Fifth it is as season ends with a draw at West Ham

The Blues today wrapped a credible but ultimately deflating campaign up with a 1-1 draw at Upton Park. With West Ham already safe and us unable to achieve Champions League qualification but safe in the top six it was hardly blood and thunder, but we created the better chances and came away with the point that would have guaranteed fifth place irrespective of what happened elsewhere.

Sylvinho replaced Wayne Bridge at left-back, Patrick Vieira came into central midfield for the injured Gareth Barry, Shaun Wright-Phillips took Craig Bellamy's place and Roque Santa Cruz earned a rare start ahead of former Hammer Carlos Tevez in a rigid 4-4-2.

For West Ham, Swiss youngster Fabio Daprela got the nod over Jonathan Spector on the left of defence, Diamanti and Boa Morte came in on the flanks, the latter starting his first game in a year after a serious injury. Otherwise it was the same side that lost at Craven Cottage, with the in-form Ilan partnering Carlton Cole in attack.

West Ham took the lead in the seventeenth minute and against the run of play. Alessandro Diamanti coolly back-heeled a ball between the City defence and winger Luis Boa Morte raced clear and fired across Fulop into the far corner. A very well taken goal, indeed.

The leveller didn't take too long to arrive, and involved our two English wingers in front of the watching national team assistant manager. Adam Johnson dinked a deep cross over from the byline and SWP, all five feet five of him, leapt like a salmon at the far post to head inside Green's far post.

Two minutes later we may have had a penalty. Johnson went on one of his mazy, Waddle-like runs, cutting in and between three players. As he was about to get his shot away Matt Upson lunged in, taking both ball and man. The decision could have gone either way, but the official waved for play to continue.

To add to our frustration we were then disallowed what appeared to be a perfectly good goal. Kolo Toure sprayed a pass over the defence, Adebayor for once had looked to have timed his run correctly, but the linesman flagged early and in truth Green did very little to stop the shot.

West Ham's best chance fell to the unpredictable Diamanti, his effort smashing against Fulop's post after he'd shaped in from the left, but it was us who ended the half the stronger. Firstly, Johnson's punt forward was chested down into Emmanuel Adebayor's path by Roque Santa Cruz. The £22m signing from Arsenal laid across the edge of the penalty area, but sadly Pablo Zabaleta was the man in space and his shot sailed aimlessly wide. Johnson then slid Ade in on goal, but Green saved, and in added time Santa Cruz headed wide when unmarked around six yards out from a corner.

The game certainly felt like an end-of-season affair, yet at the same time was relatively end-to-end and interesting. Ilan could have put the home side ahead into the second half after a buccaneering run through the middle of the park by Parker, but Fulop saved. Daprela earned a yellow card for a cynical lunge on Johnson, and Santa Cruz fired over after another lovely move down the left involving SWP and Manu.

West Ham rallied in the last twenty, only a great last-ditch challenge from Zabaleta saving out skin when Ilan had wriggled through. Both sides made changes, with the introduction of Tevez being met with the biggest cheer of the afternoon from all four corners of the ground. Franco had a low drive saved, Stanislas fluffed his lines when free in space, Tevez wormed through but the ball ended on the roof of Green's goal, and SWP and Franco could have settled it for either side with headers.

I thought it was a relatively commanding performance, but given neither side needed to win it's hard to read too much into the whole game. Adam Johnson was obviously the standout performer once more and outstanding for the first hour particularly. Wright-Phillips was involved in most things we did well going forwards, too, and his cameos on the left may give Mancini food for thought.

We can end the season with our heads held high knowing that we've improved considerably over the last twelve months. Though fourth place was well within reach the experience of falling just short will hopefully hold us in good stead for next season and beyond. With a couple of key additions over the summer we should stand a good chance of making that next step up. Forza Mancini!

Fulop, Zabaleta, Sylvinho (Tevez '73), Toure, Kompany, de Jong, A.Johnson (Cunningham '89), Vieira, Adebayor, Santa Cruz (Richards '73), Wright-Phillips


  1. As a West Ham fan, i'd say that was a fair report....this doesn not mean you are forgiven for handing totts 4th place!
    And give us our Carlos back.......

  2. Forza Mancini!

    Great review. Missed half the game.