Late, late Kouyate spares West Ham
- Credit: PA WIRE
Premier League: West Ham United 2 Norwich City 2
It was the late, late show at Upton Park, where Cheikhou Kouyate’s stoppage-time leveller salvaged a point for the Hammers, who remain in third spot in the Premier League.
On a tricky afternoon for Slaven Bilic’s side, Robbie Brady had given the chirpy Canaries an early lead before Diafra Sakho levelled just before the break with his fifth goal of the season.
But when substitute Nathan Redmond struck on 83 minutes it looked all over for West Ham United, only for Kouyate to follow up his strikes against Arsenal and Bournemouth with another timely goal to earn his side a dramatic draw.
These teams had experienced differing fortunes in their midweek Capital Cup Cup ties and, following their extra-time defeat at Leicester City, the Hammers made a quartet of changes as Sakho, Kouyate, Winston Reid and Dimitri Payet returned in place of substitutes Andy Carroll, Pedro Obiang, James Collins and Mauro Zarate.
Norwich, on the other hand, had handsomely seen off West Bromwich Albion with a 3-0 win, but despite that emphatic victory, Alex Neil made eight switches as Brady, John Ruddy, Steven Whittaker, Jonny Howson, Cameron Jerome, Russell Martin, Wes Hoolahan and Alex Tettey returned to the fold.
That meant a place on the bench for former Hammer Gary O’Neil, while on-loan West Ham wide-boy Matt Jarvis was ineligible to face his parent club, who kicked-off in third place, eight places and four points above the visitors.
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With Jerome sending a weak header into the clutches of Adrian in the opening moments, the claret and blue fans in the sell-out crowd of 34,857 quickly realised that they were not going to have it all their own way on this sunny September afternoon.
And with just eight minutes on the clock, Bilic’s side set themselves up for a difficult day, when they gifted the opening goal to the Canaries.
Collecting back from Aaron Cresswell on the left-hand touchline, Mark Noble inexplicably sent an aimless pass across field into no man’s land, where the alert Brady raced onto the skipper’s suicidal square-ball, rode James Tomkins’ desperate late lunge and calmy slotted under the helplessly-exposed Adrian.
Having gone ahead, Norwich should have doubled their lead midway through the first half, but having been given the freedom of Upton Park, Howson recklessly fired high into the Bobby Moore Stand.
Shortly afterwards, Jerome got behind the pushed-up home defence before ripping an angled shot into the side-netting, much to the disgust of the supporting Brady, who was looking for a simple tap-in.
Apart from seeing Kouyate mis-time his jump to chest the ball straight at Ruddy and Tomkins launch a wayward long-ranger into the clucking Canaries fans, West Ham had offered nothing else in attack.
On the half-hour mark, Manuel Lanzini also tried his luck from distance and the Argentinian also achieved the same result as the Norwich supporters ducked for cover.
It looked like West Ham would never score but, on 33 minutes, Noble won possession deep in his own half before picking out Sakho, who sprayed the ball wide to Payet in acres of space on the right wing. And, after making his way to the edge of the Canaries area, the Frenchman sent an inch-perfect low cross into the six-yard box, where the sliding Senegal striker arrived right on cue to get in front of the sprawling Martin and bundle the ball into the Norwich net
That unexpected equaliser certainly sparked the Hammers into life as Lanzini curled a 20-yard free-kick inches wide, before seeing another effort deflected wide and, with the Canaries desperately trying to hold out for the half-time whistle, Sakho hooked over, while Reid steered a downward header straight to Ruddy, who ensured that it did, indeed, remain all-square at the break.
Just after the restart, Howson let fly from 20 yards but the alert, athletic Adrian brilliantly diverted the shot over his right-hand angle and having shown his footballing prowess, the Canaries midfielder then displayed his ornithological skills, when he removed a pitch-invading pigeon from the pitch and re-homed it behind the advertising barriers.
Having earlier sent a looping header wide, Sakho then nodded straight at Ruddy from point-blank range only for the over-excited Kouyate to dispatch his follow-up for a throw-in.
Obiang then came on for Victor Moses before Jerome volleyed a scorching 12-yarder into the face of Adrian and, with the Spanish stopper needing treatment, the Norwich striker was replaced by Dieumerci Mbokani, while Graham Dorrans departed as Redmond stepped from the bench.
With the clock ticking, Carroll also entered the action as Lanzini departed, but with the Big Man failing to make any immediate impression, it was Redmond, who was to make a telling impact.
With just seven minutes remaining, Brady’s 20-yard free-kick was palmed behind by Adrian, but when Obiang headed the consequent corner clear, Hoolahan played in Redmond, who cut into the right-hand side of the Hammers area before curling a low 15-yarder around Noble, through a forest of legs and into the far corner.
The Canaries thought they had bagged the winner and, after surviving a couple of frenzied goalmouth scrambles in a frantic finale, they looked set to fly off with all three points.
But deep into stoppage time, the Hammers clipped their wings, when Payet floated a free-kick into the danger-zone, where Ruddy only succeeded in punching the ball against Carroll and that man Kouyate reacted first to drill home the equaliser from eight yards.
West Ham: Adrian, Jenkinson, Cresswell, Reid, Tomkins, Kouyate, Noble (Zarate 85), Moses (Obiang 56), Lanzini (Carroll 71), Payet, Sakho. Unused subs: Randolph, Collins, Jelavic, Antonio.
Norwich: Ruddy, Whittaker, Olsson, Bassong, Martin, Tettey, Howson, Dorrans (Redmond 68), Hoolahan (O’Neil 85), Brady, Jerome (Mbokani 64). Unused subs: Rudd, Wisdom, Grabban, Bennett.
Referee: Mike Dean.