José Mourinho may have criticized Sam Allardyce’s “19th century tactics” after West Ham held Chelsea to a goalless draw midweek, but Allardyce played everything perfectly in the match against Swansea. The plan? Plump balls in and let Andy Carroll get on the end of them. Eventually, goals will come.
The result? A vital win for West Ham, their first at Upton Park since November. The Irons temporarily pull themselves above Stoke, who face Manchester United later today, and out of the drop.
It took awhile for West Ham, who attacked straight from the opening whistle, to turn their constant pressure into goals. But in the 26th minute, their strategy paid off perfectly. Carroll knocked down a cross from Matt Taylor, heading it directly into the path of Kevin Nolan. Nolan’s finish was spot on, volleying into the bottom right corner.
Swansea’s best chance of the first half came in the 35th minute. A ball from Jonjo Shelvey sent Wilfried Bony free on goal, but James Tompkins was there, sliding in to stop the Swans striker. It looked as though it might be a penalty for the visitors, but Howard Webb held off. The referee has yet to award a spot kick this season.
The Irons capped off their domination of the first half with a second goal from Nolan. Swansea inexplicably left Carroll alone on the far post, allowing him to once again head into Nolan’s path. From close range, there was no way he could miss grabbing his side’s second.
It was Swansea that needed to look lively after the restart, but it was Carroll that very nearly made it three for the hosts. First his header from Matthew Jarvis’s corner went wide, and the same happened on a corner from Stewart Downing. Still, it looked more likely the Irons would increase their lead, rather than Swansea launching a comeback.
West Ham threw Swansea a lifeline in the 59th minute, when Andy Carroll was handed a straight red card after an altercation with Chico Flores. With the booking looking harsh on the replay, it’s possible the Irons will win an appeal and get the three-match ban reduced for their most valuable player.
For the final thirty minutes, the hosts sat back and soaked up the pressure, a logical move when down a man. More worrying for Michael Laudrup, however, is the fact that his Swansea side could barely threaten, despite being in the driver’s seat for the last half hour. With the loss, suddenly the Swans are just two points clear of the relegation zone.
West Ham United: Adrian, McCartney, Nolan (Nocerino 87), Tomkins, Jarvis (C. Cole 66), Carroll, Taylor (Reid 79), Noble, Collins, Demel, Downing
Goals: Nolan 26′; 45′
Swansea City: Tremmel, Tiendalli, Chico, Williams, Davies, Amat (Pozuelo 63), de Guzmán, Shelvey (Hernández 70), Dyer (Ngog 77), Routledge, Bony