|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
Mark Noble helps give West Ham a lift as Stoke and Mark Hughes suffer
Nick Ames at the Bet365 Stadium
Date Published Saturday 16 December 2017 18.09 GMT
On an afternoon bursting with metaphors for Stoke City’s position it was, naturally enough, Marko Arnautovic who contrived the cruellest of them all. Arnautovic had just inflicted a mortal blow – one that provoked apoplexy among the public he used to delight and perplex – upon their hope of blustering something from this game and he took his time to let it all seep in upon being substituted. That earned him a flea in the ear from his former manager, Mark Hughes; it also brought the bonus of a Stoke-coloured garment, perhaps a jumper or an undershirt, thrown in anger from the stand. He collected the gift, walked forward a pace or two and then, unseasonably, threw it casually behind him.
The home support, who had serenaded him with chants of “One greedy bastard” from the start, consider he treated their club with comparable lack of regard in departing in the summer. Far more pressing now, surely, is the risk Hughes runs of being discarded in the same vein. He had been defended by his chairman, Peter Coates, before this game but even the most kindly of proprietors would be excused some disquiet at what unfolded here.
Stoke can fairly contest the penalty – awarded by Graham Scott for Erik Pieters’ first-half challenge on Manuel Lanzini – that set West Ham on their way but nothing after that was up to standard. With 70 minutes to chase a game, a modicum of discipline should be second nature; instead Stoke lost all cohesion, leaving swathes of space whenever their opponents counterattacked, and should have been far from contention even before the pantomime villain provided his final act.
That they were not owed mainly to profligate finishing from Arnautovic himself. Beforehand it was reasonable to assume his return could go in one of several different directions, some involving a rush of blood or abdication of discipline. Here he played like a man obsessed with getting on the scoresheet but happy to work for the privilege, feeding from the unremitting venom to tear into Stoke at every opportunity. He worked Jack Butland from an angle before, as half-time approached, blazing over from a better position after perplexing Kevin Wimmer. After the interval he clipped the bar twice, with a looping header and a thudding left-foot shot, and missed the best chance of all after doing the hardest part in cutting inside from the left.
When he speared a vicious, angled volley into the side-netting the natural thought was that Stoke, despite the lack of clear chances their spells of pressure had yielded, might make him pay. That almost came to pass when Ryan Shawcross headed a glorious opportunity over the crossbar but the next meaningful action produced the clinching goal. “I told him if he kept going he’d score in the second half,” David Moyes said of Arnautovic afterwards. The Austrian’s one-two with Lanzini bore a resemblance to the combination that broke Chelsea a week previously; Stoke’s defending was even worse than the champions’, though, four players taken out by the chipped return pass and watching their former team-mate jab under Butland.
It was Lanzini whose action, Hughes argued, had turned the game. He had a point. Almost 19 minutes had passed when Shawcross, rising to meet a free-kick, struck Adrián’s left upright with a bouncing header; within seconds West Ham had burst upfield and Lanzini, ferrying the ball down the inside-left tramline, found himself confronted by Pieters. It is possible to see how, at full speed, Scott perceived Pieters had taken Lanzini’s legs away; the forward had angled his body between opponent and ball, and the sliding tackle had made no impact on the latter. But replays suggested Lanzini had dived into Pieters’ challenge and, if the Football Association agrees, then a two-match ban is possible.
Mark Noble scored the spot-kick, setting the tone for everything that followed. By the time Diafra Sakho, outfoxing the hapless Wimmer, completed the latest satisfying day’s work for Moyes the atmosphere had turned mutinous; “Hughes out” was the loudest of the chants, and probably the politest.
It brought to mind the rest of those metaphors. Back at the start of the afternoon, kick-off had been delayed by an hour because of a power cut in the stadium. “Lights out for Hughes?” was the obvious question; “It shows Stoke need a Sparky,” the witty response. Three hours later, the number in agreement with that view had dwindled dangerously.
Daily Mail: MATCH FACTS, LIVE TABLE AND MATCHZONE
Stoke: Butland, Cameron, Shawcross, Wimmer, Pieters (Tymon 63min), Shaqiri, Fletcher (Adam 62min), Allen, Sobhi, Diouf (Berahino 62min), Crouch.
Subs not used: Choupo-Moting, Ngoy, Grant, Edwards.
Booked: Shawcross, Wimmer
West Ham: Adrian, Ogbonna, Collins, Cresswell, Zabaleta, Obiang, Noble (Rice 35), Masuaku, Lanzini, Antonio, Arnautovic.
Subs not used: Sakho, Hernandez, Ayew, Haksabanovic, Hart, Makasi.
Goal: Noble 19 (pen) Arnautovic 75, Sakho 86
Referee: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire)