West Ham grab deserved draw thanks to Noble penalty
PUBLISHED: 21:57 30 January 2018 | UPDATED: 21:57 30 January 2018
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The Hammers injury-hit side come from behind to earn a precious point at the London Stadium
West Ham United 1 Crystal Palace 1
The injury-hit Hammers extended their unbeaten league run to six matches as they picked up another precious point in their quest to climb into the top half of the table.
Man-of-the-Match, Mark Noble played a captain’s innings on an evening when he returned to the side and netted his 50th goal for the club to ensure that West Ham’s 200th Premier League London derby ended all-square.
The Hammers half-centurion levelled from the spot just before the break after Christian Benteke had nodded Palace ahead, against the run of play, with only his second goal of the season midway through the first-half.
But despite dominating the second period, too, David Moyes boys just could not muster the winner.
Following a weekend of woe at Wigan Athletic, where his side’s fruitless, forlorn FA Cup journey came to an horrendous halt, the Hammers manager made half-dozen changes as Noble, Adrián, Declan Rice, Cheikhou Kouyaté and James Collins each returned alongside Inter Milan loan signing João Mário.
That meant Arthur Masuaku (suspended), Pedro Obiang (knee), Reece Burke plus substitutes Joe Hart, Toni Martinez and Josh Cullen made way, while fit-again José Fonte also returned to a largely youthful bench.
Trading Serie A for the Premier League, Mário almost marked his first start in English football with a quick-fire goal but the Portuguese playmaker volleyed well wide after Javier Hernández headed down Kouyaté’s cross during a free-flowing move that saw Luka Milivojević subsequently cautioned for scything Sam Byram in the build-up.
Mário was in the thick of it again on ten minutes, when he found Hernández on the edge of the six-yard box but ex-Hammer James Tomkins foiled the Mexican in the act of shooting at the expense of a corner.
Having exited the FA Cup at the third-round stage, Palace – kicking off in 13th spot – just two places and one solitary point below West Ham - had enjoyed a weekend off and after losing 1-4 at Arsenal ten days ago, they made just one switch with Andros Townsend replacing substitute Johan Cabaye.
But it was the Hammers, who looked freshest in the opening exchanges, albeit the heavily-bandaged Kouyaté was left resembling an Egyptian mummy following lengthy treatment for a head-wound sustained in an aerial clash with Milivojević.
On 24 minutes, however, all that early East End promise evaporated into the chilly Stratford air, when Kouyaté failed to control Adrián’s huge upfield kick and, villain of the piece, Milivojević pounced to spray the ball across field to Townsend, who scorched down the right flank.
With Benteke charging through the middle in support, Townsend sent an inch-perfect cross into the danger-zone, where the Belgian bulldozer got in front of Collins to powerfully head Palace in front from six yards.
The Hammers almost hit back with an instant reply but Aaron Cresswell’s angled screamer was bravely blocked by Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Angelo Ogbonna nodded the consequent corner over the top.
But after Bakary Sako took an eternity to hobble away following juddering tackle by midfield enforcer Pablo Zabalata, West Ham did, indeed, deservedly equalise.
Substitute Cabaye was still finding his feet, when Mário threaded the ball through to Hernández on the edge of the six-yard box and, as the ‘Little Pea’ shaped to shoot he was brought down by the sliding Tomkins, who gave referee Neil Swarbrick little option but to point to the spot.
Cool as you like, Noble stepped forward and stroked the penalty into the bottom left-hand corner as Wayne Hennessey headed off in the opposite direction, to make it all-square with 43 minutes played.
In the time added on for those earlier injuries to Kouyaté and Sako, Townsend forced a low parry from Adrián before James McArthur nodded inches wide and Milivojević sent a rising 20-yarder just inches over the top, while Tomkins brought and eventful opening 45 minutes to close with a booking for body-checking Hernández.
Just after the restart, the intelligent Mário patiently playing in an overlapping Byram, whose precision cross was met by Hernández but Hennessey thwarted the point-blank header.
Byram was then booked for trying to swap shirts with Patrick van Aanholt and, as a wintry downpour engulfed London Stadium, Townsend also saw yellow for diving across the greasy top as the industrious Noble slid in.
With a quarter-hour remaining, Mário curled in an unplayable left-wing free-kick that Hennessey gratefully gathered and, with Wilfried Zaha’s supply line suffocated by his all-smothering Hammers markers, Palace remained on the back foot but West Ham just could not conjure up a decider.
HAMMERS: Adrian, Byram, Cresswell, Ogbonna, Collins, Zabaleta, Rice, Noble, Kouyaté (Oxford 85), Mário, Hernández. Unused subs: Hart, Fonte, Hakšabanović, Martinez, Cullen, Quina.
EAGLES: Hennessey, Fosu-Mensah, van Aanholt, Tomkins, Kelly, Milivojević, McArthur, Sako (Cabaye 41), Townsend, Zaha, Benteke. Unused subs: Speroni, Ward, Sakho, Chung-Yong, Souaré, Riedewald.
Booked: Milivojević (4), `Tomkins (45+3), Byram (56), Townsend (69)
Referee: Neil Swarbrick