West Ham United 1-1 Crystal Palace
Sebastien Haller’s wonderfully executed bicycle-kick earned West Ham United a share of the Premier League spoils in a what was a hard-fought derby with ten-man Crystal Palace at the London Stadium.
Ahead of the game, David Moyes reflected upon the Hammers best start in five years: “First and foremost it is the endeavour and hard work of the players but I also have a really good staff from fitness, coaching, medical, they have all done a really good job,” the Scotsman explained.
“It has given us not too many injuries, we are playing better, they are fitter and all of them have contributed.”
Following their success at Elland Road, West Ham were chasing a sixth Premier League success. However, it was Palace who impressed during the opening periodEberechi Eze offered the hosts a threat, bursting in from the left, while Christian Benteke perhaps should have done better when provided with a headed opportunity from little over three yards.
West Ham’s initial response was meagre. Pablo Fornals wasn’t far away after meeting Vladimir Corfal’s centre, while Tomas Soucek found the gloves of Palace stopper, Vicente Guaita, after Jarrod Bowen’s flag-kick had picked him out.
But having enjoyed the majority of the ball, it was Palace who opened the scoring shortly after the half-hour mark. Benteke threw himself headlong to meet Joel Ward’s pinpoints centre – the Belgians stylish header flashing low beyond the stranded Lukasz Fabianski, who had until that point, largely been a spectator.
Said Benrahma drew a smart one-handed save from Guaita as the home side probed for a foothold. Meanwhile, Benteke passed up a glorious opportunity to put daylight between the sides – firing directly at Fabianski from close range after Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend had combined to fashion an opening.
Aaron Cresswell was unable to find his trajectory with a dead-ball attempt immediately after the restart. But West Ham was to restore parity spectacularly with their next meaningful foray forward.
I think it’s fair to say, Haller splits opinion amongst the Hammers support. Nevertheless, there was little doubting the quality of his overhead-kick which flashed, postage stamp into the top corner of the net after Coufal had crossed from the right
Fabianski’s fingertips denied Patrick van Aanholt, while Bowen was a whisker away as the home side began to control proceedings.
Palace’s task became all the more difficult when goalscorer Benteke was brandished a second yellow card after a clash with Soucek.
The frontman appeared to be looking at the ball. However, his forearm made heavy contact with the Czech midfielders face – Referee David Coote had little doubt the Palace man had to go.
Declan Rice was agonisingly close to winning with a fizzing strike from distance in stoppage-time. A missed opportunity for West Ham, perhaps underlining their improvement under Moyes during the opening half of this campaign.
The Hammers return to Premier League action on Monday, December 21 when they face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (8pm).
West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Issa Diop, Angelo Ogbonna, Aaron Creswell, Declan Rice (Capt), Tomas Soucek, Jarrod Bowen (Andriy Yarmolenko 80’), Said Benrahma (Robert Snodgrass 88’), Pablo Fornals (Manuel Lanzini 46’), Sebastien Haller Subs not used: Craig Dawson, Mark Noble, Ryan Fredericks, Darren Randolph (GK)
Goals: Sebastien Haller 55’
Crystal Palace: Vicente Guaita, Joel Ward, Chiekhou Kouyaté, Scott Dann, Patrick van Aanholt, Andros Townsend (Jeffrey Schlupp 85’), Luka Milivojevic (Capt), James McArthur, Eberechi Eze (Jordan Ayew 76’), Christian Benteke, Wilfried Zaha Subs not used: Jack Butland, James Tomkins, Mitchy Batshuayi, Tyrick Mitchell, Jairo Riedewald
Booked: Christian Benteke (foul), Luka Milivojevic (foul)
Sent-off: Christian Benteke (foul – second yellow card)
Goals: Christian Benteke 34’
Referee: David Coote
Assistants: Lee Betts and Nick Hopton
Fourth Official: Graham Scott
VAR: Peter Bankes
Assistant VAR: Stephen Child