Sunday, September 10, 2006

hammers v villans: a rollicking good time

The most exciting matches balance the sublime and the absurd, and both camps were well represented today at Upton Park. The upshot of the morning was a 1-1 draw, but the ride there was fast and furious. You want beauty? Villa brought the smooth-like-cream set-pieces, and West Ham contributed two brilliant saves (by Tyrone Mears in the 54th, clearing Petrov's unstoppable lob dropped right down over Carroll's head, then another masterful clearance by Ferdinand just moments later). Villa's dynamic attacking duo of Barry and Angel fell firmly into the sublime column as well, and with a readier smile from the soccer gods they might easily have taken the day.

Chalk these up in the absurd column: Sorensen's groan-inducing miskick straight to the feet of Harewood, standing a mere yard or two outside the penalty box in a stretch of pitch completely barren of defenders, was topped only by Harewood's inexplicable choice (surely it must have been a choice?) to strike it wide, perhaps from gentlemanly ethics. Then there was the Keystone Kops minute: the 22nd, to be exact, when a Villa corner was cleared but only after the ball was bobbled and futzed down a line of five or six Hammers. Seriously, if you took performers of physical brilliance--members of Cirque du Soleil, say,--and choreographed this defensive near-catastrophe, it would take the fellows weeks of hard work to reach this level of awe-inspiring absurdity.

There was some business as usual: Zamora picked up his customary yellow after screaming at the ref like a slavering yard-dog in a Ralph Steadman cartoon. Baros subbed on in the 81st minute and within seconds missed the finish on the most gorgeous, here-it-is-mate-on-a-platter free kick you'll ever see.

But most of the game was a delight. Those of us anxious to see the new boys at play suffered some little disappointment, as Mascherano was bench-warming and Tevez only took to the pitch for the last half hour. He felt off-kilter at first, but his quickness, fanciness of foot, and smart instincts were already apparent. There was one very impressive run in particular, circumventing a tough marker and delivering a smooth cross; unfortunately, my boy Benayoun was too late to take advantage. My optimism, however, knows no bounds. It's a matter of synching up with the other kids. As soon as their rhythms become mutually attuned, the world will be painted in claret and blue.


Anonymous said...

That was a wonderful match. The Hammers are loaded -- you never even mentioned Bowyer or Reo-Coker. They've got as many as six potential scorers at a time. And Villa have a fine system emerging. Great fun.


Lisa said...

My biggest worry is that too much talent on the front line will lead to ego-madness and irreconciliable in-fighting. Does Pardew have that Mourinho/Fergie touch to defuse it or channel it into ferocity on the pitch? I wait with bated breath.