ENNER Valencia provided stunning evidence that West Hamâ€™s evolution may be worth watching with an early contender for goal of the season in a match that kicked stereotypes into touch.
Valencia, Â£12m worth of Ecuador striker, marked his first Premier League start with a Tony Yeboah-esque equaliser and came within an inch or two of a last-gasp winner as these sides ditched defensive solidity for more expansive approaches. His 25-yarder was sandwiched by classy finishes from Hullâ€™s debutants Abel HernÃ¡ndez and Mohamed DiamÃ© before a howler from the goalkeeper Allan McGregor resulted in a Curtis Davies own goal.
Who knew Monday nights in East Yorkshire could be such fun? â€œWe are not supposed to be playing like that,â€ said Hull’s manager, Steve Bruce, before heading off for a beer with his counterpart Sam Allardyce. â€œWe donâ€™t normally play diamonds, we buy diamonds for peopleâ€™s fingers,â€ he joked of the formations.
On this evidence both teams need tightening at the back. Allardyce, although enthused by the attacking threat of a side he laced with three forwards, was left to bemoan the sacrifice of one part of his sideâ€™s game for the promotion of another. â€œAttractive football and no wins is no good to me, no good to the owners and no good to the supporters,â€ he said.
Let us hope it takes a while for both to work in unison. Here, West Hamâ€™s more-open approach allowed Hull to go ahead when their record Â£10m signing HernÃ¡ndez elegantly stole in front of James Tomkins to powerfully head them into a 39th-minute lead. It was so nearly 2-0 before the interval but HernÃ¡ndezâ€™s dipping effort from outside the area struck the underside of the bar and his fellow striker Nikica Jelavic was flagged offside as he nodded the rebound into an empty net.
HernÃ¡ndez, the understudy to Luis SuÃ¡rez and Edinson Cavani with Uruguay, received a standing ovation at the interval but another performer from this past summerâ€™s World Cup altered the mood within the KC Stadium. Valencia teased Michael Dawson with his fleet of foot and, having a bought a yard, lashed in from distance. â€œThe power and accuracy of the shot meant it was past McGregor before he could move,â€ said Allardyce. â€œItâ€™s one of the best goals youâ€™ll see.â€
In a flash Valencia had countered Hullâ€™s momentum but he spurned the opportunity to turn the contest on its head shortly afterwards when he failed to connect with Winston Reidâ€™s goalward header, unmarked and six yards out. With seconds left he had a chance even closer to the line but his header found its way over via a combination of Dawsonâ€™s chest and crossbar. It led Bruce â€“ who admitted surprise at West Hamâ€™s authentic 4-3-3 formation â€“ to confess: â€œWhen I look back at this I will probably see it as a point gained.â€
Allardyce, having seen one of Hullâ€™s recent acquisitions pay an immediate dividend on a transfer-deadline investment, feared he was about to be left to rue another when DiamÃ©, whom he sold to Hull for Â£3.5m, put the home team back in front. DiamÃ© mugged his replacement in West Hamâ€™s midfield, Cheikhou KouyatÃ©, in a central area, advanced into the area and scored off the inside of a post. â€œWhat sickened me most was that we gifted it to him,â€ said Allardyce, who witnessed even greater generosity on Hullâ€™s part within two minutes.
Diafra Sakhoâ€™s cross-shot lacked power but somehow squirmed from the grasp of the Scotland international McGregor and bobbled off Curtis Daviesâ€™s heel into the net.
â€œIf we had just been able to hold on to the lead for 10 minutes it might have been a different story,â€ said Bruce, who withdrew his two goalscorers for his two creative loanees GastÃ³n RamÃrez and Hatem Ben Arfa with 11 minutes to go.
Such was the enthralling nature of the contest that Assem Allamâ€™s recent reiteration of his desire to re-brand to Hull Tigers barely caused a ripple. Only when the match lulled in about the 20th minute were the â€œCity Til I Dieâ€ chants in evidence.
They were met with boos from other areas of the home support.
Things are slowly changing in these parts. – The Guardian