More misery for West Ham as they were soundly beaten at Upton Park to find themselves on the wrong end of a record 9-0 aggregate thrashing
... that's it! Manchester City have reached their first League Cup final since 1976, but that's not really the story tonight, seeing we knew that was going to happen anyway. West Ham have suffered the biggest two-leg skelping in an English domestic cup final, a nine-goal hammering, and it's one that sees them depart a three-quarters empty Upton Park to boos. That 10-3 aggregate win over Cardiff in 1966 seems an awful long time ago, all of a sudden!
90 min: Clichy turns on the burners down the inside left and feeds Kolarov, who wins a corner. From the set piece, the ball falls to Jovetic, to the right of the area. He tries to float a chip over Jaaskelainen, and nearly manages it, but West Ham are spared a 10-0 aggregate loss, because ...
89 min: Diame has landed awkwardly and is being bundled onto a stretcher. He'll be replaced by Collison. "Can Nat's Cat play centre half for us v Chelsea next week?" asks Ian Sargeant, who has clearly been considering the talents of Roger Johnson in some detail since we last heard from him on 20 mins.
87 min: 9-0, though.
84 min: Negredo, after challenging Tomkins down the right, falls awkwardly off the pitch. For a second, it looks as though he's popped his shoulder out of its socket, but the doctor has a quick look and, after 120 seconds of concern for City, prepares to send his man back onto the field of play.
81 min: The ball bounces a lot in the City area. Cole has a whack at goal but his close-range strike is blocked. No matter, it's dropping to Stewart Downing, six yards out, clear, just to the left of goal. Does the next bit of this report read:
GOAL! West Ham United 1-3 Manchester City (Downing 82)What a strike by Stewart Downing, confidently dispatched past Pantilimon with trademark sass!
82 min: Downing witlessly shins the ball out of play and into the crowd.
80 min: Lopes, who has been excellent tonight, wins a corner down the right. He takes the set piece himself. It's cleared. He whips the ball in again. It's cleared again. He's a very busy player, this lad, a real prospect.
79 min: Navas is hooked for Kolarov.
76 min: Cole is robbed by Negredo in the centre circle. City are three on two. The striker, on a hat-trick, unselfishly slips the ball out right to Jesus Navas, who wangs a risible effort over the bar for three rugby points. Oh Jesus!
74 min: A forgettable few seconds for Cole. First he is outjumped at the right-hand post when attempting to get on the end of Downing's left-wing cross. Nastasic concedes the corner. Then the striker misses from six yards, heading lamely wide left of goal with a consolation begging to be scored. West Ham have been much better in this half. Who would deny them a little something?
71 min: Nolan attempts to score with a bicycle kick. You can't fault the ambition. "I note Iain Ritson described the 6-0 defeat against Oldham as a 'monumental low'," writes Matt Beavis. "It was ... until now. Pales in comparison to this tie, and indeed, this season."
70 min: Lopes twists and turns down the right, and sends a cross into the area which defies all physics and somehow bounces onto the crossbar. Jaaskelainen claims. That would have put a tin lid on this result. "Please, please, please don't repeat any Hammers fans complaining about dodgy plastic pitches," begs someone or something claiming to be Nathan North's Cat. "I'm under the sofa in Nat's sitting room right now and that's where I'll be for the rest of the MBM. I'm relying on you, Mr. Murray - my life depends on it!"
66 min: In between those two substitutions - in homage to the West Ham defence, this MBM's chronology is now all over the shop - Clichy was booked for a cynical lunge on the highly exciting Morrison.
64 min: A couple of City changes. First Jack Rodwell - already in danger of being filed under Do You Remember? alongside space hoppers and Spangles - comes on for Javi Garcia. Then Stevan Jovetic - already in danger of being filed under Do You Remember? alongside space hoppers, Spangles and Jack Rodwell - replaces Aguero.
61 min: Morrison Maradonas his way down the middle of the park but is denied as he shoots by the sliding Lescott. That was an exquisite run, delightful balance and tight control. Aguero tries to replicate Morrison's skill up the other end, and nearly manages it, but he loses control on the edge of the area. This surreal match is slipping into testimonial territory now.
59 min: BOOOOOOOOOOOOO, cry the West Ham fans. BOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
It's 9-0 on aggregate now, as Negredo bustles with extreme prejudice down the inside left. He really should be crowded out of it by three claret-and-blue shirts, but nothing's taking that ball off him! He eventually half-kicks, half-knees the ball over Jaaskelainen and in from a tight angle, despite Taylor all over his back. That's a wonderful I'm-scoring-at-all-costs-and-I-don't-care-what-it-looks-like finish.
