Premier League Match Report: West Ham United vs. Cardiff City
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Cardiff were given a harsh lesson on the challenge Premier League football will give them today at Upton Park as manager Sam Allardyce's West Ham side were ruthless in a 2-0 victory.
A goal in each half for the Hammers, Joe Cole with the first and Kevin Nolan with the second, secured a comfortable three points that gets their season off to a flying start. Manager Malky Mackay is left to study his side's consistently exposed defence and their blunt attacking play.
The first half was characterised by Cardiff's unorganised defence and West Ham's confident midfield play. Momo Diame and Joe Cole both looked to be enjoying themselves throughout. Both players were confident with the ball at their feet and drifted happily across the park.
West Ham started the stronger and their play out wide provided the first notable attack of the game, with a Matt Jarvis cross finding Joe Cole at the back post, but Cole could not capitalize.
Not long after came Cardiff's best chance of the half. Kim Bo-Kyung broke on the counter for Cardiff, but shot early when Craig Bellamy had found space on the outside of him. The effort flashed wide, and whilst Bellamy gave him an earful, these two were the only ones showing any intent when Cardiff made their way into the home sides' half.
The breakthrough came when Diame and Jarvis combined on the left flank. The winger hit the byline and played in a low cross that Cole collected, turned with and drove for a fine shot into the Cardiff net.
Not long after he was was threatening the goal again.
Played through by Mark Noble, Cole collected the ball two yards ahead of the Cardiff defence, but his attempted lob floated innocuously into David Marshall's hands.
Big Sam: "I was delighted with Joe's goal but then Joe told me at the end of the game that he should have had a hat-trick before half-time!"
Big Sam: "I was delighted with Joe's goal but then Joe told me at the end of the game that he should have had a hat-trick before half-time!"— West Ham United FC (@whufc_official) August 17, 2013
West Ham continued to grow into the game, whereas Cardiff were losing the midfield battle. New Cardiff signing Gary Medel looked combative and comfortable on the ball, but the rest of the midfield were overwhelmed by West Ham's confidence on the ball, highlighted by the ever impressive Mohammed Diame.
Diame's influence on the game continued to grow. He won tackles, flew past opposition players and nearly added a second goal before halftime. His shot from the edge of the box deflected just wide of Marshall's post with the 'keeper beaten. Collins exploited Cardiff's problems at the back to win a header from the resulting corner, but failed to make a meaningful connection.
Cardiff at least approached the second half in much better fashion when they were happier on the ball and keept possession far better. Unfortunately, the new boys spent far too much time playing in front of a solid West Ham defence and created very little throughout the game.
The first real threat of the second half came from Cardiff delaying to clear in defence. Joey O'Brien pounced on Caulker at the back and fed in Maiga. His effort was saved well by Marshall.
In what was a reasonably quiet second half, West Ham were content to let Cardiff pass without penetration and break. It was the appearance of a new face at Upton Park that livened up the game.
New signing Stewart Downing entered the field in a West Ham shirt for the first time just at 70 minutes. Cardiff made a double change soon after in an attempt to capitalise on the tense anxiety that spread through the West Ham fans as their team held onto a slender lead.
But those nerves were eased on 75 minutes as captain Kevin Nolan put the Hammers 2-0 up and all but confirmed the three points.
A neat move down the right side of the park saw Downing, Maiga and Noble combining with quick passes before Noble broke away to pass it off to Nolan.
The captain stroked a side-footed curler to the right of Cardiff's 'keeper.
The game faded from there, although Cardiff made their one chance near the end of the match. A Peter Whittingham shot dragged across the goal was clipped over from six yards by former West Ham player and substitute Nicky Maynard.
Cardiff will have been frustrated by some stagnant play but the game showed just how big a challenge the promoted sides face.
West Ham fans will enjoy their day. They should remember Diame's majestic performance, the creative display of Joe Cole and how quickly Stewart Downing burst into the game from the bench to cause problems for the Cardiff defence by repeatedly beating his man and putting in threatening right-footed crosses.
West Ham United: Jaaskelainen, Demel, Reid, Collins, O'Brien, Cole (Vaz Te 90'), Diame (Diarra 82'), Nolan, Noble, Jarvis (Downing 71'), Maiga.
Cardiff City: Marshall, Connolly, Caulker, Turner, John, Whittingham, Medel, Gunnarsson, Kim (Maynard 75'), Bellamy (Gestede 75'), Campbell (Mutch 90').
West Ham Substitutes: Adrian, Diarra, Rat, Morrison, Downing, Tomkins, Vaz Te.
Cardiff Substitutes: Lewis, Hudson, Mutch, Cowie, Smith, Gestede, Maynard.
Scorers: Joe Cole 13', Nolan 76'.
Ref: H. Webb.
Attendance: 34, 977.
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