West Ham 4 Foxes 1
Match Report by Graham Tracey
For the third time within 12 months, a game against West Ham quickly went from bad to catastrophic, and we were on the end of a crushing defeat which we need to get out of our system quickly before it does lasting damage. Other than Bournemouth, we have not been used to this type of stuffing under Brendan – the shock of a 4-1 loss early in the season brought back bad memories of defeats at Anfield and Old Trafford when we were defending champions.
I think we all knew this would be a difficult match, with our defensive injuries and against a home team in front of fans for the first time since the pandemic, during which Moyes has engineered an unlikely transformation. In the end, the predictable outcome of us being out-muscled by Antonio proved true, but the match will be remembered by us for an appalling stamp by Perez and a schoolboy back pass by Soyuncu.
With Vestergaard injured in training, I was surprised we didn’t bring Castagne in for a back five, and so the starting XI was unchanged from Wolves. West Ham did not press us, allowing us plenty of the ball. Indeed, in snooker the players would have agreed a ‘re-rack’, as Soyuncu and Amartey passed between themselves but without any idea on how to move it forward, as our injured centre halves would do.
Amartey probably had a season’s worth of touches – despite his significant limitations I think his ungainly style makes him look worse than he is, and he wasn’t culpable for the result tonight. Barnes and Maddison saw plenty of the ball early on that suggested they could create chances over the 90 minutes, but both faded badly. We found it hard to play through them, even Ndidi sometimes losing out against their eager approach.
We were undone by a swift counter-attack that was once our hallmark. Vardy gave away Soyuncu’s ball, and it was worked to the left for Fornals to expertly stroke home the cutback. This was not a good game to concede first, and although Ricardo slipped as he was about to shoot, my main focus was on making it to half time only one down.
While we did this, we also found ourselves a man down. Schmeichel played Perez into trouble with a high risk pass, and although off balance, the Spaniard seemed to change course to stamp on an opponent after over-running the ball. As soon as the ref consulted VAR it was an inevitable red card and I found it hard to understand our players’ protests and why Perez took so long to get off the pitch.
Let’s be clear – Perez is no Junior Lewis. That said, that’s the last example I can remember of a manager (and Brendan Rodgers is no Peter Taylor!) sticking by a player when such a majority of fans think he isn’t good enough. Perez was actually having one of his better games, but is so lacking in physicality or bottle for that side of the game that my instinct (only he knows) is that he made a coward’s challenge. Only a gymnast with ‘the twisties’ would have lost their sense of spatial awareness that much to plant their leg down in that way. I doubt I am alone in now hoping that Albrighton shows how much stronger we are with him on the right side.
The crowd were now joyously blowing bubbles, and I hoped we could stay in the game for as long as possible in the second half. However, we soon conceded one of the worst goals I can remember. Now being pressed tightly, we were still foolishly trying to play out from the back rather than relieving pressure by going long sometimes. Soyuncu found himself having to turn back to goal, but played it back without seeing Schmeichel had come outside his posts (as is standard practice). The ball inside him initially revived memories of a Frank Sinclair own goal, and while Kasper recovered to close out the intercepting attacked, it was squared for Benrahma to finish with ease.
With half an hour remaining, things had the potential to get messy, and two fine saves by Schmeichel kept down the score. We could hardly get out of our own half, but to our credit we pulled back a goal from nowhere, Vardy and Maddison combining for Tielemans to finish at the second attempt. As attacking subs were prepared, the hope was that jitters would settle on the sedOlympic Stadium and we could fashion a chance to equalise.
However, two quick goals scuppered that and completed our misery. As a ball was pulled back to Antonio, it was easy to predict what he would try to do, despite the high degree of difficulty. Nevertheless, he spun Soyuncu and hammered home with aplomb. This led to some light relief as Antonio celebrated with a life sized cardboard cut out of himself – which I enjoyed, unlike his own manager Miserable Moyes! Shortly afterwards, Antonio controlled a high ball expertly and had the desire to beat our demoralised defenders and keepers to poke home the fourth.
On a desperately poor evening, Tielemans was our best player, while Luke Thomas persevered well on a night when more senior players wilted. At least a trip to Norwich next week gives us a great chance to bounce back.
CITY: Schmeichel 5, Ricardo 5, Thomas 6, Soyuncu 3, Amartey 5, Ndidi 6, Tielemans 7, Perez 1, Barnes 4, Maddison 5, Vardy 5. SUBS: Soumare, Daka, Iheanacho
The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation