|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
Dimitri Payet magic earns West Ham a point against Middlesbrough
Amy Lawrence at the London Stadium
Date Published aturday 1 October 2016 17.21 BST
One-nil down at a place that does not feel like home on the back of four heavy Premier League losses, West Ham were in a predicament and there was only one man capable of sprinkling magic dust to ease it. Dimitri Payet picked up the ball wide on the left and began to sashay round opponent after opponent. It was mesmerising. He took out more than half of Middlebrough’s team, gliding past five outfield players before sliding the ball past Víctor Valdés. It was a virtuoso goal, notes from a Stradivarius when everyone else seemed to be stuck in an oompah band. For all those who have found this new stadium experience hard, it was a moment to lose themselves in, to forget their travails.
It might not have been enough to inspire that craved-for victory but it was a heck of a way to stop the rot. Slaven Bilic felt compelled to compare it to the best around. “It reminded me of Messi’s goals,” he said. “I didn’t see many players scoring these kinds of goals. You get crackers, free-kicks, volleys, scissor kicks, 30-yard screamers. This was a brilliant moment of magic. That gave us a point, brought us back into the situation where we could win the game with half an hour to go.”
That they did not left Bilic with mixed emotions. “In terms of character and work rate I couldn’t ask for more. On the other hand it wasn’t the result we were looking for. With greatest respect to Middlesbrough we wanted to beat them.”
Bilic was left mulling over his bittersweet afternoon in the context of the bigger picture. Could Payet’s goal be the kind that proves a game changer – for the club, for the season, for the stadium, and, arguably, for his own sake? “It can,” he said. “But we can’t rely on doing that every time. We have to add quality in the front line which is the most difficult to do.
“I know my situation. I know how it works. I am not thinking about my future, I am thinking about my job and I don’t like where we are in the table. I really don’t like it. I am putting myself under pressure.”
West Ham are still chasing their first Premier League win since 21 August. Bilic picked an experimental lineup in an attempt to shake things up. It might have seemed counterintuitive when you are desperate for a win to start without a recognisable striker, but Bilic chose to push Michail Antonio to a centre-forward post. Cutting edge was hard to find.
Complications never feel too far away at the moment and Bilic was disappointed to see Sam Byram injure his hamstring early in the game.
The match took a while to warm up, with Mark Noble’s sweet strike against the underside of the bar the best of a humdrum first half.
In a half-time rejig, Simone Zaza replaced the ineffectual Göhkan Töre in an attempt to give West Ham more of an attacking focus. But it was a hoiked ball up the other end to Jordan Rhodes that brought the first decisive moment. Adrián raced out to meet him and saved well. From the resulting corner Cristhian Stuani met Viktor Fischer’s delivery with a thumping header. Noble was positioned on the line but cleared from just behind it. The goal was given.
Payet’s response was heaven sent. There are questions about the quality of Boro’s bewildered defending, but Aitor Karanka accepted it as a stroke of pure talent. “He had an amazing Euros, so it’s nothing new,” he said. “We showed the players a lot of videos and reports. Sometimes you don’t know – is it better to be closer to him or give him one or two metres?” In this case, nothing worked.
As an atmosphere changer for West Ham it certainly did the trick. Try as they might, a winner would not follow, however. Payet was at it again before Zaza and Antonio slashed at a couple of other presentable chances.
Karanka was pleased with the point for Middlesbrough, which he felt indicated an improving sense of handling the demands of the Premier League. “I am happy because the performance was good. We knew West Ham wasn’t in their best moment but when you have players like Payet who can turn a game we knew we could have problems.
“We are in the position I expected at the beginning. Fighting a lot, knowing that every single point will be really, really tough. The main thing was to recover confidence and I could feel the changing room after the game, it was completely different to after Tottenham or Everton.”
All in all, for both teams, an important corner half turned.
Daily Mail: PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE, MATCH FACTS, RATINGS AND MATCH ZONE
WEST HAM (4-3-3): Adrian 6; Byram 5 (Arbeloa 7, 6.5), Collins 7, Reid 7, Ogbonna 6.5; Noble 7 (Lanzini 73, 6), Obiang 6.5, Kouyate 7; Tore 4 (Zaza 46, 6), Antonio 6, Payet 8
Subs not used: Randolph, Feghouli, Fletcher, Fernandes
Booked: Obiang, Arbeloa
Manager: Slaven Bilic 6.5
MIDDLESBROUGH (4-2-3-1): Valdes 6.5; Barragan 6.5, Chambers 6.5, Gibson 7, Friend 7; Stuani 7, Forshaw 6.5, De Roon 6, Downing 6; Rhodes 6 (Negredo 68, 6); Fischer 6.5 (Ramirez 59, 6)
Subs not used: Ayala, Bernardo, Clayton, Guzan, Traore
Booked: De Roon, Barragan, Stuani
Goal: Stuani 51
Manager: Aitor Karanka 6.5
Man of the match: Payet
Referee: Neil Swarbrick