57 min: Downing flies down the left and stands one up into the centre. Diame controls, and shapes to shoot from 12 yards, but then runs into Cole, reverting to clumsy type. City clear, and Aguero races down the left. His low centre is met by Negredo, who tries to spin on the spot and score a Gerd Muller goal, six yards out. But no.
54 min: Cole, who has cut an impressive figure since the restart, has his standing leg taken from under him by Nastasic as he shapes to shoot on the edge of the City D. Morrison blams a witless free kick straight into the City wall.
50 min: Cole bustles down the left and can't quite get a shot away, but this is much better from the home side. Morrison was upended again in the box, too, under pressure from Javi Garcia. If West Ham didn't already know it isn't going to be their night, 8-0 down on aggregate and all that, they do now.
48 min: West Ham should have had a penalty, as Morrison jinked into the area down the middle only to get his foot stamped on by Lescott. The subsequent elaborate dive probably didn't do him any favours there. Not a whole load of contact, but you've seen them given, put it that way.
47 min: And now Joe Cole departs, with Downing replacing him. Cole hasn't done much tonight, apart from breathe ostentatiously through his mouth. A wild guess, but he's not at top fitness right now.
And we're back! A change for West Ham: Carlton Cole comes on for Andy Carroll. It never rains, does it. "I have never previously felt any sympathy for Sam Allardyce," writes Ian Copestake, "and am wondering how many West Ham have to lose by before I do." Also not giving poor downtrodden West Ham supporters an inch is Oldham fan Nathan North: "If I read one more excuse from Hammers fans about 'dodgy plastic pitches' I'll eat my cat. The Boundary Park pitch was pretty much true in terms of both bounce and level - or Oldham wouldn't have been able to play such scintillating passing football that season. It was certainly more true than the bumpy mud-bath that was Upton Park for the return leg. Hello! The pitch is the same for both teams! And West Ham were justly hammered on it."
Half-time entertainment: Designed to help West Ham fans, who might want to curl up in bed in the foetal position, find their neutral space.
West Ham only need one goal to avoid this being the biggest aggregate semi-final thumping in League Cup history. Oddly enough, they were previously the biggest victors in this respect, too, 10-3 against Cardiff City in 1966. One goal in 45 minutes. It's on!
44 min: Carroll again causes some bother in the City box, this time panicking Lescott into the concession of a corner. The set piece is a waste of time, though in that respect this particular snippet of action doesn't stand out this evening.
43 min: Lopes sprints after a long ball down the left. Jaaskelainen comes out to the edge of his area and claims brilliantly. For a second, it looked as though a penalty could be on the cards then, but that was excellent goalkeeping, a perfectly timed smother. Brad Guzan take note.
40 min: A corner for City after Navas danced down the inside-right and fired a ball into the centre, forcing Diame to hack clear from six yards out. Nothing comes of the set piece. "Right, time for Plan B," announces pre-match optimism's Tom Shaw. "Er, anybody know where it's kept?"
38 min: Diarra is booked for a cynical clip on Aguero. Negredo's free kick, from 25 yards out, looking for the top left, is worse than useless. Meanwhile, quite understandably, one or two West Ham fans are taking the chance to spend the night unloading on Dr Murray's Psychiatrist's Couch. We've already had Iain and Ian, now here's Daniel Barnett with catharsis on his mind: "I was at that semi-final at Oldham. Stood in the away end along with another 4 or 5 thousand miserable Hammers, no roof, poured down all night. The plastic pitch was atrocious (although not as bad as our team’s attitude). Mind you, it wasn’t quite as traumatic as watching us get walloped 5-0 at Nottingham Forest, then European champions, in 1981 (I think it was). I would have been about ten years old. So you can imagine how much I enjoyed seeing us re-enact those two results in the space of a week. Nurse!!"
35 min: Carroll tries to spring the City offside trap down the left, but is miles beyond the last man before a pass is attempted. He hoofs the ball into the crowd in a frustrated manner. It nearly takes the South Bank from its, eh, Moorings. You'd not fancy taking that one in the coupon!
31 min: Aguero is booked for a wholly needless eruption of petulance, first nicking Nolan's ankles, then hitting Tomkins late, jumping on his foot. It's 8-0! No need for it!
