Friday 12 May 2023

Job half done: Match review and Player ratings Hammers 2-1Alkmaar

After a dramatic evening at the London stadium, Hammers fans wait with hope but some trepidation for the second leg of their tie with AZ Alkmaar.

David Moyes would have preferred to put greater distance between the sides as essentially his strongest starting XI struggled to get to grips with the slippery eel that Alkmaar presented.

The Dutch side were slick on the floor and passing out from defence and frustrated Moyes' men through a frustrating first half punctuated by almost endless time wasting by Aussie Matthew Ryan in the Alkmaar goal.

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, the Dutch went ahead with a hopeful strike from outside the box which bobbled up over Areola's flailling arms. Suddenly the Hammers were in trouble.

Infairness, the match referee seemed allergic to giving anything to Michail Sntonio who, despite having the clear beating of the Alkmaar CBs was subjected to serious foul play which the ref decided to perceive as play acting!

Moreover, Paqueta was clearly fouled in the dis-possession leading up to the Alkmaar goal. The Irons were hot! Worryibgly,Moyes' men lost their composure for a bit and half time was a mercy.

Things continued in that vein for the opening ten minutes of the second half and then the Hammers clicked into gear. Alkmaar looked rattled as a series of decent chances fell the Hammers way as the Alkmaar right flank wilted.

Then the panto villain, Alkmaar keeper Ryan, clattered into Jarrod Bowen and despite over three minutes of Dutch shithousery, Benrahma buried the penalty. Game well and truly on! Hilariously, in the lead up to the cross in to Bowen, the referee impeded an Alkmaar midfielder from getting across to block the cross - perhaps justice for the series of bizarre decisions prior to that!

Suddenly the Hammers could smell blood and bombarded the Dutch goal.....and it came as some cool-headed play from Rice nicked the ball into the six yard box and in the ensuing melee Antonio forced home a crucial winner.

Moyes was left with a conundrum - settle for the one goal advantage or go for the jugular. He chose the former. Despite that, the Hammers reslly shoukd have converted any of three good chances before the end that they may yet regret.

Alkmaar have at least two key returnees for next week. This tie is far from  settled!

Here’s how we rated David Moyes’ men: 

Alphonse Areola 5

Not asked to do much - coped well with everyting apart from the Alkmaar goal which had shades of De Gea.

Thilo Kehrer 7

Decent performance as he was strong and aggressive both with and without the ball throughout. Cut back nicely for a decent shot half way through the second half but blasted it over the bar.

Kurt Zouma 8

Usual calm self. Can be a little clunky moving out of defence but does the important things well. No sign of any recurrence of his injury - a relief as we will need his defensive prowess next week!

Nayef Aguerd 8

Once again great decision making and excellent in possession. Enjoyed joining Benny, Paqueta and Cressy for a full scale assault down the left flank for the final 20 minutes.

Aaron Cresswell 8

No real problems defensively and linked well with Benrahma all night.

Tomas Soucek 7

Moyes has realised that Tomas is not really a 'baller' and is using him better as a real nuisance for the opposition. He could be criticised for not getting out quickly enough to block the Alkmaar goal but he is back to decent form.

Declan Rice 9

Stayed just the right side of the line with a really annoying referee. Ultimately, brushed aside a gamey Alkmaar midfield for that sustained assault of the final 20-25 minutes.

Lucas Paqueta 8.5

The sorcerer took a while to get going but almost ran riot in the end. Due warning was served to the Alkmaar defence that he can create great openings in the tightest of space. One flick towards the end of the second half was worth the admission price alone!

Jarrod Bowen 7.5

We had hoped that he would figure more as Alkmaar were missing their usual LB but Jarrod had to be patient. Alkmaar made sure to keep pushing him outside to prevent his trademark cut back inside. Made the most of Ryan's 'punch' for the penalty but the Aussie had it coming!

Said Benrahma 9

Wow, he was at times almost unmarkable! Created chance after chance and unlucky not to open the scoring mid-way through the first halk with an exquisite curling shot that Ryan just about pushed past the post. Mr Cool for the pressure penalty. Alkmaar have lots to ponder if they are to contain him for the return leg.

Michail Antonio 9

Victim of a series of harsh refereeing calls but kept at it as he knew the Alkmaar CBs couldn't handle him. Hopefully recovers from his post match limp and with a more rational referee next week can look forward to terrorising the Alkmaar defence again. Oh, and he scored the winner!


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