract extension despite the looming presence of Carroll, who came on with 20 minutes remaining.
Solskjaer responded to the defeat by unveiling his latest signing, the £2 million teenaged midfield player Mats Moller Daehli from Molde. “There’s no panic,” he insisted. “I didn’t expect it to be all singing and dancing. This is the Premier League.” Try telling that to Sam the survivor.
Cardiff (4-1-3-2): Marshall; Théophile-Catherine. Caulker, Hudson (Cornelius, 77), John; Medel (Eikrem, 64); Noone, Kim, Whittingham; Odemwingie (Bellamy, h-t), Campbell.
West Ham (4-1-4-1): Adrian; Demel (McCartney, 16), Tomkins, Johnson, Rat; Noble; Downing, Collison (Diarra, 75), Taylor, Jarvis; C Cole (Carroll, 70).
Referee: Lee Mason.
Man of the match: Noone (Cardiff)
Match rating: 5/10
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