West Ham 2 Norwich City 0 match report: Hammers hit a hot streak as goalkeeper Adrian wards off danger
Two late goals see West Ham seal third league win in a row and move away from the relegation battle
Wednesday 12 February 2014
At this time of year, in this type of game, nothing matters more than the result. This was one of the worst 2-0 victories you will ever see, but it was West Ham United's third in a row by that score-line and, as their new year revival continues, it moves them up to 10th place.
The performance from Sam Allardyce's side had nothing whatsoever to commend it. West Ham were outplayed for 85 minutes by Norwich City, a team who have now won one of their last 11 league games. Four times Norwich cut through West Ham to make a clear chance, the sort of chance that can turn a relegation race. Four times they were denied by Adrian, the West Ham goalkeeper more important than anyone else in their recent revival.
West Ham had created nothing all game, playing with a lack of precision or imagination that looked like a parody of their recent struggles. It was, for 85 minutes, relegation football from the hosts up against relegation finishing from the visitors.
But then, with five minutes left, Mohamed Diame, on as a substitute, swung over a cross from the left. John Ruddy came out but James Collins got there first and he nodded the ball into the empty net. It was one of the sweetest, ugliest goals of West Ham's season. Norwich, baffled and desperate, pushed forward for an equaliser. West Ham knocked the ball up to Diame, who charged forward on the break and deflected his shot in off Bradley Johnson.
This was West Ham's third consecutive Premier League win - the first time they have done this in the league since 2007 - all by this score-line. Beneath the surface, though, this had very little in common with those smart wins over Swansea City and Aston Villa. Allardyce's post-match descriptions sounded generous. “It was an outstanding, hard-earned victory and a very difficult game to win.”
Allardyce did admit that, in the first half, “the cutting edge was not quite there, there was lots of final third play but not quite the final ball or finish that we are looking for.” They certainly did not appear like a team who had just won two straight.
The idea, in so far as there was one, was to hit the ball down the channel to Carlton Cole. It might have been their best available option, but all it did was prove that the owners were right to be so desperate to overturn Andy Carroll's three-match ban. Their best opening of the first half came after half an hour when Stewart Downing found too much space on the left and drove in a good cross to the far post. Cole did not get near it and that was that. When Sam Allardyce threw on Marco Borriello at half-time, it was one of his easier and more popular decisions for a while.
Leroy Fer (centre) and George McCartney collide into Matthew Taylor as he heads the ball (Getty)
Beyond that, the first-half pickings were slim: Cole, Mark Noble and Downing had unthreatening shots from the edge of the area, and Matt Jarvis curled one into John Ruddy's hands.
Norwich were not very much better in general but they did at least create chances in open play, something that proved far beyond the capacity of their hosts. They made three good openings in the first half, the first two coming from the one exciting player on the pitch, Nathan Redmond. After nine minutes, the teenage winger darted down the left and crossed for Gary Hooper, whose header was palmed away by Adrian.
The best came next, as Redmond's diagonal pass found Snodgrass, springing the offside trap between Demel and James Collins. Snodgrass, the one change from the team who drew 0-0 with Manchester City, was clean through, but for all of the time available he could never quite decide how to beat Adrian. His shot lacked conviction and was saved.
Then, just before the interval, Alex Tettey broke from midfield, exchanged passes with Hooper and smacked a shot which required an alert reaction from the goalkeeper. West Ham were lucky to be level and needed to improve in the second half, but they did not, and they needed Adrian again.
The first real chance of the second half belonged to Norwich, as Bradley Johnson slid a smart pass through to Hooper, in behind James Tomkins. Hooper shot low towards the bottom corner but Adrian saved with his legs.
That was the fourth save and Allardyce admitted afterwards how much he owed to the Spanish goalkeeper who is starting to repay his faith. “He was outstanding today,” beamed Allardyce. “That was the first time he's really been called upon. He was really important for us, to produce those saves at that time.”
Adrian might not force his way into Vicente Del Bosque's World Cup plans but he is playing brilliantly at the moment for West Ham, and has been for a while. He is one of the new heroes at the Boleyn Ground, judging by his reception at the end. Chris Hughton could only despair of how one of their most creative performances for a while had yielded yet another defeat.
“Very, very frustrated,” Hughton described himself. “Nobody who watched could feel that we didn't attempt to get into good areas or create chances. But it has been a little bit too familiar: the performance has been good, we are creating chances but not putting them away.”
Norwich are now 16th, just one point out of the relegation zone, and three behind West Ham, who have all the momentum. Having failed to win the game, Norwich conspired to lose it at the end. Ruddy misjudged Diame's cross and Collins did the rest. “We deal with that ball all game, but that time we didn't,” said Hughton.
Losing is bad enough in a game like this but to lose playing well is even worse. Norwich have eight easier games before their final run-in of Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal. They must rediscover their efficiency at both ends instantly to stand a chance. Maybe they could just look at West Ham; in the relegation zone last week, now on their best run in years. As Allardyce said, “delightful”.
Man of the match Adrian.
Match rating 2/10.
Referee M Oliver (Northumberland).
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