Analysis: Hammers stay strong in a game of two halves
West Ham United undoubtedly rode their luck during Saturday’s 1-1 Premier League draw at Crystal Palace – a game that fitted the old ‘it’s a game of two halves’ cliché perfectly.
While the result was the same as the Hammers had secured in their home game with Liverpool six days previously, the manner in which it was achieved was totally different. At home to Jurgen Klopp’s title-chasers, the Irons created 13 goal attempts to the Reds’ eleven and justifiably felt hard done by at not winning.
At Selhurst Park, however, the Eagles unleashed 25 shots on Lukasz Fabianski’s goal to just six for the Irons. In the second half alone, Manuel Pellegrini’s side failed to muster a single goal attempt, while Crystal Palace had 17!
In the first half, West Ham may have been outshot eight to six, but it was the visitors who created the clearer chances, with Ryan Fredericks and Robert Snodgrass both being denied by Vicente Guaita and Chicharito seeing a goal-bound effort blocked by Mamadou Sakho.
The Hammers finally got their reward on 27 minutes when Michail Antonio was impeded by Guaita and Mark Noble stepped up to send the Spanish goalkeeper the wrong way from the penalty spot.
Chicharito then worked the Palace stopper with a well-struck half-volley eight minutes before half-time – and that was it as far as West Ham goal attempts were concerned.
The second half was almost total one-way traffic, with Roy Hodgson sending on Belgium striker Michy Batshuayi and German attacking midfielder Max Meyer as he sought an equaliser.
Palace threw men forward, while the Hammers threw themselves in front of the ball repeatedly, blocking eight shots in the second period alone, and ten overall. Issa Diop led the way individually with three blocks, while substitute Pedro Obiang made two, despite being on the pitch for only the final 17 minutes.
Clearance-wise, West Ham made 27 to Palace’s 18, with Ogbonna (nine), Diop (seven) and Fredericks (six) leading the way.
When Palace did find a way past the Hammers rearguard, they found Fabianski in typically resolute form, with the Poland international making two vital late saves from that man Zaha, while his presence was enough to see James McArthur and Batshuayi shoot woefully off-target with just the goalkeeper to beat.
The Eagles also forced six corners and put in 12 crosses from open play after half-time. At the other end, West Ham put in one corner and one open play cross in the entire second 45 minutes.
It may not have been pretty, but where the Hammers had been easily cut through by AFC Bournemouth, Wolverhampton Wanderers and even AFC Wimbledon in January, Pellegrini’s men have rediscovered their December resilience in February.