Afternoon all! Well it seems like just yesterday that we were wrapping up the Premier League, but the action has well and truly returned. West Ham have been tipped for a top-half finish this season, but this afternoon they are up against a Cardiff team which will be full of confidence following their impressive campaign in the Championship last season.
The two sides have met eight times since 1981, with West Ham enjoying the better of it with five victories. That includes both legs of the Championship playoff semi-final in 2012, when the London outfit were 5-0 winners on aggregate. That said, the Hammers lost 1-0 to Cardiff on the opening day of the Championship season two years ago.
The statistics also suggest that Cardiff will need to keep a clean sheet if they are to take something from this match. In fact, the last time the Welsh outfit scored more than one goal at Upton Park was in a 4-2 defeat in 1948. However, as we have seen all too often, form usually goes out the window on the opening match of the season.
WEST HAM: Jaaskelainen; Demel, O'Brien, Collins, Reid; Noble, Diame, Nolan; Jarvis, Cole, Maiga
CARDIFF: Marshall; Connolly, Turner, Caulker, John; Medel, Gunnarsson, Kim, Whittingham, Bellamy; Campbell
So there we have it. No debutants in the West Ham team this afternoon, but Stewart Downing, Adrian and Razvan Rat are all on the bench. Joe Cole
comes into the midfield alongside Matt Jarvis, while Mohamed Diame, Mark Noble and Kevin Nolan
will line up in midfield. For Cardiff, Gary Medel, Kim bo-Kyung and Steven Caulker come in for their debuts, while Craig Bellamy also starts.
Cardiff will take heart from their opening-day results over the last five seasons, however, with the Welsh outfit winning four and drawing one on matchday one. Cardiff will also draw belief from their away performances in the Championship last season, with Watford (39) the only team to claim more points on the road than Malky Mackay's side.
There is a genuine belief around West Ham, however, that the London outfit can finish in the top eight next season. They will be without the services of Andy Carroll for the opening weeks of the season, but when the striker returns, he will surely enjoy playing between Matt Jarvis and Stewart Downing, who, if nothing else, will put dangerous crosses into the penalty area.
Apologies for the lack of updates over the last 45 minutes, we have had some technical issues which we hope are now behind us Here we go then. The pre-match handshakes have been undertaken and the flags have been exchanged. Just about time for my pre-match prediction. Cardiff will be hopeful of getting off to a strong start this afternoon, but I think West Ham will just have enough to edge if in front of their own supporters. The away side get the action underway on this mild afternoon in London.
It must be said that there is a truly wonderful atmosphere inside the stadium this afternoon on this monumental day for Cardiff. They have waited a long time to operate at this level of football, but now it is their time. High-tempo opening couple of minutes with the challenges flying in from both sides, but neither has been able to put their foot on the ball thus far.
Early free kick for Cardiff as Gunnarsson whips a dangerous cross into the box, but Reid is on hand to clear at the vital moment. The home side attempt to break down the other end with Jarvis, but this time Connolly clears the danger. Just a reminder that there is no Andy Carroll for the home side, with the England striker out with an ankle injury.
Half-chance for the Hammers as Jarvis finds the head of Cole in the box, but the former England winger can only plant his header high and wide of the crossbar. You just get the feeling that the first goal could be all-important in this type of match. Of the newly-promoted teams, there is a general feeling that Cardiff are the most well-prepared for the Premier League campaign.
Nervy moment for Cardiff goalkeeper Marshall as he comes to collect a through pass from Jarvis, but he does manage to collect just inside the penalty area. A half-chance arrives for Nolan moments later after the midfielder meets a cross from Cole, but the offside flag is raised at the vital moment. Still goalless with eight minutes on the clock at Upton Park.
It’s bright work from the Cardiff left-back John as the youngster drives down the right before delivering a low cross into the box, but Collins is across to clear at the vital moment. Medel is involved moments later as he attempts to find the run of Bellamy, but the danger is cleared, before Maiga loses control down the other end. Slight drop in pace with 12 minutes on the clock.
Another half-chance for the home side as Maiga slips a pass towards Jarvis, but Connolly is across to clear at the vital moment. Cardiff move immediately down the other end with Kim, but the midfielder decides to have a strike on goal, with Bellamy perhaps the easier option on the right. Cole looks for Jarvis again moments later, but it is just too high for the England international.
GOAL! West Ham 1-0 Cardiff (Cole)
West Ham take the lead with 13 minutes on the clock as Cole collects a low cross from Jarvis before sliding a low effort into the bottom corner. Wonderful effort from the former England international. The Hammers just about deserve it on the balance of play.
All one-way traffic in the last few moments with West Ham continuing to dominate possession in the middle of the park. Maiga attempts to cause a problem with a darting run behind the away side’s back four, but Medel is across on the cover. You just get the feeling that the away side need to stay in the match with 16 minutes on the clock.
