To the casual viewer Sebastien Haller’s bicycle kick was a rare moment of sublime ingenuity, but for avid spectators of West Ham vs Crystal Palace
To the casual viewer Sebastien Haller’s bicycle kick was a rare moment of sublime ingenuity, but for avid spectators of West Ham vs Crystal Palace over the years, his acrobatic effort was nothing out of the ordinary.
There are some fixtures that just seem to defy logic, and West Ham vs Crystal Palace is one of those. Recently, these matches have tended to be laws unto themselves, with both clubs abandoning their creative inhibitions and producing bangers that wouldn’t look out of place in a Puskas Award catalogue.
For one reason or another this fixture has the capacity to flick from ordinary to extraordinary in the blink of an eye, transforming someone like Haller who, at times in the club’s 1-1 draw last month didn’t look like he could trap a beanbag, to peak Trevor Sinclair.
And while it is not considered one of London’s more significant derbies, the West Ham-Crystal Palace fixture has cultivated its own unique identity in recent times, as a petri dish for the extraordinary, a match where a ‘Puskas worthy’ goal is the rule, and not the exception.
With that glowing assessment of this capital clash, we relive every ‘worldie’ netted in this fixture over the last few years. And just as a caveat, we are talking ‘Puskas worthy’, world class finishes here, not just ‘really good goals’. The amount is truly quite staggering.
Match: West Ham 1-1 Crystal Palace
It was a goal worthy of an audience and not the cavernous backdrop of an empty London Stadium, but David Moyes certainly wouldn’t have cared, as his side were struggling to fashion clean openings in this match against a stubborn Palace backline. Indeed that was only West Ham’s second shot on target.
It didn’t quite work out for Haller in east London, with his languid style often a source of frustration among the fanbase, while Moyes’ reaction in the aftermath pretty much summed up the general consensus: “We got a wonder goal from him. But I’d like him to score a tap in, I’d be thrilled with that.”
Either way, West Ham fans may look back at Haller’s time at the club with rose-tinted glasses for this effort alone. It was as clean a bicycle kick as you are ever likely to see, a moment of pure wonder from the now Ajax marksman, and a perfect delineation of what he was capable of on his day.
Match: Crystal Palace 2-1 West Ham
While Haller’s instinctive effort took a split-second of exquisite improvisation, Jordan Ayew’s roulette-dink combo was a sequence of the sublime. Collecting the ball out wide and seemingly out of harm’s way, Ayew had it all to do, but he cut infield, skinned Declan Rice with an absurd roulette, parted Angelo Ogbonna and Fabian Balbuena, before topping it off with a chip.
That Ayew scored this absolute ‘worldie’ while executing a “Marseille roulette” only adds to the romanticism of the finish. It was a piece of dribbling skill straight from his father, Abedi Pele’s playbook, a stellar creator in his day who famously helped, you guessed it, Marseille to Champions League glory in 1993.
In isolation, Ayew’s effort was nothing short of world class, but this was, in fact, scored in the last few minutes to win Palace the match, adding to the sheer wonder of the goal. Now let’s just all pretend Roberto wasn’t between the sticks for this game.
Match: West Ham 3-0 Crystal Palace
Same fixture, same stadium, same goalposts. Just three years prior to Haller’s finish Andy Carroll threw down the bicycle kick gauntlet with his explosive effort to send West Ham fans into raptures and put the gloss on a 3-0 triumph, prompting a hailstorm of eulogies.
Former West Ham striker Ian Wright described the goal “as good as I’ve seen — better contact than Wayne Rooney’s against Man City,” while Carroll himself said the volley has “got to be the best goal I’ve scored”. Even Sam Allardyce on his return to east London called the finish “outstanding”. No sour grapes!
Even more incredibly this match came at the height of the Dimitri Payet fall out; it was the first match after Slaven Bilic revealed the Frenchman “does not want to play” for the club any more. Without Payet’s creative exploits, though, another man came to the fore.
Michail Antonio provided the assist for Carroll’s volley, the second of three that day. He became the first West Ham player to provide a hat-trick of assists in a Premier League game since Paolo Di Canio in 2000, and it was revealed he was suffering with flu the night before. What a man!
Match: West Ham 2-2 Crystal Palace
Galileo would have been rumbled here, as Dimitri Payet’s gravity-defying free-kick made absolutely no sense whatsoever. Those in the Bobby Moore Lower at Upton Park thought it went over, Wayne Hennessey was already thinking about his goal kick, and even a few Palace fans let out a sigh of relief.
It has gone down in West Ham folklore as that free-kick. As Payet stood over the ball everyone — and I mean everyone — thought the obvious, no only, target was to Hennessey’s right, with the towering Welshman almost glued to his left post. However, Payet had other ideas.
Only the Frenchman would attempt to strike past a 6ft 6in ‘keeper on the side of the goal in which he has got it completely covered; it’s almost as though Payet was bored and just fancied a challenge.
He then let loose and the shot immediately looked overcooked, but in pure Payet style, it dipped at the final second as planned and had everyone in the stadium bemused and transfixed in equal measure, except for Payet of course. He knew exactly what he was doing.
One Palace fan definitely thought it went over and was a bit premature with his celebration…
— Marc Ashmore (@marc_ashmore) April 2, 2016
Match: Crystal Palace 1-3 West Ham
The reverse fixture that season saw another Payet masterclass. In the dying embers at Selhurst Park, West Ham secured a winner in a tightly poised contest through Manuel Lanzini, but Payet was never satisfied in a claret and blue shirt.
In the 94th minute, the Frenchman executed a world class coup de grace, collecting the ball out wide with his left boot, before darting infield and sending Hennessey to the ground with a feint before elegantly chipping the hapless Welshman.
This was Payet at his best, and Hennessey must still have nightmares!