Hammers hold the Champions
Written By: Robert Halter
Runaway Premiership leaders Manchester United were closing in on their thirteenth Premier League title and twentieth Championship in the top flight while West Ham United were aiming for a mid table finish to the season giving both teams different priorities as the Hammers faced the Red Devils halfway through April under the lights at the Boleyn Ground, the scene where Robin Van Persie’s last minute equaliser forced a 2-2 draw in the F.A. Cup third round back in January with Man U winning the replay 1-0 at Old Trafford, the same score in the home league meeting against the Irons. Andy Carroll was a whisker away from giving West Ham the upper hand on four minutes as his low drive went fractions wide of the right post. Ten minutes later the Hammers threatened again from a Gary O’ Neill corner as from inside the area, James Collins headed the ball over the bar. But West Ham’s persistence paid off on sixteen minutes when Matt Jarvis’s left wing cross was nodded on by Carroll and Ricardo Vaz Te with a close range header beat David De Gea to the chase and put the Hammers in front. It took just over half an hour for the Red Devils to get back on level terms when Van Persie’s pass to Shinji Kagawa resulted in a low cross being turned into an empty net by Antonio Valencia from inside the six yards box. Three minutes later the Irons responded as from the left flank Jarvis supplied Mohammed Diame but his low strike found the outside netting by the left hand post. An audacious attempt by Carroll went narrowly over as he tried to beat De Gea with a dipping strike from distance, six minutes into the second half as Carroll looked to make amends for his earlier booking after colliding into De Gea. But the Hammers struck again in the fifty fourth minute as Vaz Te linked up with Guy Demmel before the move was rounded off with a magnificent curling strike from outside the area from Diame as he bent the ball into the far corner to restore the Irons lead. Despite the flag going up for offside, Jussi Jaaskelainen produced a theatrical block with both feet to stop Van Persie’s volley following a measured cross by Valencia on the right wing, after just under the hour mark. Two minutes later, O’ Neill came to the Hammers rescue as he cleared the ball off the line after Jaaskelainen failed to hold onto Wayne Rooney’s scuffed shot from a short Van Persie corner. O’ Neill’s involvement ended midway through the half as Mark Noble took over. Jaaskelainen was back to his best on sixty eight minutes as he heroically tipped over Van Persie’s cushioned header off Valencia’s cross from the right. The Red Devils then made a switch as Ryan Giggs replaced Rooney. But Man U got back in the game on seventy seven minutes as a lay off from Michael Carrick was met by an explosive shot by Kagawa that cannoned off the inside of the left post before the ball fell kindly for Van Persie to blast the rebound into the roof of the net. In the second of the Red Devils changes Kagawa left the field for Javier Hernandez, who nearly made his presence known as his header was caught by Jaaskelainen after a high ball was played in by Carrick. In further changes for the Hammers, Matt Taylor took over from Kevin Nolan and Jack Collison replaced Diame. A slip by Rio Ferdinand in stoppage time gave Jarvis a route through on goal but he skied the ball over as just like the F.A. Cup tie, this Premier League encounter ended as a 2-2 draw.