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West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
April 17, 2013
• Boleyn Ground, London
Referee: L. Probert
• Attendance: 34692
West Ham United
Ricardo Vaz Té 17'
M. Diamé 55'
A. Valencia 31'
R. van Persie 77'
If all Wednesday night games towards the end of the Premier League season were like that, I don't think my heart could take it. I've been Tom J Doyle, and thanks for joining us. Stick with Goal.com for reports, ratings and reaction from all tonight's games. Have a great night.
That's it! Lee Probert brings a thrilling 2-2 draw to an end, and a point apiece is probably fair. Manchester United didn't get going until they went 2-1 down against a hugely impressive West Ham side, but could have stolen it in the dying stages. The Red Devils will have to wait a little longer for the title, but the Hammers are all but safe.
90' + 4'
Collins looks like he'll pump this free kick long - one last chance for the Hammers?
90' + 3'
Oh Matt Taylor - a mistake lets in the midfielder but he loses his composure bearing down on goal and blasts it high into the stand behind De Gea...
90' + 2'
Close for Hernandez! Giggs so nearly sets up Hernandez but the striker can't control the ball from six yards out...
The corner comes to nothing, and four minutes of injury time remain...
Giggs finally works a cross into the box with his right foot which almost falls for Valencia, but his shot is well blocked from six yards out. The visitors now have a corner...
Giggs tries to teasse Demel but can't get an accurate cross into the box - Sam Allardyce will take huge heart from this performance, full of discipline and confidence. He will be disappointed they've let the lead slip twice though against a subdued United team.
Van Persie, presumably feeling confident from two goals in two games - lines up a shot from distance, but it flies well wide. Time is running out for either side to find a winner.
STAT ATTACK (@OptaJoe): "69 - Since January 2011, Robin van Persie has scored 69 PL goals (in 88 games), 20 more than any other player in that period. Streak."
Carlos Tevez has given Manchester City the lead against Wigan - if the scores stay the same United's lead would be cut to 10 points, so Ferguson will be desperate for his side to keep pushing for a winner.
Carrick finds substitute Javier Hernandez with a good ball over the top, but the Mexico striker can't quite get enough on his six-yard header, which falls into the grateful clutches of Jaaskelainen.
STAT ATTACK (@OptaJoe): "12 - Robin van Persie now has 12 Premier League away goals this season, level with Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale. Trio."
West Ham can feel hard done by as Van Persie was half a yard offside when Kagawa's shot came in, but you always run the risk of sitting too deep against United when only one goal ahead.
Hernandez replaces the excellent Kagawa - can he find the vital strike in the last 15 minutes?
Goal Robin van Persie
VAN PERSIE MAKES IT 2-2!!! Carrick finds Kagawa in the middle and the Japan midfielder works space for a shot - it gets a slight deflection off of Collins and hits both posts before falling kindly to Van Persie - who is offside by the way - who side-foots into the roof of the net from eight yards.
Hernandez is ready to come on for the visitors....
Although United need the goals, West Ham are still pressing forward - although they may come to regret that if the visitors hit them on the counter. No chance of that at this pace though.
Rafael lines up another QPR-esque stunner but leans back a little too far and the ball goes sailing over the bar from 20 yards out. Meanwhile, the subdued Wayne Rooney has been replaced by Ryan Giggs.
Great stop from Jaaskelainen! Valencia crosses once more for Van Persie who powers a header at goal, but the keeper sticks up a strong glove to deflect the ball up and over the bar.
Sam Allardyce has got his tactics spot on so far and he's replacing Gary O'Neil with Mark Noble for more energy in the middle - he'll be important as legs tire in the centre.
Oh dear Rafael - Michael Carrick slots a curling pass across the field to him, but it slips past his waiting foot and out for a throw. Ferguson will not be pleased with mistakes like that.
The visitors are getting more confident going forward now, and West Ham will have to be disciplined to keep them out - but they've offered more than enough in forward positions themselves to give United something to think about on the break.
Is that over the line?! No - West Ham survive. United work a great corner routine with Van Persie drilling a cross into Rooney, whose mishit finish bobbles past a sprawling Jaaskelainen save only to be cleared off of the line by Gary O'Neil.
If Manchester City are to capitalise on the slimmest of title hopes then they'll need to get moving, as they're currently drawing 0-0 at home to Wigan - consider that one a dress rehearsal for the FA Cup final.
