Steve Blowers, at Old Trafford
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
FA Cup third round replay: Manchester United 1 West Ham United 0
West Ham United saw their FA Cup dreams ended in this third round replay at Old Trafford, where fit-again Wayne Rooney netted a ninth-minute winner on his first start of 2013.
And although the Hammers created a handful of second half chances, that ninth goal of the campaign from the England striker - who went on to miss a late penalty - was enough to send Manchester United into the fourth round.
Following Saturday’s shocker at Sunderland – and with one eye on this weekend’s clash with Harry Redknapp’s Queens Park Rangers – Sam Allardyce made six changes from his 11th-placed side that had gone down by three goals at the Stadium of Light.
James Tomkins, Jordan Spence, Mohamed Diame, Gary O’Neil, Matt Taylor and Ricardo Vaz Te each came in for James Collins (hamstring) and the rested Joe Cole plus substitutes Matt Jarvis, Guy Demel, Jack Collison and Kevin Nolan.
Sunday lunchtime’s 2-1 victory over Liverpool at Old Trafford had kept Sir Alex Ferguson’s pace-setters seven points clear at the top of the Premier League and following that win, the United boss made no less than 10 changes, with Rafael Da Silva being the only player to survive the Scotsman’s sweeping cull.
Having broken Hammers hearts to make it 2-2 and force this replay with a stoppage-time equaliser at Upton Park 11 days ago, 21-goal Robin Van Persie was on the bench alongside ex-Hammers duo, Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick but this time around the Reds Devils were destined not to need his services.
Although Vaz Te forced the first save of the game with an early, low 18-yarder, the Hammers were always up against it from the moment that the recalled Rooney swept United ahead in the ninth minute.
Just before kick-off, Javier Hernandez had knelt on the centre-spot, looking into the dark, icy Manchester skies and his prayers were quickly answered, when Anderson invited the Mexican to sprint behind James Tomkins onto his defence-splitting pass and square beyond the retreating Alou Diarra and Dan Potts to the supporting England striker, who slid home from six yards.
Shortly afterwards, Nani escaped the attentions of Hammers five-man midfield but his weak shot was easily held by Jussi Jaaskelainen, while at the other end Diame saw his low effort deflected for a corner, before Taylor sent a left-wing centre into the side-netting.
As the half-hour mark approached, Giggs cleverly lofted the ball to Valencia on the edge of the area and he, in turn, played in Nani, whose low, angled 15-yarder flew past the outstretched right palm of Jaaskelainen, only for the perfectly-placed Potts to clear off the line to the relief of his ‘keeper, who soon found himself clutching Chris Smalling’s point-blank header.
Certainly, United constantly looked just one pass away from unlocking the Hammers rearguard and after Vaz Te saw another hopeful effort saved, only skipper Winston Reid’s timely tackle prevented Hernandez from bursting through on goal and then Tomkins robbed Anderson, too.
As the interval approached, the alert Jaaskelainen had a chance to warm his frozen hands when he got down well to hold Rooney’s sizzling 18-yard shot on the turn to restrict United to just that one-goal lead at the break.
Just after the restart, Phil Jones needed every ounce of strength to hold off Diame as the Hammers’ midfield powerhouse rampaged into the United area and then lone-striker Carlton Cole was left inconsolable after referee Phil Dowd waved away his frantic cries for a penalty after Rafael clearly handled.
At the other end, Hernandez broke clear only to blast high into the Stretford End but with West Ham looking a totally different side in the second period, Anders Lindegaard spilled Taylor’s corner under pressure from a clutch of visitors, while the Hammers winger then saw another effort deflected wide.
Rooney also blocked Tomkins’ header, while Reid furiously appealed, to no avail, that he had been bundled over inside the six-yard box and then, on the hour, Alex Buttner’s miscued header left Taylor bearing down on Lindegaard but caught in two minds, he opted to pass rather than shoot and Rafael cleared as he tried to find Vaz Te at the far post.
Unfortunately for West Ham all the best chances were falling to Taylor, who then sent a rising 15-yarder over the bar before Allardyce made a double substitution that saw Nolan and Collison replace Cole and Diame, while Carrick came on for Anderson.
With most of the action having taken place at the other end, Jaaskelainen suddenly found himself plucking the ball off the studs of Hernandez, before Lindegaard was similarly called into action to steal the ball off the toes of new solo-striker Vaz Te.
With 20 minutes remaining, another West Ham raid saw Vaz Te slip the ball to the supporting Nolan, who soon found himself ambushed by a posse of defenders and, shortly afterwards, his frustration was compounded by a booking for dissent.
Spence followed his team-mate into the book moments later for clumsily bundling over Buttner and after Big Sam handed young Elliot Lee his first-team debut in place of Vaz Te, the Hammers right back then saw referee Dowd award a penalty against him after he handled raiding Ryan Giggs’ attempted cross.
That gave Rooney the perfect chance to wrap up the tie with just 12 minutes remaining but even though the England striker’s shooting boots deserted him and he fired his spot-kick high over, that first-half tap-in still proved enough to send United into a fourth round meeting with Fulham.
RED DEVILS: Lindegaard, Rafael, Buttner, Smalling, Jones, Nani (Scholes 77) Valencia, Anderson (Carrick 67), Giggs, Hernandez, Rooney. Unused subs: Amos, Ferdinand, Kagawa, Van Persie, Welbeck
HAMMERS: Jaaskelainen, Spence, Potts, Tomkins, Reid, Vaz Te (E. Lee 77), O’Neil, Taylor, Diarra, Diame (Nolan 65) C.Cole (Collison 65) Unused subs: Spiegel, Jarvis, Demel, Lletget.
Booked: Nolan (75), Spence (77), Scholes (89).
Referee: Phil Dowd