English Premier League round-up: Andy Carroll attacks and then lifts West Ham past Swansea City
West Ham 3 Swansea City 1
LONDON // Beauty can take many forms. It may not be fashionable these days, but there is still something awesome about the sight of a big centre-forward, all thrusting chest and rippling thighs, straining his neck muscles to power a header at goal – all the more so when he has a preposterous ponytail that flaps behind him.
One football writer once said that Andy Carroll “attacks the ball like a dead horse being catapulted over a wall by an army besieging a city”. He was describing the centre-forward’s goal for England against Sweden at Euro 2012 and his opener against Swansea on Sunday was reminiscent of that strike.
Carl Jenkinson’s cross, whipped with perfect dip and curve to the far post, was inviting and once Carroll rose there was an inevitability to the flight of the ball back across goal and into the top corner.
That cancelled out Wilfried Bony’s opener and set West Ham on their way to a 3-1 win that lifted them to an unexpected third in the table.
Carroll also scored the second, rising in the box to meet a left-wing corner and head it just inside the post, despite Leon Britton’s attempts to keep it out.
It was West Ham’s 12th headed goal of the season, twice as many as any other side in the Premier League and more than any other club in Europe’s top five leagues other than Atletico Madrid.
Diafra Sakho then made sure of the points. First his pace took him through only to be checked by Lukasz Fabianksi.
The forward carried on and shot against the post but the referee Chris Foy deemed the chance had been made harder by the goalkeeper’s intervention and sent him off.
Sakho hit the post again before finally, with four minutes remaining, his pace took him clear and he smashed his finish past Gerhard Tremmel.
Carroll hadn’t scored at home for 878 days, and there is a school of thought that when he and Kevin Nolan are in the side it makes West Ham more predictable than they were when Sakho was paired with Enner Valencia.
With all three forwards fit, Sam Allardyce now has an awkward choice to make as to which two he selects but the fact is that on song, with the right kind of service, Carroll is as close to being unplayable as any forward can be.
“His movement and the quality of our balls in the box now is very apparent all season,” said Allardyce. We’ve scored more goals with our heads because of the quality of our balls in the final third. And the technical ability to head the ball.
“That’s got lost a bit in the game today: people don’t talk about the ability to meet a ball in the air at the right point.”
How big an impression Carroll goes on to make this season, of course, depends to a large degree on whether he can maintain his fitness, but if he can avoid injury, West Ham have both depth and variety to their attacking options.
They may not stay third, but this is a highly effective side and one that is, for all Allardyce’s critics, good to watch.
Man of the match Andy Carroll – Scored twice and was a constant menace on the air. On his day, as good an old-fashioned target-man as exists in the modern game.
West Ham 7/10 There were periods when they had a lot of the ball and not much penetration, but Carroll and Sakho gave them the edge.
Swansea 5/10 Very reliant on Bony for their attacking threat and never handled either Carroll’s power or Sakho’s pace.
Aston Villa 2 Leicester City 1
Aston Villa captain Gabriel Agbonlahor was a happy man after his side broke their Premier League home duck.
Goals from Ciaran Clark and Alan Hutton gave the home side a 2-1 victory, after Leonardo Ulloa had opened the scoring.
Agbonlahor said: “You don’t want that sort of record. The lads did brilliantly to get the three points today. Leicester are a tough side.”
Hutton, who scored his first goal in more than four years, said: “I’m happy to pitch in and do my best – it’s been that long since my last goal. We showed character and confidence.”
Hutton was involved in a 79th-minute incident in which Paul Konchesky was sent off. The defender clashed with the Villa man, who forced his head into Konchesky’s. Hutton escaped with a yellow card.
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Published: December 7, 2014 04:00 AM