28 min: Carroll isn't the type to give up, 8-0 down or no. He bowls down the inside-right channel and forces a corner, though nothing comes of that. Still, a sense that he might strike lucky at some point tonight against a defence not used to playing with each other.
27 min: To the home support's eternal credit, they respond with a quick chorus of Bubbles, but it's not long before they're gasping incredulously again, as Negredo shoots from 20 yards. It's straight down Jaaskelainen's throat. The keeper questions what the three West Ham defenders surrounding Negredo as he cut in from the right were doing, a discussion which featured a liberal sprinkling of words beginning with EFF and CEE. The keeper's within his rights to have a cob on there.
A brilliant run from the youngster Lopes, who slaloms down the middle of the park before slipping the ball into the area for Aguero. The striker takes a couple of touches to move to the left, before clipping the ball home past Jaaskelainen. As Aguero took the ball to one side there, Johnson was sliding around on his buttocks while Taylor was scrabbling around on all fours, trying desperately to spring up but slipping all over the shop. What a sight, what a sorry sight. Their humiliation is complete, you would normally say, except it probably isn't.
20 min: A slightly strange atmosphere has descended on Upton Park. The home fans, in good voice at the start, have presumably, and totally understandably, run out of irony and self-deprecation. The funk's setting in! By way of illustration, here's Ian Sargeant, who is 40 years a Hammer and "mulling over where Roger Johnson sits in the pantheon of shocking centre banks I've seen. He's currently sitting between Rigobert Song and Paul Hilton (signed three weeks after we put 10 past a Bury side containing Paul Hilton)."
16 min: Jesus Navas goes on a meander down the middle of the park and attempts to thread a shot into the bottom left corner. Jaaskelainen tips round for a corner, which is dealt with after a fashion by his defenders, although for a split second it looked like Fernandinho would get a shot away.
14 min: Diame jinks awhile along the right touchline and whips a ball into the area. Carroll, who has grown the sort of wild beard favoured by American indie pop stars / American country and western singers / American serial killers, batters a header over from 10 yards. That's another decent effort, and West Ham have done well to bounce back from that highly depressing early blow.
12 min: Carroll puts himself about a bit to win a corner down the right. Taylor fires the set piece towards the far post, but Nolan can't do anything with the ball. It's cleared. But again, at least West Ham are beginning to respond to the shameful 0-7 aggregate scoreline, with the hope of salvaging a wee bit of the old pride. Speaking of which ... "Can you please at least point out that the first-leg damage against Oldham in 1990 was done on their dodgy plastic pitch?" asks Iain Ritson, and what sort of churl would deny an unhappy Hammer at this time? "History shows how great they were. The only time I have actually cried at a result. A monumental low."
10 min: Rat swings a ball into the City box from deep on the left. Carroll goes up with Nastasic, and the ball breaks out right to Diame, who blooters a decent effort just over the bar from the edge of the box. That's better from the home side, who really need something to raise the spirits.
8 min: Aguero slips past Roger Johnson down the inside left as though the defender wasn't there, which ... well, there's no point kicking a man when he's down. But this hasn't been a brilliant start to his West Ham career, has it. Anyway, Aguero glides into the area and lashes a shot meant for the top-left corner just wide of goal. That wasn't a million miles away. Sounds of displeasure roll down from the stands.
6 min: West Ham try their best to respond, stringing a few passes together. Taylor grabs a yard down the right, and whips a ball into the area. Nolan is on the penalty spot, and he takes a step forward to meet the cross, sidefooting it confidently into the net! But he's a couple of yards offside, so the start of the big comeback has to wait a while yet.
It's all City in the opening exchanges. And this is pathetic. Young Lopes is sent scampering down the left, in acres. He swings the ball into the centre for Negredo, who is on his own, six yards out. Nut. In. Straight past Jaaskelainen, who had no chance. Tomkins and Rat were all over the shop there. Upton Park erupts in loud booing, and no wonder. In the dugout, Sam Allardyce has the good grace to look a bit annoyed, though he hasn't sprung up from his comfy seat with a view to hopping around in the irate style, so only five out of ten for that reaction.
A chorus of that preposterous version of Bubbles with the squidgy synth bassline - and then we're off! City get the ball rolling. There's a very decent atmosphere at Upton Park, despite it all. Almost immediately, Aguero reaches the byline down the left, but there's nobody in the middle and the chance is gone. Hello, is anyone else on either side bothered? People have turned up to watch this, you know!
