After a brief period of silence, the match kicked off where both sides could ill afford a loss. Crystal Palace find themselves at the bottom of the table, with West Ham and Slaven Bilic staring down the barrel of the gun.
The starting line up for West Ham was not terribly surprising. Andre Ayew being rewarded for his goals against the midweek Carabao Cup fixture with Tottenham. Someone who was not rewarded for their efforts from Wednesday is goalkeeper, Adrian. Joe Hart gets the start today, with Slaven Bilic deciding to keep his confidence in the English national. Andy Carroll would start on the bench, giving Chicharito the nod up top.
The first fifteen minutes wasn’t eventful for either side. Crystal Palace looked the more sure side early on with the Hammers having trouble finding their stride. West Ham showed flashes of brilliance but just lacked quality in that final touch to produce something special.
After a flurry of poor passing and mishandled possession, an Aaron Cresswell cross honed in on the outside of Javier Hernandez’s foot to put the Hammers up 1-0.
They didn’t stop there. West Ham continued to pour on the pressure until a Crystal Palace counter saw Joe Hart with a miraculous save right in front of next. Hart’s quick reflexes keep the Hammer lead strong as play continued to move back and forth for the remainder of the half. West Ham have seemed to adjust tactics to counter Palace’s advances while the red and blue are sticking to their laurels.
Andre Ayew would be the next to capitalize on the Crystal Palace’s passing woes. After a midfield turnover, Ayew charged down the field with options on both sides of him. However, he tucks the ball to his left foot, and splashes the back of the net himself.
Aaron Cresswell ended the half with a minor injury, so Arthur Masuaku came out of the tunnel to start the second half for the Hammers.
In the second half Crystal Palace came out firing on all cylinders. Wilfred Zaha and Luka Milivojević leading the line as Hammers were caught on their back heels. After a mental laps from Angelo Ogbonna, Luka had the penalty opportunity against Hart and wouldn’t be denied.
If you’re a neutral, this is the best thing that ever could have happened in the match. The intensity on both sides multiplied ten fold to bring the match to life. Crystal Palace would continue to pour on as West Ham tried to find their counter touches.
The match settled back down with fifteen minutes to go. Zaha with a wonderful chance approaching the 80th minute but Hart knocks it away miraculously. Angelo Ogbonna once again puts the match in jeopardy with a poor foul to give Palace a free kick just outside the box. Yohan Cabaye stepped up and drilled it to the top right corner. Super Joe Hart came flying across the face of goal to keep the Hammer lead 2-1.
Utter nerves for the final moments of the match. West Ham were caught between conserving time and playing the counter. Clearly the Hammers weren’t on the same game plan, as Hernandez was playing for the counter and Ayew was looking to hold up play. Crystal Palace would take advantage of the confusion and continue to test the defense with clever crosses and smart dribbling.
During the six minutes of extra time, James Tomkins just about found the back of the net but once again Hart with a wonderful save, and earns our man of the match. Chicharito and Ayew put points on the board but Joe Hart kept it there when it mattered, at least for the time being.
In the final minute of the match, Wilfred Zaha squared off against Cheikhou Kouyate, shifted his weight left, then right, fired a shot through the legs of Declan Rice, skipping passed a diving Joe Hart, bringing the match to level.
Hammer hearts everywhere broken, dreams deflated.
Slaven Bilic’s job as manager likely no longer a question.