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Benteke hits the high notes again

HIGH FLYER: Eagle Christian Benteke

THIS WAS a score draw that reflected well on West Ham’s battling qualities while reminding all that they and Crystal Palace remain far from secure in their Premier League status.

David Moyes was forced to fill his West Ham bench with academy graduates and there remains a fear that the team will struggle if they endure too many more injuries without further January reinforcements.

For all that, West Ham gave a good account of themselves against Roy Hodgson’s side. Mark Noble’s penalty in the 43rd minute cancelled out Christian Benteke’s opener in a contest that never delivered on its promise of further goals.

West Ham were the better team for most of the match, and while a point was respectable in the circumstances, they remain just four points clear of the relegation zone, with Crystal Palace three points clear.

In spite of the hosts’ reduced circumstances, there was a quiet confidence about Moyes’ side in the early stages. This did not prevent them falling behind in the 24th minute. Aaron Cresswell left a gaping hole for Andros Townsend to gallop into as he surged forward in support of an anticipated West Ham attack.

Adrian punted the ball forward, and Cheikhou Kouyate, by now sporting a bandage following a clash with Luka Milivojevic’s elbow, failed to trap it as it dropped. Crystal Palace captain Milivojevic reacted quickest and shuttled the ball into Townsend’s path. As Declan Rice retreated, Townsend advanced to deliver an excellent cross for Benteke, who had the run on James Collins and made no mistake in planting a header beyond Adrian. It was only the forward’s second goal in 19 appearances this season.

West Ham were level before the interval, with their captain, Noble, sending Wayne Hennessey the wrong way from the penalty spot to claim his 50th career goal.

Six minutes were ultimately added to the first half by referee Neil Swarbrick following Kouyate’s injury. Blood was visibly seeping through the Senegalese’s bandage as he fed Joao Mario on the West Ham left. The Portuguese loanee, newly arrived from Inter, controlled the ball, beat one opponent and picked out Hernandez. Tomkins had already committed to a tackle on the Mexican and left Swarbrick with a simple decision.

Having earlier thwarted Hernandez with a late recovery challenge, the ex-Hammer was now the visitors’ villain, even if the penalty was no less than his former team deserved.

For all their rampant soft tissue injuries and needless suspensions, there is a resilience to Moyes’ West Ham, at least where the league is concerned.

Bakary Sako was another first half casualty. The injured Malian was forced to depart, with Yohan Cabaye taking his place. The Frenchman’s arrival gave the visitors a greater purchase in midfield and it looked as if this match could have gone either way after the interval.

In the event, the second half was high on endeavour and low on quality and neither side truly threatened to claim a winner.

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