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REPORT: West Ham 2 Blues 0

Blues are knocked out of the Emirates FA Cup despite being the better side for the majority of the game.

BCFC

Blues were knocked out of the Emirates FA Cup at the hands of West Ham United despite an impressive performance by Garry Monk’s men.

A Marko Arnautovic header after just two minutes set the Hammers on their way before substitute Andy Carroll added a second in added time.

The result was a cruel on Blues who fashioned a host of chances and played their part in a competitive cup tie.

In front of nearly 55,000 supporters including 5,000 bluenoses, the visitors proved to be more than a match for long periods but failed to find the decisive goal which would have set up a blockbuster finish. 

Maikel Kieftenbeld, Lukas Jutkiewicz, Gary Gardner and Wes Harding all went close but the two moments of quality belonged to the home side. 

A goal in either half determined the outcome of the tie but the Blues boss will undoubtedly take many positives from the 90 minutes between them.

It was the worst possible start for Blues. Just four days after his Hillsborough heroics, Lee Camp was immediately called into action. Xande Silver was unmarked at the far post and unleashed a fierce drive from an acute angle which the Blues stopper sensibly turned round the post.

From the resulting corner, the powerful Angelo Ogbonna headed down into the ground where Camp, springing away to his left, managed to keep the ball out with his face. With the Blues 'keeper grounded, Arnautovic had the simple task of rising above the stationary Maxime Colin and nodding into the unguarded net.

Buoyed by the early goal, the Premier League side enjoyed a sustained spell of pressure inside the opening stages. There was a zip and intensity about the Hammers passing which Blues initially struggled to get to grips with.

After riding an early storm Monk's men did fashion a chance on the 15 minute mark thanks to a swift counter attack involving Lukas Jutkiewicz and Che Adams.

Jutkiewicz’s centre was intended for his strike partner but Issa Diop’s block deflected the ball to the edge of the box where Gary Garder had time to set himself but could only fire straight back at the Hammers defender.

Blues steadily grew into the game and when the hosts were guilty of playing a succession of loose passes, the natives nervousness was palpable.

Grady Diangana posed the Hammers biggest threat all afternoon. The England Under-20 international cut in off the right before curling the ball towards the far post. In an attempt to make the block, Maxime Colin’s right boot sent the ball looping beyond Camp and luckily for Blues, narrowly wide.

In truth the visitors should have been level before the break but three chances were spurned in as many minutes. 

First, Jutkiewicz started and finished a sweeping move which saw Maghoma cross to the back post but the 10-goal striker could only glance his header wide.

The highly rated Declan Rice was denied by a smart piece of goalkeeping as Camp pushed the ball away from danger following Rice’s downwards header.

And the save set Blues on another trademark counter. This time Gardner slid the ball out to Adams who had peeled away from his marker down the left channel. His pull back fell perfectly for Maikel Kieftenbeld who should have at least hit the target from 12-yards out.

Blues biggest chance for an equaliser came on the half hour mark. Jutkiewicz rose highest to send a Conor Mahoney corner back across goal only for substitute Andy Carroll to clear from underneath the crossbar.

The tide had firmly turned Blues way by the time Diangana dragged his effort into the side netting.

Mahoney then showed great footwork to dance around Arthur Masuaku in first half added time and when the energetic winger fired across goal, it looked certain Blues would get their just rewards.

The retreating Michail Antonio had other ideas and somehow scooped the ball over the crossbar with Gardner ready to prod home. There was even time for Kieftenbeld to cut across another rasping drive before the half came to a close.

HALF TIME: West Ham United 1 Blues 0

Blues had certainly earned the respect of their top-flight opponents which was reflected in the more evenly contested opening to the second period.

A high looping clearance dropped over the shoulder of Jutkieiwcz who found himself in behind the West Ham backline. The Blues frontman managed to make firm contact with the ball but sent his right footed volley tamely wide.

But if goal scoring opportunities were in abundance in the first half, they were scarce for the majority of the second. In the face of West Ham’s quality on the ball Blues turned in another gritty and determined display, ensuring a competitive edge throughout.

Rest assured, Monk’s men were much more than making up the numbers. Wes Harding managed to dig out a deep cross for Jutkiewicz who hung in the air long enough to head goal wards but couldn’t generate the necessary power to beat Adrian.

Substitute Robert Snodgrass then teed up Antonio who send a whistling effort wide as the hosts looked add a second. 

With 15 minutes left Blues piled on the pressure. Harlee Dean and Michael Morrison were inches away from connecting with balls into the box and the 5,200 away following could sense a leveller.

West Ham did have chances to kill the game long before they did. With the goal gaping Snodgrass and Carroll got in each others way. The former England striker eventually took charge and with the ball stuck underneath him, clipped the top of the crossbar with a left footed effort.

Craig Gardner who had earlier replaced his brother, turned the ball round the corner for Harding to gallop forwards. His heavy touch sent the ball too close to Adrian who took a big hit from the Blues defender after pouncing on the ball.

In the dying stages, Andy Carroll rounded Lee Camp. With Blues caught cold at the back, the gangly striker ran the ball into the side netting much to the dismay of the home support.

Carroll would have the last laugh as, in stoppage time, he rose above Michael Morrison to plant the ball past Camp and confirm West Ham's place in the Fourth Round.

A gallant effort from Monk’s men who deserved more.

Attentions will now turn back to the league campaign with Middlesbrough next up at St. Andrew's.

West Ham (4-1-4-1): Adrian, Arnautovic (Carroll 18), Obiang, Nasri (Snodgrass 59), Ogbonna, Diop, Masuaku, Antonio, Silva (Anderson 79), Rice, Diangana

Subs not used: Fabianski, Cresswell, Perez, Coventry

Goals: Arnautovic 2, Carroll 90+1

Booking: Diop (51)

Blues (4-4-2): Camp, Harding, Colin, Morrison, Dean, Maghoma, Kieftenbeld, Gary Gardner (Craig Gardner ht), Mahoney (Solomon-Otabor 73), Jutkiewicz, Adams.

Subs not used: Trueman, Scarr, Dacres-Cogley, Lakin, Lubala

Booking: Gary Gardner (19)

Referee: Roger East

Attendance: 54,840 (away 4,893)

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