It had actually been a shame if we had let Middlesbrough stay in the PL this time. Not that I do mind them particulary - not at all actually. I even feel a bit sorry for them, and I think they will bounce back right away as they have a lot of young talent. But a team this lacklustre, and the way they failed to deliever any goods at all today - they should get punished. It was not our most sparky game either, but we did what we had to do, and you could see some glimpses of what Zola wants for next season.
A sunny afternoon at Upton park! Could you ask for more? Well a win maybe, and after a very beautiful first goal with Stanislas, LBM, Ilunga and Cole involved most of us knew that we should win that 9th spot. Well, O'Neill had another shot under Upson's legs and all of a sudden the situation was 1-1, before our most vibrant player of the day, Stanislas got us our second with a shot that Jones should have saved.
Green 6 - Not much to do at all, but bringing on the cap once in a while to protect him from the sun.
Spector 5 - Well, it looked a bit better when he was told to push forward. In defense he is - once again - more of a player for Swedish Allsvenskan than PL.
Neill 7,5 - Impressed again and even if he may be a bit to short for the CB-position, I think the position suits him - once again - better. Good powerful game! Will this mean another season?? Maybe.
Upson 7 - Really OK, won his headers, not troubled, but once: when the ball went through his legs (again!). So a bit unlucky at their goal.
Ilunga 6 - Had a bit tricky day defensively when Middlesbrough came with two men on his flank. On the other hand he impressed once again going forward, and his pass into the box when Cole scored was a real beauty.
LBM 8 - Yes! Our best player today! Even if he missed a couple of passes his workingrate and energy saved the day. Thanks! Have you seen that he can make crosses as well? And even dribble? Like he did when he won us aout 70 yards on his own once? Important contribution in Cole's goal. Hope to see you here next season as well! (Yep, mean it!)
Kovac 6 - Solid today as long as he play as the holding midfielder. Helped the defense a lot, but sometimes he misses the easiest of passes. Took the Parker role today and I doubt to see him here next season. But I wouldn't mind, as I think he grows from game to game and still learn this league. It depends on the clubs will to spend on good subs I guess.
Collison 6 - During some moments in the match he looked like Ronaldinho as best. Others we could all see that he recently has came back from injury. Subbed.
Noble 6,5 - Fought very well. Subbed with a niggling injury, probably as a precaution when U21 awaits him this summer.
Stanislas 8 - He may be young, he may be a bit over-optimistic - but what a game! Not only the goal but the way he handled the responsibility as well. Did you see when he (still) ran back in full speed two-three minutes from time? Great! Will play a big part next season even if Savio will be better and Behrami, Parker and two "fully trained" men in Collison and Dyer will be back. Wouldn't it be possible to see him in the middle of the park, as a creative midfielder?? Maybe a bit weak, but fast, two-footed and a good vision for the game.
Cole 6 - I was surprised to see him loose so many 50-50-situations today. But at the end of the day he made the difference. It's easy to forget that this was his first starting game since he went of playin for England. Today he received the good news: He's back in Capello's team. And for us, he scored 12 goals this season and played a huge part in our good run. Subbed. I may be one of few who always have liked him, and supported him, but he sure has grown under Zola/Clarke. With him fit all season we had been 7th! Promise!
Dyer 7 (on 53'd)- Good to see him back again. And even if he missed a good opportunity he looked fit and played a lively part in the game. For him preseason will start tomorrow.
Good to see the way Zola handled Di Michele (72'd) and Tristan (63'd). They were rightly on the bench from the start but had at last their chances to feel the good vibes at Upton Park for their last (it must be) games in claret and blue. Neither impressed me. But I think Tristan will have a Ok season next year. But not with us.
Over-all: Thanks for a season that gave us hope of a bright future again. And some really nice football too.