Hammers Suffer Palace Blow
By Tom Dowsett
Friday 27 Dec 2019 17:17:00
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Having won at Southampton last time out, West Ham United would have wanted to start their busy festive fixture programme with another win on the road. Unfortunately though, a late 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Boxing Day means that they now go into back-to-back home games just a point and a place above the relegation zone.

Manuel Pellegrini was forced to make two changes to the side that achieved the victory at St Mary's on 14 December. 

Lukasz Fabianski and David Martin were still out injured, meaning youngster Joseph Anang was included amongst the substitutes and Roberto Jiménez Gago started in goal. The other change was in defence, where Pablo Zabaleta filled in for Ryan Fredericks who was suspended after picking up his fifth booking of the campaign against the Saints.

The Hammers have enjoyed their trips to South London in recent seasons and despite a slow start here, had a chance to edge in front on twenty minutes when great combination play between Sébastien Haller, Michail Antonio and Robert Snodgrass almost set up Pablo Fornals but former Hammer James Tomkins was in the way.

Fornals was involved again just three minutes later when he beat home goalkeeper Vicente Guaita but the linesman's flag was raised.

It was soon the turn of the hosts to create something for themselves but having done so, they then wasted the opportunity. Wilfried Zaha had raced past both Captain Mark Noble and Zabaleta, he then found Max Meyer in space and the German played in Jordan Ayew who should have scored but instead, the former Swansea City frontman gave the visitors a huge let-off.

Antonio went close on thirty five minutes but his fierce drive was eventually claimed by Guaita.

The contest had so far turned out to be just like the reverse fixture back in October. Flashes of decent play but both teams were yet to find a way through either defence.

Having been dropped from the starting line-up after the 3-2 home defeat to rivals Tottenham Hotspur on 23 November, it would be fair to say that Jiménez Gago was equal to everything thrown at him in the first-half and remained resilient at the start of the second to thwart Ayew.

The hosts then missed the target completely, as Eagles' skipper Luka Milivojevic blazed over.

A clever move helped West Ham open the scoring on fifty seven minutes. Antonio left the defenders in his wake and set up Snodgrass to give Pellegrini's side the advantage.

The Irons' boss made his first substitution seconds later, as he replaced Fornals with Manuel Lanzini.

West Ham have dropped more points from winning positions then any other team in the Premier League this season and they looked like they were going to do it again on sixty eight minutes. Jiménez Gago was finally beaten when Cheikhou Kouyaté levelled matters after Zaha and Ayew had combined to set him up.

Employing two strikers was a major factor in the victory at Southampton last time out but it wasn't paying dividends here so, the manager introduced Felipe Anderson for the ineffectual Haller. At the same time Hodgson threw on Connor Wickham to take the place of Meyer.

Hodgson's change almost had the desired impact. Soon after Wickham's introduction, he was through on goal and decided to go for glory himself rather than play in Zaha. It was a decision that the travelling support would have been grateful for however, as Jiménez Gago made another superb save.

The Hammers almost fashioned an opportunity to claim all three points but Aaron Cresswell's cross was blocked on its way through to Snodgrass.

Having looked at one stage as if they were going to grab another win on the road, the Irons still would have thought that they'd at least take something back to the East End but there was to be one final twist. Ayew did brilliantly to evade the challenges of Declan Rice, Angelo Ogbonna and Fabián Balbuena before lifting the ball over Jiménez Gago and claiming his second goal against West Ham this season.

With five minutes of stoppage time still to play, Pellegrini made use of his final change as Snodgrass made way for Albian Ajeti.

The late drama meant that the Eagles have done the double over the East Londoners as they face up to the reality of falling to seventeenth in the table.

Pellegrini may be faced with a difficult decision if Martin is back in contention for tomorrow's home game with Leicester City. He will be able to recall Fredericks to the side, whilst Lanzini, Anderson, Issa Diop and Andriy Yarmolenko may also be available.

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