A late first-half penalty from West Ham United Skipper Mark Noble was enough to give David Moyes’ men a pivotal point against London rivals Crystal Place at the London Stadium yesterday evening in the Premier League.
Christian Benteke had given Roy Hodgson’s South Londoners the lead mid-way through the first period, though as half-time dawned, James Tomkins brought down Javier Hernandez in the penalty area.
Referee Neil Swarbrick pointed to the spot and Noble stepped up to convert coolly and net a landmark 50th goal in Claret & Blue, both sides had chances to take the three points late on, but a draw seemed like a fair result for both parties involved.
A point for the Hammers moves them up into the top-half for the first time in the 2017/2018 campaign, hoping a place to tenth, while, the Eagles also climbed one position up the Table, moving from 13th to 12th, another small set away from danger for both sides.
From the start in East London, Hammers Boss Moyes decided on six alterations to his starting Xl in the wake of Emirates FA Cup Fourth-Round exit away at League One Wigan Athletic on Saturday.
Departing from the side were England man Joe Hart, youngsters Reece Burke, and Josh Cullen, Pedro Obiang, suspended Arthur Masuaku and prolific Spaniard Toni Martinez, they were replaced by regular number one Adrian San-Miguel, the returning James Collins and Declan Rice, midfield duo Skipper Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate and making his full and home debuts, Inter Milan loanee Joao Mario.
Meanwhile, Eagles Manager Hodgson made just a single change from his team’s heavy Premier League defeat away at the Emirates Stadium to Arsenal ten days ago.
Injured French midfielder Yohan Cabaye departed in favour of James MacArthur, elsewhere, ex-Hammer James Tomkins started in defence, Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke were sure to prove a threat in an attacking sense.
From the off on a very wet Stratford night, the hosts made a fast start, dominating the opening exchanges and they could have and probably should have led within five minutes.
An excellent punt forward from a brave Kouyate, sporting a head bandage, found Javier Hernandez perfectly, his cushion header teeing up Mario, though the Portugal man snapped at it and scuffed his effort wide.
It would then be the turn of Hernandez to fail to hit the target, he was teed up within point-blank range by a McArthur deflection and just as he pulled back to shoot, Tomkins swept in out of nowhere to put the ball out for a corner.
As the feisty affair progressed, the visitors began to grow into the game more and more, but they could perhaps have counted themselves lucky not to have had Luka Milivojevic sent off for an elbow on Kouyate having already gone in the Referee’s book.
The Serbian was able to create Place’s first real goalmouth action of any note, his cross inches from finding Benteke before Adrian punched clear, the close call was a sign of things to come.
And, mere moments later, the away side gained a shock advantage, Andros Townsend, always looking a threat on the counter-attack, bombed down the right side on the break.
When he delivered, he was able to land the ball on a sixpence for Benteke, who got in between defenders to head low into the back of the net, giving the Spaniard between the sticks no chance and sending the travelling corner of supporters into delirium.
Moyes’ boys looked for a response straight away and almost got one, Aaron Cresswell getting on the end of a cross from the near side to smash a volley at goal, Timothy Fosu-Mensah blocking very well indeed.
But, the Hammers were forced to ride another wave of Eagles pressure before they could even think about equalising, though once their defence had held firm, they looked for a way back into the match.
This was finally found on 43 minutes with new signing Mario able to get in behind the defence after linking well with Hernandez, holding up the ball strongly and feeding the Mexican with an excellent pass.
He was able to beat Tomkins to the ball, the Ex-Hammer sliding through his planted left leg and making enough contact for Swarbrick to award a penalty with little hesitation.
Regular penalty-taker Noble stood over it before dispatching if it in trademark style, sending Hennessey the wrong way with a measured pass into the bottom corner, a key goal for so many reasons, for both him and West Ham.
However, the home side weren’t quite in safely at half-time just yet, Townsend forcing Adrian into a smart save in six minutes of added time, McArthur then heading inches wide, although the scores would remain level at the break.
If the first-half was action-packed right up until the very last knocking, the second period was something of a disappointment as the rain fell and killed the match off at London Stadium.
But, Moyes’ side were able to create a golden opportunity in the early stages, Mario breaking quickly and feeding Byram with his delivery finding the head of Hernandez, Hennessey managing to keep the ball out from close-range, somehow.
Rear-guard action was few and far between but when a team did attack, it was mostly the Hammers with Noble pulling the strings, Rice was the first, firing over the crossbar from range.
Benteke was a constant danger at the other end, a couple of wayward efforts was the best he could muster up, while Mario threatened from a series of set-pieces and Palace enjoyed a spell of late pressure, none of it was to any avail.
In the end, the encounter rather faded out into a draw with the local bragging rights and the points being shared, meaning that both teams were able to sustain their impressive recent records.
The Irons are still undefeated in the Premier League in six matches, the first time they have not been beaten in the first five Top-Flight matches of a calendar year since 1974, while the Eagles have now lost just two of their last 14 in the League.
Next up for the East Londoners, as the games begin to come thick and fast once again, will be a Saturday afternoon PL trip to the Amex Stadium to face Brighton & Hove Albion.
Meanwhile, the side from South London will next be in action a day after that, playing host to Newcastle United at Selhurst Park, two more paramount matches in the complexion of the Relegation fight.