It is only one win, so I am not going to get too carried away. But how refreshing it was to see a West Ham side start a game on the front foot. For the first half of the first half we totally ran the game playing with high intensity, slick passing, moving the ball quickly, players finding space to receive it, and attacking at greater pace than we have seen previously this season.
The goal when it came was well deserved, with great passing between the impressive Payet, and the equally impressive Cresswell. The way Lanzini opened his body out to place the ball into the corner of the net showed great technique. And then with seconds remaining of the first half we conceded a penalty (so West Ham!). It was probably a just decision but it would have been so unfair on the balance of play to have gone in at half time with the scores level. The fact that we didn’t was due to Bentecke, who continued what he started for Liverpool in the cup against us last season, by missing chances. It is criminal to miss the target when you are taking a penalty, but he was perhaps influenced by the way Lanzini had opened his body up to score our goal. It seemed that he tried to do the same, but blazed high and wide.
I suppose being a West Ham fan I am used to great penalty takers. In my time I remember watching John Bond, Johnny Byrne, Geoff Hurst, Ray Stewart, Julian Dicks, Paolo Di Canio and Mark Noble take most of the penalties I remember us being awarded, and despite the occasional miss (none of them had 100% records), usually as a result of an excellent save (e.g. Gordon Banks), I can rarely recall one of them missing the target.
In the second half, we controlled the game well, contained the pacy Palace attack, and were looking good value for a win when Cresswell was fouled by Cabaye in the penalty area. As I leapt from my seat expecting the award of a penalty, I was appalled to see Martin Atkinson book Cresswell for simulation. A shocking decision. Less than a minute later, Cresswell barely touched Zaha close to the touchline as they both ran for the ball, the linesman signalled a foul, and Atkinson sent Cresswell off. That minute was as inept a display of poor refereeing as you could ever wish to see. I don’t think he really understands the game.
I was angry. It was so wrong. For the second game running against Palace we had a player sent off. Remember Kouyate was dismissed in April, but that red card was rescinded. I took to Twitter to read some reactions believing that it just couldn’t be my interpretation surely! And sure enough 100% of the reactions thought that the referee had got it so wrong. Now the West Ham fans you could understand to an extent, but every unbiased ex-player reaction, and even Howard Webb, who nearly always backs up the officials, read it the same as me. I didn’t see one person who thought it was the correct decision.
But unlike Kouyate last season, because this was a sending off via two yellow cards, the rules of appeal do not apply, however unjust the decision. The nonsense of this is, although we hung on to three points by not conceding a goal, Cresswell is banned for the next match. The West Ham fans who tweeted that it would definitely be rescinded were unfortunately as ignorant of the appeals process, as the officials were of what constitutes a penalty, what constitutes a foul, and their understanding of the game of football and how to officiate it.
Bilic had decided on a changed formation for this game and it worked a treat. Full marks to Adrian for the marvellous reaction save in stoppage time. Kouyate, Ogbonna, and man-of-the-match Reid were the three at the back who stood firm, Cresswell and Antonio both had excellent games as wing-backs, Obiang was very impressive once again (he must be retained in this role), Payet and Lanzini looked much sharper than of late, Noble was OK, and Zaza put in a shift (to coin a phrase).
Let us hope that the confidence gained from this win enables us to continue to improve, and move up the table sooner rather than later.