West Ham Utd 2 Blackburn Rovers 2 (Blackburn win 10-9 on Penalties EFL Cup Third Round 9th November 2022

Hammers crash out of EFL Cup to Championship side Blackburn Rovers on penalties

Hope everyone is safe and well.

It takes quite a while to put these posts together as I look through the 900 plus images I take for each home match. Once I’ve done my first round of editing – deciding which images could help tell the story of the match – I have about 200 images to finally choose from. Then it’s about thinking what I want to show from the match and how best to illustrate any key points. This decision process takes time. The actual editing doesn’t take that much more as I’m familiar with Lightroom so my work load is not so bad.

Making decisions over time is a luxury really, but what we seem to have in the team at the moment  is too many situations where players are making the wrong decisions in real time. The action of the match can be fast paced at times with little room for error and even a split second delay can lead to the wrong decision and a wayward pass, forward move or cross that leads to a dead end. 

There have been too many instances where we have been in good positions to send in a telling cross, fire in a ball or make a forward pass that will put us into a goal scoring opportunity but us ‘experts’ jfrom the stands just see these opportunities fizzle out. So frustrating to watch every home game and our exit from the EFL Cup showed us again what these wrong decisions are costing us.

This result hurt for sure. After the last gasp defeat to the Eagles the previous weekend, we had hoped for a positive reaction and a chance to progress in EFL Cup, which we have never won.

Both managers decided to change their whole starting 11 for this match, Blackburn sitting second in the Championship after their 1-0 home win against Huddersfield and the Hammers dropping to 15th in Premier League – two teams with opposite forms clashing for a place in the Forth Round of the EFL Cup. 

The Hammers had enjoyed some solid home form prior to the weekend defeat to Crystal Palace, surely even with a changed side we could progress against Blackburn’s second 11?

Last season we held Man City, holders of the Cup over previous seasons, to a 0-0 draw at home, winning 5-3 on penalties to progress to Quarter Finals after defeating Man Utd in the Third Round, but this was not going to be repeated this season.

After progressing out of the group stages of the Europa Conference League there was expectation that we can do well and enjoy another cup under the lights. But 6 mins into the game Vale calmly scores to give voice to Blackburn’s fans, surely hoping for an upset.

We had to wait until 38th minute for Fornals to thump home an equaliser sending the Hammers players into the dressing room with hope of a comeback. The second half provided plenty of opportunities for the home side to take the lead, with Antonio, Benrahma – on for Coventry and Bowen waist of chances as we failed to breach the Blackburn defence. 

Then Antonio, firing from the edge of the box to send the ball into the net and give us a 2-1 lead. The London Stadium, with anxious fans without much to cheer about so far, roars with hope of a turnaround that would take us into the next round. 

Even with Scamacca on, the Hammers couldn’t find another goal that would surely end the match for Blackburn who were definitely not down and out yet. Bubbles again faded away as Chilean international Brereton Diaz sends a blasted shot past Areola on 88th min to earn penalties as the final whistle ended the match. 

I don’t know about you, but I had a bad feeling about this and wished we had Fabianski in goal – it was something fans around us were saying as the players lined up in the centre circle before the penalty shoot out started. And what a watch for the neutral. Penalty after penalty sending the back of the net rippling as neither goalkeeper could make a save. The longer it went on, the less likely I thought we would win it. 

With the score at 10-9 to Blackburn up steps Ogbonna with only the goalkeepers left to have a go and as soon as the ball left his foot hearts just stopped. Then, as if time had slowed and sped right up again, the ball strikes the bar goes up in the air and the Blackburn players and staff sprint onto the pitch in celebration. 

Those of us who remained to watch just slumped in despair, many turning on their heels to leave the stadium. I spoke to a few fans as we watched the Blackburn fans celebrate with their team and there was a lot of anger and mixed emotions. Many people I spoke to felt we now need to do well against Leicester or our season is looking likely to implode. 

Overreaction due to the emotions of going through such a frustrating game or hints of reality finally kicking in given the mixed form since the start of the season? Plenty of people have picked over this game and others to highlight issues we have as a team, but looking at this performance the lack of composure to put those many chances we had away is going to be our undoing. 

And we missed the chance to get our own back on Forest in the next round. Oh well. 

Hope you enjoy the photos of the match, despite the result.

Take care

Dawud 

Published by dawudmarsh

Photographer based in London.

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