HOT PRE-MATCH GAMBLING CHAT! "I see the bookies have West Ham 500-1 to qualify, which means they have about as much chance as I do of winning Wimbledon," writes Simon McMahon, "or Sergio has of winning two majors this year. But we all remember Headingley 1981, don't we? It can happen. But it won't. Not tonight anyway."
You obviously haven't studied the form, Simon. Here's Boleyn Ground regular Tom Shaw: "I'm optimistic here you know. I was at Upton Park when we beat City 6-1, and I was there a few years later when we did Sunderland 8-0 and Hurst scored six. In between those we beat the mighty Leeds 7-0 in a League Cup tie with Johnny Byrne playing a blinder. We're due another night like that and I have a feeling this could be it."
Is anyone sitting near Tom at the ground? Probably best to call over a steward or a member of the St John Ambulance, with the hope that they'll administer a cooling flannel to the noggin before kick off. I'd ask our very own Jacob Steinberg, also at Upton Park this evening, to help, but there's no point, he's sat in his seat rocking back and forth, holding his knees, and jabbering away at the sky. "West Ham to win 5-0," he yammers, "missing a last-minute penalty."
OK, Tom, Jacob, please listen to me. Stay away from the bookies, you two! Do you hear? He's a bad man. He's a very very bad man. He'll mess you up!
The teams are out! West Ham United are in their famous claret and blue ...
... while City are wearing garments of less renown. They're in their third strip, white shirts with a two-tone blue sash. Where would the clash have been here, then? Eh?
West Ham United, who owe their fans a performance tonight, give Andy Carroll his first start of the season: Jaaskelainen, Taylor, Tomkins, Johnson, Rat, Diame, Diarra, Morrison, Nolan, Joe Cole, Carroll.
Subs: Jarvis, Collison, Adrian, Noble, Downing, Carlton Cole, Chambers.
Manchester City, who will next month be featuring in their first League Cup final since 1976, make eight changes from the side which kicked off against Cardiff City last weekend, with 18-year-old Portuguese midfielder Marcos Lopes the big beneficiary: Pantilimon, Boyata, Lescott, Nastasic, Clichy, Jesus Navas, Javi Garcia, Fernandinho, Lopes, Negredo, Aguero.
Subs: Hart, Zabaleta, Dzeko, Kolarov, Rodwell, Demichelis, Jovetic.
Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)
We've been here before, of course: St Valentine's Day 1990, one of the great romantic results of English football, and a massacre to boot. Joe Royle's up-and-coming Oldham Athletic, a second-division fixture at the time, had enjoyed one hell of a ride in the League Cup. They'd reached the semis, putting out a resurgent Leeds United, sticking seven past Scarborough (Frankie Bunn scoring six), doing for the league champions Arsenal, and dealing with top-tier Southampton. Their opponents in the last four: West Ham United. Hammers fans might have guessed it wasn't going to be their day when the train pulled in 15 minutes late. Unfortunately for them, the referee delayed kick-off, and so they got to see every single kick of rampant Oldham's 6-0 win. It was the biggest semi-final victory in the League Cup's history. Poor old Liam Brady.
No need to be poking further at old sores, other than to point out that Oldham's 6-0 win is now not the biggest semi-final victory in the League Cup's history: it's merely the joint biggest. You can draw a line between the dots yourselves. But here's why it's worth recalling that 1990 farce as West Ham go into the second leg of this year's semi 6-0 down against Manchester City. West Ham put in a thoroughly impressive performance 24 years ago in the second leg against Oldham: they registered a defiant 3-0 victory, and had Julian Dicks scored from 25 yards on 80 minutes rather than twanging the crossbar, you never know, you just never know, what might have happened.
None of which suggests West Ham are likely to worry City like that tonight. City can't stop scoring, and have sorted out their rickety away form as they make a powerful bid for a
quadruple League Cup and second championship in three seasons, while Sam Allardyce's side are looking a fair bet for relegation, having lost six of their last eight. City are already in this final. But some sort of show of defiance isn't beyond West Ham, and could give them succour with crucial home league games against Swansea City, Norwich City, Southampton and Hull City on the horizon. This might look like an exercise in futility, but ... OK, it is an exercise in futility. But the Hammers won't want to be totally humiliated, and a determined show of pride this evening could stand them in good stead for the struggle to come.
Kick off: 7.45pm.
And just to clear up any confusion regarding the rules ... If the aggregate score is level at the end of the game tonight, an extra half-hour shall be played. Away goals will only count after this extra time. If the teams remain equal after this procedure, the tie shall be determined by the taking of kicks from the penalty mark in accordance with the Laws of Association Football.