Friday 17 November 2017

Slaven Bilic rues West Ham's 'flat' start in draw with Stoke

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic was frustrated with his team's performance
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic was frustrated with his team's performance

Slaven Bilic conceded West Ham had produced a "slow, flat" performance as they laboured to a 1-1 Premier League draw at home to Stoke.

They briefly led in the second half when an own goal from Glenn Whelan put them into contention for a third straight victory at the London Stadium.

Erratic goalkeeping from Adrian then gifted Bojan Krkic the equalising goal, ensuring they sit in 16th place and four points above the bottom three ahead of a difficult run of fixtures.

Bilic's team next visit Tottenham before two games with Manchester United and further fixtures with Arsenal and Liverpool.

Responding to Mark Hughes' belief the pitch had been slow, the manager said: "I can agree the pitch was slow but we were still slow in the first half.

"That shouldn't have stopped us playing one-two. We played with too many touches, and that has little to do with the pitch.

"I was expecting to start better than we started. We didn't have a midweek game, we looked good in training, but we were flat in that first half.

"It wasn't a particularly nice game of football. Neither team deserved to lose or to win. First half, we were flat, simply not good: not in the second ball, not when we had the ball, not when they had the ball.

"In the second half we changed after 60 minutes. We put a couple of strikers up and they gave us energy, quality, and we started to play much better. We scored a goal and our best part of the game was between goals.

"Then we gave away a very, very cheap goal. We were disappointed because we were looking for a win, after some good performances in October."

Despite his criticisms of the playing surface and revealing he had required contact lenses to see the far side of the pitch, Hughes was far more positive than his opposite number.

A run of three wins from their past four fixtures and six unbeaten has come after a poor start to the season that suggested Stoke would struggle against relegation, and the Welshman said: "We are in a decent place; six games unbeaten is good. A lot was made of our start which we felt was unfair.

"Maybe the pitch is a little bit slow; whether that's by design I don't know. It didn't help with our good passing and tempo and how we want to play. I would imagine West Ham feel the same. They also want to get it down and play.

"Clearly it's not a football-specific stadium. I had to put contact lenses in to see to the far side. It's a fantastic opportunity: some people don't like change but it's a fantastic stadium, they will be fine.

"It was a great finish by Bojan. I'm pleased the referee (Andre Marriner) allowed it to stand. The referee was going to give the penalty, I think. It was a great finish."

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