West Ham only have themselves to blame FA Cup chance thrown away
ick-off here last night was delayed by what might only be described as a trophy presentation orgy.
There was one for David De Gea, conducted by Sir Alex Ferguson, in honour of his surpassing Manchester United‘s clean-sheet record. There was one for Mary Earps, named FIFA’s best goalkeeper in the world on Monday, and another for Casemiro, who made it into the world’s best XI. And then there were captains Bruno Fernandes and Harry Maguire parading the Carabao Cup in tandem, just as they had after beating Newcastle only three days earlier.
But if West Ham fans felt any pangs of envy, they would surely have been not towards the victors, but to the Toon Army and their grand day out. Newcastle had waited 24 years to see their team in a Wembley showpiece; for West Ham it has been over a decade since the play-off triumph over Blackpool, and more than four since the last final they would have chosen to be in: the 1981 League Cup loss to Liverpool.
And so, having seen his side surrender a 1-0 lead and then concede twice in the dying minutes to crash out, it was not difficult to understand why David Moyes was left lamenting an opportunity missed. “We blew it,” the Scot said. “I thought we had a great chance to get through, I really did.”
The hard facts show that West Ham played well for an hour and led through Said Benrahma’s brilliant strike, only to be undone by an unfortunate own-goal from Nayef Aguerd and then two more mistakes from the usually-reliable defender, who failed to clear in the build up to Alejandro Garnacho’s 90th-minute curler and then had his pocket picked for Fred’s clincher.
United, though, were always likely to finish strongest, with a bench including the likes of Casemiro, Marcus Rashford and Lisandro Martinez, after Erik ten Hag made six changes, and West Ham’s greater crime came in failing to put the tie to bed. There was a degree of good fortune about Benrahma’s opener, which came after the ball appeared to have gone out on the touchline, but either side of it Michail Antonio missed glaring chances.
“That is the way football is, isn’t it?” Moyes said, when asked about the fact that Antonio had grumbled about his reduced role earlier in the season, but now failed to capitalise on a run of starts since the World Cup. “You get given your opportunities and you take your chances. He had two one on ones with the goalkeeper, big chances to score.”
And, for Moyes, big chances for something more. Saturday’s morale-boosting win over Nottingham Forest carried an element of the long-absent feelgood into a huge travelling contingent here, who at 1-0 were revelling in the idea that West Ham might once again be “massive”, many no doubt looking forward to a trip to Cyprus when the club’s European campaign resumes next week, too.
The prize for hanging on here would have been a home quarter-final against Fulham, no gimme. Even so, one of Sheffield United and Blackburn will enjoy a semi-final at Wembley at the very least as could Grimsby. For West Ham, the wait goes on.
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