What a save from Jaaskelainen! Valencia hits in a beautiful cross for Van Persie who looks certain to score, but the keeper sticks out a boot to block away the striker's volley from six yards. The Holland forward is given offside, but take nothing away from the stop.
Assist Guy Demel
Goal Mohamed Diame
DIAME SCORES A SCREAMER!!! What a goal from the Senegal international, who takes Rooney out of the game with a brilliant turn on the right-hand corner of the box before curling into the right-hand corner of De Gea's net from 20 yards. Pure class.
So close for Carroll! The striker tries a wonder strike moments after getting booked, taking the ball down and volleying from 30 yards - but he can only find the side-netting of De Gea's goal. Top marks for improvisation.
Yellow Card Andy Carroll
The ball hangs high in the United penalty area and De Gea climbs to claim the ball, which he does. The only problem is he has the ball in his grasp around Carroll's chest, and it eventually drops to Nolan, who finishes after the referee blows his whistle. The striker rolls on the floor after appearing to get a hand in the face from the keeper, but is booked for his troubles. Odd.
Jarvis puts in another excellent cross from the left and Nolan is waiting on the six-yard line, but Vidic gets a vital header away. The Serbian's importance in the air for United cannot be underestimated.
We're off again - and United should score! Rooney finds Van Persie at the back post but rather than shoot, the striker pulls it back for an onrushing Jones, who can only snatch at a volley and fails to get any meaningful contact.
STAT ATTACK (via @OptaJoe): "21 - Man Utd have now scored in 21 consecutive Premier League games, the next longest current run is Aston Villa with five. Gap."
And that's half-time! What a great 45 minutes we've had here - it's one goal apiece and neither team is backing down - not when you've got Andy 'The Chest' Carroll sprinting into you at full flow. The second half should be a cracker if the first was anything to go by.
45' + 1'
And now Carroll completely pole-axes De Gea in the air after the keeper punches the corner clear - Sir Alex Ferguson is not a happy man after that clumsy challenge from the striker.
We'll have a minute of injury time, and West Ham have a corner. Probert again has to talk to the players, and replays show Carroll looked to have a little kick out at Rooney. Not too much of anything, but a silly thing to do in this day and age.
Rooney loses the ball and clips Diame in frustration here - it wouldn't be a Manchester United game without Rooney chasing down kicking somebody with a face on now, would it?
Replays show Vidic had an outstretched arm and his fingers may just have caught Carroll's face, but it definitely wasn't an elbow - and now Nolan wants a penalty for a shove in the box by the Serbian. It's a fiery end to a frenetic half.
Well, as soon as I saw Kagawa is one to watch, he almost costs United a goal. His sloppy pass lets West Ham attack and Jarvis whips in a high ball from the left - Carroll and Vidic climb for the ball and the striker goes down after an apparent swipe by the defender.
Vidic slips in the centre of the pitch while cutting out Vaz Te's pass to Carroll, but with the centre-back caught out of position the Portuguese's next pass is shoddy and a breakaway chance goes begging.
Going back to the United goal, it really was sensational work from Kagawa - he showed great composure to leave Reid on the floor and find Valencia. There's been talk of United needing to recruit more creative midfielders in the summer, but the young Japanese will be a big player for them on this form.
Now Valencia feeds Rafael down the right wing but the Brazilian's cross is cut out - this is turning into end-to-end stuff.
Chance for Diame! The midfielder shows off some good footwork on the left wing before blasting an effort into the side netting. Not really a great effort, but it shows West Ham are not about to let this one slip away.
Assist Shinji Kagawa
Goal Antonio Valencia
VALENCIA LEVELS IT!!! I said he needed a big game today and he's netted a rare goal after magnificent work by Kagawa. Van Persie and the Japanese exchanged passes on the wing, and the midfielder sold Reid a beautiful dummy before pulling the ball back for Valencia to tap in from two yards.
De Gea is really lucky with a clearance that he slices out along the floor, but it doesn't matter because...
Carroll tackles Jones well but then Nolan dumps Rooney on the floor with a challenge from behind. He picks up the striker in a show of remorse but he can only keep helping people up for so long before he gets a yellow card - smile or no smile.
Almost a goal for United as Van Persie, Kagawa, Rooney and Evra combine beautifully to release the left-back in the box, but his cut-back from the byeline is cleared before a finishing touch can be applied. That's better from the visitors.
STAT ATTACK (via @OptaJoe): "4 - Andy Carroll has now been involved in four goals (3 goals, one assist) in his last three Premier League appearances. Leader."