The atmosphere remains electric inside the stadium as Diame collects a pass from Cole before striking from outside the box, but it was always moving wide of the target. End-to-end period of the match in the last couple of moments as Campbell plays in Bellamy down the other end, but again, the danger is cleared. Still 1-0 to the home side with 18 minutes on the clock.
Diame tries his luck from outside the box as the midfielder strikes from long range, but it was always moving wide of the post. Meanwhile, there is some battle developing in the middle of the park between Nolan and Medel. Cole has another half-chance moments later after beating the offside trap, but he just chips it into the arms of the goalkeeper.
Campbell wants a penalty down the other end moments later after falling under the challenge of Reid, but the referee is not interested. The match has just settled into a pattern of West Ham enjoying possession, but the away side attempting to break when they can. Diame again tries his luck from outside the box moments later, but the danger is cleared.
Not too much for the supporters to get excited about in the last couple of moments with the referee forced to intervene following a number of late challenges from both sides. Cole remains the main threat for the home side as he hooks a high cross into the box, but Caulker rises to clear the danger. If Carroll were in their side, West Ham would be having a field day with these crosses.
The atmosphere has just dropped in the last couple of moments, which reflects what we are seeing on the pitch. West Ham have not exactly dominated, but they have been able to quell the threat in midfield. O’Brien attempts to force the issue for the home side with a dangerous cross into the box, but the Cardiff stopper is out to collect. Little over 15 minutes of the first period remaining.
Cardiff continue to cause problems with a series of deep free kicks into the box, but the likes of Reid and Collins have been solid in defence thus far. First real sign of that fine left foot from Whittingham as the midfielder drives a cross into the box, but again Collins is ahead of Campbell. Still 1-0 to the home side courtesy of that early strike from Cole.
Not the best of challenges from Whittingham as the Cardiff midfielder storms into a challenge with Cole, but the referee does not go for his pocket. The resulting free kick is delivered into the area by Noble, but the Cardiff stopper is out to collect. First sign of moans and groans from the home crowd, meanwhile, as Maiga falls to chase a through pass from Nolan.
Another half-chance for Jarvis as the England winger rises in the box to meet a cross from Diame, but he cannot make proper contact, with the ball sweeping off the side of his head. The first corner of the game arrives for the home side moments later, but again Connolly rises in the box. Bellamy is the runner down the other end, but the Welshman is not found by Medel.
The Hammers continue to deliver high balls into the penalty area, which have been collected by Marshall in the last few minutes. I have said it many times, but without Carroll, West Ham must find a difficult way to play football. That said, there will not be too many complaints as they lead at this stage of proceedings. Little over five minutes of the first half remaining in London.
West Ham come within a whisker of adding their second as Diame collects possession outside the box before thumping an effort towards the bottom corner, but it just deflects behind for a corner. Collins rises in the box, but his header is wide of the target. In truth, not the most pleasing half of football that I have ever seen, but West Ham do lead in their first home match of the season.
Good pressure from Cardiff in the latter stages of the first period with Whittingham and Medel both delivering dangerous balls into the box, but West Ham have been solid in defence thus far. A half-chance arrives for Cole as the midfielder cuts inside before floating an effort towards the top corner, but it was always moving wide of the post.
The fourth official indicates that we will play an additional one minute at the end of the first period and we are indeed into that. Late opportunity for the Welsh outfit as John finds Campbell inside the box, but the former Manchester United striker cannot evade the challenge of O’Brien and the danger is cleared.
HALF-TIME: West Ham 1-0 Cardiff
Right, both sets of players have joined us on the pitch for the second period. No changes for either side at the interval, which is not too surprising. It hasn’t been the best of games up until this point, but there is plenty of talent on display at Upton Park. I am sticking with my pre-match prediction of a home win.
Half-chance for the home side in the early stages of the half as Diame collects a pass from Jarvis before thumping an effort towards the bottom corner, but it was always moving wide of the post. Cole attempts to craft an opportunity moments later, but his cross is straight into the arms of the opposing goalkeeper.
Better from Medel in the last couple of moments with Medel more involved an attacking position. The former Sevilla midfielder finds Bellamy just inside the box, who in turn slips a low pass towards Campbell, the striker hits the deck in the penalty area, but the referee is not interested despite strong protests from the Cardiff bench.
Cardiff’s first corner of the match threatens to bring their opening goal as a scramble occurs in the West Ham box, but Collins just manages to clear at the vital moment. Jarvis is immediately involved down the other end as he collects a chipped pass from Nolan before striking towards goal, but it was always moving high and wide of the crossbar.
Couple of free kicks for Cardiff in quick succession, but Bellamy can only float his first into the arms of the goalkeeper before Connolly heads clear at the second time of asking. Diame is involved for the home side moments later as the former Wigan midfielder finds Cole on the right, the England midfielder delivers a cross into the box, but again the danger is cleared.
