West Ham’s game of two halves was absolutely unbelievable
PUBLISHED: 13:00 26 October 2017
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Hammers’ second-half sensation means nothing if they lose to Crystal Palace
At half time on Wednesday night at Wembley, things were looking as bleak as they can get for West Ham and for manager Slaven Bilic.
It had been a dour first half. They trailed 2-0, the same as they had against Brighton last week and in fairness it had looked like men against boys.
In the press room, various journalists criticised Andy Carroll, Andre Ayew and the boss in almost equal measure, while in the directors’ box, David Sullivan may well have been drafting a ‘Manager wanted’ advert.
Fast forward 45 minutes and both sets of fans could not believe what they had witnessed.
Two goals for the ‘hopeless’ and now ‘superb’ Ayew, plus a headed winner from Angelo Ogbonna that brought back memories of the FA Cup winner against Liverpool, gave West Ham a win that was truly a miracle.
If ever the term ‘a game of two halves’ was more appropriate then this reporter has not seen it.
One thing you can say about Bilic is that when he needs a result, he invariably gets it, but not like this, not by clutching victory from the jaws of defeat to perhaps save his job.
Bilic spoke to the press afterwards with dignity.
“I’m very, very proud of the whole team,” he said after the 3-2 win. “We told the guys at half time that we had to some things better and the crucial thing was to be more solid and close them down.
“It was about who scored the first goal after half time and we scored it and suddenly we had more energy and our crosses were really hard to defend.
“From three of them, we basically scored three goals.”
They did, but what also helped was the tempo the team played at. They looked to attack Spurs at every opportunity, tested them down the flanks and got players into the box.
It was as incredible a turnaround we have seen for the Hammers in many years. Their record coming from 2-0 down had been 73 losses out of 75 games, so it was every bit as unbelievable as it sounds.
But of course, this Carabao Cup victory means very little, if the team now go and lose in the Premier League at rock-bottom Crystal Palace tomorrow (Saturday).
Bilic challenged his team to carry on where they left off.
“We have to be proud, but we’ve done nothing,” said the boss defiantly.
“We’ve only done a lot if we take this as a standard and if we take forward this defending, this closing people down and all the basic things that mean such a lot, being there for one another.
“If we take this as a standard and continue with it in training and in games, then we have done a lot.
“We have to take this into training and into Saturday’s massive, massive game against Crystal Palace.”
The problem with that is that there were nine changes from the Brighton game to this one. Just how many of those nine will be in the starting line-up at Selhurst Park?
Ayew has done enough for a start, but who will he come in for. Has Ogbonna earned a start after his winning goal?
Saturday will be about coping with the pressure and fighting for the badge and for the manager.
But which West Ham team will turn up. The team that sank to Brighton and who played the first half on Wednesday, or the second half team?
We shall see.