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Prem Snapshot: Hammers stand firm

TEAMtalk hails a fine defensive display from West Ham as they held Premier League champions Manchester City to a goalless draw on Saturday.

Last Updated: 03/11/12 at 22:55 Post Comment

Sam Allardyce: Saw his side draw with the champions

Sam Allardyce: Saw his side draw with the champions

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West Ham defended resolutely to earn a valuable draw against champions Manchester City, who slipped two points behind new leaders Manchester United.

Roberto Mancini's side squandered several chances as a hard-working and well-organised West Ham side held firm.

And it could have been much worse for the champions, with Kevin Nolan's legitimate early goal disallowed for offside, while Yossi Benayoun hit the crossbar.

SELECTION

Sam Allardyce made just one change to his West Ham team, with Joey O'Brien drafted into defence in place of James Tomkins.

City boss Mancini made three changes for the clash, bringing in strikers Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko up front, while also handing centre-half Kolo Toure his first league start since August. Mancini also recalled James Milner but the England international was injured in the warm-up so Gareth Barry retained his place in the team.

TACTICS

For West Ham, Allardyce employed a 4-4-2, with Nolan playing ahead of England striker Andy Carroll at times. This almost paid off, with Nolan having a goal disallowed early on for offside, while Benayoun hit the crossbar. The Hammers then held firm against increasing City dominance through hard work and organisation and continued to look dangerous on the break.

City unleashed Balotelli, Carlos Tevez and Dzeko in the same starting line-up for the first time in a bold 4-3-3 formation. But if the City boss hoped this would unpick the Hammers' defence, he was proved wrong as City created few clear-cut chances despite the lion's share of possession.

SUBSTITUTIONS

Allardyce used his full quota of substitutions towards the end of the game, bringing on Gary O'Neil for the hard-working Mohamed Diame in the 71st minute, Carlton Cole for Carroll upfront, with the big frontman holding the ball up well to take some of the pressure off the hard-worked defence, while Jordan Spence worked hard when he came on for injured defender James Collins late on to help the Hammers hold on for a valuable point.

Mancini also used three substitutes, but despite the deadlock, waited until the 69th minute to replace Balotelli with Sergio Aguero. The Argentinian showed good touches but he failed to provide the spark the City boss was looking for.

Late on, Mancini replaced the lively Tevez with Javi Garcia, who had little impact, while Scott Sinclair had no time to influence proceedings when he came on at the death for Samir Nasri.

REFEREE

Howard Webb let the game flow well, and there could be no complaints about the three yellow cards he handed out, all for late challenges. But the officials got three decisions wrong, including the early goal from Nolan which would have changed the course of the game.

At the other end, Dzeko headed a rebound from close range wide but was flagged offside when he wasn't. And later on, the officials missed Barry handling the ball when collecting it in the box but the Hammers were let off when he then shot wide.

MAIN MEN

Tevez was the most potent threat for City against his former club, with the Argentinian proving a real livewire as the champions tried to break through the stubborn Hammers defence.

Tevez showed great touch and vision when linking up with his team-mates, although his crossing from dead-ball situations sometimes left something to be desired.

His place among the Hammers' hearts was shown with the warm applause he received from the Upton Park faithful throughout the game and when he was substituted late on.

James Collins put in a great performance in the heart of the West Ham defence, going that extra mile to keep City out, but the whole of the Hammers' backline deserve praise for the way they held firm in the face of increasing pressure.

Despite hovering around the Hammers' box, City rarely found a way through, with high crosses particularly well cleared. Collins also got a standing ovation as he left the field soon after Tevez.

LOOKING AHEAD

Allardyce was delighted with the resolve his side showed to bounce back from their defeat at Wigan last time.

It earned the Hammers another valuable point in their bid to stay in the top flight this season - with the hosts sitting in eighth in the table on a respectable 15 points from their opening ten games. The Hammers face Newcastle, Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal before the turn of the year and Allardyce's side can head into what could prove a testing period with renewed vigour.

For City, Mancini will see this goalless draw - his side's first since Boxing Day - as a one-off blip. The champions fell two points behind Manchester United, but there is still a long way to go in the title race with, like last year, plenty of twists and turns on the way.

Mancini must raise his troops for the must-win game against Ajax on Tuesday as City look to give themselves some hope of progressing into the knock-out phases of the UEFA Champions League.

The clash with the Dutch side is the first of four home games for Mancini's side including the mouth-watering meeting with Real Madrid later this month, with league games against Spurs and Aston Villa also on the agenda. Following this run of four home matches is the massive trip to title rivals Chelsea as the games come thick and fast - seven in November.

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