Not too much to report in terms of chances in the last few moments with both sides cancelling each other out in the middle of the park. There has been a lack of inspiration in this match it must be said. Whittingham has another chance to whip a dangerous cross into the West Ham box moments later, but again Collins is across to clear the danger, little over 30 minutes of football remaining at Upton Park.
Maiga is involved for the Hammers as the pacey forward combines with Cole before rolling a cross towards Jarvis on the opposite side, but again the danger is quelled by the Cardiff bench. We are getting to that stage of the match where it would not be a surprise to see both managers look to their bench. One thing is for certain, there is plenty of talent in reserve.
Howard Webb has been more involved than he would perhaps like to have been in the last couple of moments with the challenges continuing to arrive from both sides. We have not seen much of Medel as an attacking threat in the second period, but he has been tenacious in midfield. You just get the feeling that the next goal could decide this match. For me, another West Ham goal and it is curtains.
Half-chance for West Ham once more as Maiga collects possession in the box before drilling a low effort towards the bottom corner, but it just moves wide of the post after a wonderful save from Marshall in the Cardiff goal. The stopper picks up an injury for his troubles, but following a period of treatment he is deemed fit to continue.
Good possession for the home side in the last few minutes with Nolan and Noble prepared to keep hold of the ball in the middle of the park. Nolan does break rank moments later before collecting a pass from Diame, but Connolly is on hand to usher it back to his goalkeeper. In truth, this second period has been played at a very slow pace. West Ham are just doing enough at the moment.
Maiga again attempts to threaten behind the away side’s defence as he bursts beyond Connolly, but the striker had moved too early. It is the Cardiff supporters that are making the noise as we enter the final 20 minutes of action. You just get the feeling that there is something in this for the away side if they can force the issue a little bit more.
West Ham make their first change of the match and it is a debut for Downing with the England midfielder entering the frame in place of Jarvis, who has just faded in the second period. In truth, Allardyce will not be too concerned about the performance as long as his side hold onto the three points. Cardiff just haven’t looked like scoring at any point during the match.
The away side want a penalty as Collins appears to handle a strike from Campbell inside the box, but once more the referee is not interested. Mr Webb has had a number of shouts this afternoon, but he has not answered to any and rightly so. You can just sense the frustration inside the ground at the moment with Cardiff starting to enjoy more of the ball. Little under 15 minutes remaining.
Two changes for Cardiff, meanwhile, as Bellamy is replaced by Gestede and Kim is replaced by Nicky Maynard, who of course, has previously played for the Hammers. He received a pleasant welcome onto the pitch, but that will not be the case if he finds the back of the net. The home side have two changes remaining if they should wish to alter proceedings.
GOAL! West Ham 2-0 Cardiff (Nolan)
West Ham have their second of the match and surely the three points as Nolan collects a pass from Noble before sweeping a wonderful effort into the top corner. The Hammers have not played well this afternoon, but that should be all the points for the London outfit.
None of the supporters will mind that their side has not played well as long as they claim all three points, which appears to be the case. In fairness to Cardiff, they have attempted to play football, but have not created anywhere near enough to deserve to take something. Little over 10 minutes of football remaining at Upton Park.
Suddenly West Ham have a spring in their step with Downing and Nolan combining in the final third before the latter strikes an effort towards the bottom corner, but he had just moved into an offside position. The home supporters are in full voice as their side nears the first three points of the Premier League season.
Another change for West Ham in the latter stages with Alou Diarra entering the frame in place of Diame, who has been the pick of the players this afternoon. It is a surprise that Arsenal did not look to secure his services in January there is no question about that. West Ham began last season with a win and a clean sheet and that appears the case with five minutes remaining.
CHANCE! Wonderful opportunity for Maynard in the last five minutes as the former West Ham striker meets a cross from Medel, but he can only thump his header high and wide of the crossbar. He just had to find the back of the net. That would have made the latter stages very interesting indeed.
Slight stoppage in play as Caulker receives treatment for a head injury, but following a spell of treatment the England defender is deemed fit to continue. Not too much time remaining for Cardiff to set up a grandstand finish at Upton Park. In truth, they have not looked like scoring aside from that chance for Maynard a couple of moments ago.
: West Ham make their final change of the match in stoppage time as Cole is replaced by Vaz Te, who will be looking to up his goal tally this season. The fourth official indicated that we will play an additional five minutes of added time and we are indeed into the second of those. Is there time for a late rally from the Welsh outfit?
Not too much to report in stoppage time with West Ham more than comfortable in possession of the ball. In fairness to Cardiff, they have not been well beaten, but there will be tougher tests ahead. Good noise from both sets of supporters as we enter the last couple of moments. Final change for Cardiff as Mutch replaces Campbell.
FULL-TIME: West Ham 2-0 Cardiff
So there we have it. West Ham pick up all three points in their first home match of the season against Cardiff. Apologies for the technical problems that you might have experienced with us this afternoon. It has now been rectified! Good afternoon!