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Capital punishment for Crystal Palace

PARTY TIME: West Ham players celebrate after their second half blitz

WEST HAM moved into the top half of the Premier League with a 3-2 defeat of Crystal Palace that showcased both their strengths and weaknesses (December 8).

Manuel Pellegrini’s side were a goal down at the interval, courtesy of James McArthur and their own defensive sluggishness, but rallied after the break with three of their own. Javier Hernandez’s poacher’s finish was bookended by superb strikes by Robert Snodgrass and Felipe Anderson. Palace then pulled a goal back via Jeffrey Schlupp to shatter any West Ham complacency.

The Hammers would fend off their opponents but they fell behind as early as the sixth minute. Snodgrass conceded a free-kick out on the Palace left and Patrick van Aanholt floated the ball across the West Ham penalty area, where former Hammer James Tomkins rose above Arthur Masuaku to loop a header back into the middle where McArthur was quickest to react.

It was a poor concession from a West Ham perspective and they immediately tried to redress the balance without truly stretching their opponents until after the interval. If Luka Milivojevic’s free-kick had been six inches lower it would have up Palace two up. Instead, he struck the top of the crossbar.

After the break, Andy Carroll replaced the ineffective Lucas Perez and the hosts immediately looked more dangerous. The half was four minutes old when Snodgrass was on hand to curl a shot inside Wayne Hennessey’s near post from the right, as Mamadou Sakho failed to adequately clear Palace’s defensive lines.

At the other end, in Wilfried Zaha, Palace have one of the finest players in the lower reaches of the Premier League, but his travails here have been typical of his season: too often isolated, ploughing a lone furrow and failing to connect with his teammates. He picked up his fifth booking of the season in second half added time to earn a suspension.

With the game balanced at 1-1 the momentum remained with West Ham. Another two goals followed in three minutes just after the hour mark. First, Hennessey pawed Felipe Anderson’s free-kick into the path of the onrushing Hernandez, who belted the ball high into the net in his trademark fashion. The Mexican is more limited than Marko Arnautovic, who wass absent due to a hamstring strain, but there are few better six-yard box poachers.

Two became three when Anderson capped another exceptional performance with another curling effort, this time from the left, that gave Hennessey no chance.

On Tuesday night, West Ham entertained Cardiff here and were similar in control with 25 minutes to spare. In the event, Josh Murphy’s consolation came too late to have any tangible impact but here the hosts were shook out of their complacency when Schlupp headed in Max Meyer’s corner with 15 minutes to go.

The Palace equaliser was not to materialise and so West Ham have won three Premier League matches in a row for the first time since December 2016 - scoring three in each.

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