|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
Stoke and Bojan Krkic deny West Ham victory as home troubles continue
Paul MacInnes at the London Stadium
Date Published Saturday 5 November 2016 17.19 GMT
Many criticisms have been levelled against the London Stadium since West Ham made it their home in the summer and this weekend was no different. The latest problem? The pitch is too slow.
After crowd violence and trouble with segregation, stewarding and fans who refuse to sit down, the Hammers were able to enjoy a relatively calm afternoon off the pitch on Saturday. Extra stewards and police in the ground for the first time maintained a controlled atmosphere.
But both managers were in agreement that a slow surface helped to disrupt the action on the field, contributing to what in the end was a tepid Premier League draw.
A second-half own goal from Glenn Whelan and a smart equaliser from the substitute Bojan Krkic meant a point apiece for both sides before the international break. The result, however, will better serve Mark Hughes’s resurgent Stoke, now unbeaten in six league games, than Slaven Bilic’s Hammers, who sit in 16th place in the division and now face a torrid run of fixtures.
“We’re on a good run at the moment”, said Hughes. “Our confidence was high coming into the match and I wanted to see that carried into our performance, which I did. We were clear in our own minds as to what the atmosphere would be like here and I think the fans enjoyed the experience.
“One thing I would say, though, is that maybe the pitch is a bit slow. Whether that’s through design I don’t know, but it didn’t help us with the way we want to play. It’s difficult to get the ball down and pass and play at a high tempo. I feel that’s probably the same problem for West Ham.”
Bilic, whose next four opponents are Spurs, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, concurred with his rival. “The pitch was a little bit slow but that shouldn’t have stopped us playing,” he said. “We were slow in the first half. We simply took too many touches, we were flat, we weren’t winning second balls.
“In the second half we changed after 60 minutes, we put a couple of strikers up and they give us energy. Our best part of the game was between the goals. When we scored we knew they were going to put bodies up, but that we would get space. Then we gave away a very cheap goal and, at the end, you have to say it was a fair result.”
Most neutral observers would agree with Bilic’s assessment. His unfamiliar-looking West Ham side, with Cheikhou Kouyaté playing at right-back and left-back Aaron Cresswell almost operating at left-wing, struggled to string passes together. They faced a typically redoubtable Stoke side for whom Joe Allen was once again outstanding in his unique defensive No10 role.
Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini were once again subdued, although the Frenchman had the first half’s best chance when presented with a free-kick in his preferred area, only to curl it a good yard over the bar.
The playmaker Lanzini was withdrawn on the hour, alongside André Ayew, making his first league appearance since August, and the energy of the replacements Ashley Fletcher and Edimilson Fernandes immediately penned Stoke back.
The Hammers won a corner and played the ball short to Payet on the edge of the box. He jinked to his right to cross and find the dependable forehead of Michail Antonio. The England international’s header came off Whelan to deceive goalkeeper Lee Grant. It was adjudged an own goal and denied Antonio his sixth headed strike of the season.
Hughes responded to the goal with his own double substitution, also changing his shape to 4-4-2. Krkic has been the player to suffer for Allen’s good form, but with the Welshman withdrawn to the middle of the park the Spaniard returned to the field and scored within five minutes. Charlie Adam’s clever long pass caught the West Ham defence flat-footed as Jonathan Walters bore down on the ball. Adrián made the fateful decision to come off his line and his foul on Walters would have been a penalty had Krkic not already turned the Irish forward’s looped cross into the net.
The final 10 minutes were more energetic than any that had preceded it and Adam might have won it for the visitors with a long-range shot that Adrián did well to save.
Daily Mail: MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS
West Ham: Adrian 5; Kouyate 6, Collins 6, Ogbonna 6; Antonio 6.5, Noble 6, Obiang 6 (Feghouli 89), Cresswell 6, Lanzini 5 (Fernandes, 62 6), Ayew 5 (Fletcher,6 62) Payet 7
Subs not used: Randolph, Nordtveit, Zaza, Calleri
Goal: Whelan own goal 65
Booked: Antonio, Fernandes
Stoke: Grant 6, Bardsley 6, Shawcross 7, Martins Indi 7, Peters 6; Whelan 5.5 (Bojan,7 71), Adam 6; Walters 6.5, Allen 6.5, Ramadan 6 (Diouf, 84); Bony 5 (Crouch,5.5 71)
Goals: Bojan 75
Subs not used: Given, Muniesa, Imbula, Verlinden
Referee: Andre Marriner