Stoke foil West Ham Europa League chances after hanging on for 1-1 draw
By Michael Botsford ,AP Wednesday, November 21, 2012, 12:03 am TWN
LONDON -- West Ham missed a chance to move into the Europa League place after being held to a 1-1 draw by Stoke in the Premier League on Monday.
Stoke opened the scoring in the 13th minute after a set move from a corner involving Peter Crouch, Jonathan Walters and Glenn Whelan. As West Ham's defenders focused on Crouch, Walters ran into space behind him and smashed Whelan's low drive from a corner first time into the net.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis said his team had been practicing the elaborate play for several days.
"Jonathan Walters had never scored a goal from it. It's lovely when it comes off in a game," Pulis said.
Midfielder Charlie Adam and center back Robert Huth performed blocking roles in the move, a fact that annoyed West Ham manager Sam Allardyce, who praised Walter's "lovely finish" but said "the corner was undefendable."
West Ham equalized in the 48th minute at Upton Park. Mohamed Diame dribbled into the Stoke box, daring a defender to make a challenge. When no one did, he played the ball to Gary O'Neil, whose low pass across the six-yard box was turned in by Irish defender Joey O'Brien for his first goal at the club.
Replays showed O'Brien may have been marginally offside with his knee just ahead of the last defender.
"It's a decision that went against us and we'll have to take it on the chin. They've given it to West Ham and you just get on with it," Pulis said. "The worst thing that happened to us was halftime."
West Ham would have moved into the Europa League spot at fifth place in the standings with a win, but the result means it stays seventh and Stoke remains 14th.
Stoke dominated the first half and nearly doubled its advantage when Stephen N'Zonzi's half-volley hit the underside of the bar in the 38th.
Unsurprisingly given that Stoke has the lowest possession percentage in the league, West Ham had a lot of the ball but were unable to create many clear-cut chances against a defense that had previously conceded just 10 goals all season.
West Ham almost hit the front when several players had shots in target within the area in the 58th minute, but Stoke was able to block them all.
In the 63rd, West Ham caught Stoke unaware from a corner with O'Neil curling the ball past diving goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and the post.
Andy Carroll, on loan at West Ham from Liverpool, still hasn't scored after eight games and was visibly unhappy at being replaced late in the match as the Hammers extended their unbeaten run to three games.
"I'm disappointed at the moment that we didn't win it, but in the end scoring chances is the most difficult thing in this league," Allardyce said. "I was very pleased with the second-half performance."
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