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West Ham’s Enner Valencia Makes Mark As Points Are Shared With Hull

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ENNER Valencia provided stunning evidence that West Ham’s evolution may be worth watching with an early contender for goal of the season in a match that kicked stereotypes into touch.

Valencia, £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 Hull’s debutants Abel Hernández and Mohamed Diamé 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? “We are not supposed to be playing like that,” said Hull’s manager, Steve Bruce, before heading off for a beer with his counterpart Sam Allardyce. “We don’t normally play diamonds, we buy diamonds for people’s fingers,” 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 side’s game for the promotion of another. “Attractive football and no wins is no good to me, no good to the owners and no good to the supporters,” he said.

Let us hope it takes a while for both to work in unison. Here, West Ham’s more-open approach allowed Hull to go ahead when their record £10m signing Hernández 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 Hernández’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.

Hernández, the understudy to Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani with Uruguay, received a standing ovation at the interval but another performer from this past summer’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. “The power and accuracy of the shot meant it was past McGregor before he could move,” said Allardyce. “It’s one of the best goals you’ll see.”

In a flash Valencia had countered Hull’s momentum but he spurned the opportunity to turn the contest on its head shortly afterwards when he failed to connect with Winston Reid’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 Dawson’s chest and crossbar. It led Bruce – who admitted surprise at West Ham’s authentic 4-3-3 formation – to confess: “When I look back at this I will probably see it as a point gained.”

Allardyce, having seen one of Hull’s recent acquisitions pay an immediate dividend on a transfer-deadline investment, feared he was about to be left to rue another when Diamé, whom he sold to Hull for £3.5m, put the home team back in front. Diamé mugged his replacement in West Ham’s midfield, Cheikhou Kouyaté, in a central area, advanced into the area and scored off the inside of a post. “What sickened me most was that we gifted it to him,” said Allardyce, who witnessed even greater generosity on Hull’s part within two minutes.

Diafra Sakho’s cross-shot lacked power but somehow squirmed from the grasp of the Scotland international McGregor and bobbled off Curtis Davies’s heel into the net.

“If we had just been able to hold on to the lead for 10 minutes it might have been a different story,” said Bruce, who withdrew his two goalscorers for his two creative loanees Gastón Ramírez and Hatem Ben Arfa with 11 minutes to go.

Such was the enthralling nature of the contest that Assem Allam’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 “City Til I Die” chants in evidence.

They were met with boos from other areas of the home support.

Things are slowly changing in these parts. – The Guardian

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