While the hosts look in fine form, Manchester United have fought back from losing positions to gain 27 points this season, so there's no cause for panic just yet.
The visitors have struggled to get into this one so far. They only need another seven points to reclaim the Premier League title from rivals Manchester City, but a defeat here would add unwanted pressure to their run-in.
United look angry - they press forward with West Ham defenders camped around their box, but Kagawa's 20-yard shot is well blocked by Collins. The Japanese playmaker found himself in a lot of space though, and the hosts will have to close up that gap in front of their area.
Jarvis goes down in the box under a challenge from Ferdinand and the home supporters scream for a penalty, but there's nothing doing from Probert. The winger has been in great form so far.
Assist Andy Carroll
Goal Ricardo Vaz Te
VAZ TE SCORES!!! West Ham break well after a United attack and Matt Jarvis does brilliantly to beat Ferdinand on the left wing and hang up a high cross for Carroll at the back post. The England striker easily beats Patrice Evra in the air and his header is nodded home by the Portuguese forward in between Rafael and Vidic.
Referee Lee Probert warns Carroll & Co. for boxing in De Gea - they've obviously got a game plan when it comes to the Spanish keeper. When the corner does eventually come in, the tall striker can only head the ball over the bar.
Demel does well down the right and wins a corner off of Rafael - this is a chance for West Ham...
Jones reads the ball well here as it breaks on the edge of the box with Nolan lurking, and the United man clears the ball and wins a free kick in the process. This will be a great battle if the pair can keep up the intensity.
Van Persie is almost in here after a great long ball from Ferdinand, but James Collins is quick to react and gets the ball away for a corner. Good work from the centre-back there.
Jones buys a free kick after being tripped near his own penalty box by Nolan, and the midfielder helps the youngster up with a smile on his face. It's a great atmosphere at Upton Park.
Allardyce will be pleased with his side's opening to the game - they look confident on the ball and strong in the air, which is just the way Big Sam likes them.
Close for the Hammers! Vaz Te's cross is only partially cleared by Vidic and Carroll eventually maneuvers into a shooting position just outside the box. He fires in a low effort which Nolan seems to deflect inches wide of David de Gea's left-hand post, but the flag correctly goes up for offside.
Speak of the (Red) Devil... Van Persie works hard to get a cross into the box from the left and nobody picks up Valencia, but his first touch is poor and the opportunity goes begging.
Valencia looks to clear the ball up the pitch but can't get enough behind it and West Ham win a throw. It's a big night for the industrious winger who has failed to shine this season, and could find his place under threat with potential summer signings.
And we're off! Bubbles float across the pitch as West Ham attack early on with Carroll and Diame causing problems in the United penalty box with their aerial ability already.
The teams are out, and with the hosts nearly safe and United all but home and dry for the title, we should hopefully see some great attacking play free from the usual pressures of the Premier League.
Javier Hernandez has to settle for a place on the United bench yet again despite recent reports suggesting he wants to start more often for the Premier League leaders. Phil Jones joins Michael Carrick in central midfield, while the attacking quartet of Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Shinji Kagawa and Antonio Valencia looks ominous for the Hammers.
Sam Allardyce has kept faith with an in-form Andy Carroll, who will do battle with United's formidable centre-back pairing of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, with Kevin Nolan just behind ready to snaffle up any knock-downs.
Our man Hus Kerai has been soaking up the rays at the ground: "Good evening from a sun-kissed Upton Park. Sir Alex Ferguson brings Manchester United to London's east end needing only seven points to secure a 20th Premier League title. The Hammers meanwhile looked to have done enough to retain their top-flight status for another season. So the pressure should be off both side's shoulders which, hopefully for us, should set up a cracking evening's football."
Manchester United Starting XI: De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Valencia, Jones, Carrick, Kagawa; Rooney, Van Persie. Subs: Amos, Evans, Giggs, Chicharito, Nani, Welbeck, Cleverley.
West Ham Starting XI: Jaaskelainen; Demel, Reid, Collins, O'Brien; Jarvis, Diame, O'Neil, Vaz Te; Nolan; Carroll. Subs: Henderson, Cole, Collison, Maiga, Taylor, Noble, Pogatetz.
Good evening and welcome to Goal.com's LIVE commentary of West Ham United vs Manchester United as Upton Park. It's been an absolutely beautiful day in London, so let's hope the football lives up to the fine weather. I'm Tom J Doyle (@TomJDoyle) - team news to follow...
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