Posts Tagged amr zaki

West Ham United 3 Hull City 0

A thoroughly miserable afternoon where I can only think of one bright spot – out-of-his-depth winger Craig Fagan has hopefully made his last appearance for Hull City.

Let’s rattle through this game quickly as no one wants to dwell on it. The first 15 minutes saw City in a woeful mess with barely anyone managing to put a foot right.

This included the move which saw a terrible throw by Boaz Myhill eclipsed by a much worse ball by Andy Dawson to Tom Cairney, who was dispossessed and within seconds the ball was in the net in front of the City travelling support. Three minutes in and we’d already managed to shoot ourselves in the foot.

However, despite their early domination West Ham failed to score a second, thwarted by some wayward shooting and a superb Myhill parry on the goal-line, and City gradually settled into the game, finishing the half the better side. City went closest when a neat interception and sidestep from George Boateng on the edge of the box saw him lash a left-foot shot that their keeper did well to stop.

The second half began with City looking in control, keeping possession for long periods and stroking the ball round. And just as an equaliser looked likely, Fagan, already on a yellow card, lost out in a tussle and decided to drag his opponent to the ground. The action happened on the touchline near the half-way line so there was no imminent danger – Fagan just lost his cool and deserved his second caution.

And, with 10 v 11, the game passed firmly back into West Ham’s control. The points were sealed when a fabulous slide pass from midfield evaded Antony Gardner and was slotted home by Carlton Cole.

By the time of their late third goal, three substitutes had been made, Gardner had been stretchered off with a worrying leg injury putting us down to nine men.

So, any positives? Once he’d tried two dives which failed to kid the referee, full debutant Amr Zaki started to look lively and a goal threat. He wasn’t as effective as Jozy Altidore, however, who replaced him in the second half. George Boateng and Stephen Muoyokolo can be content with solid performances.

Several other players – Stephen Hunt, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Gardner immediately pop into my mind – were well off their best. Meanwhile Fagan, Dawson and Paul McShane did nothing to appease those detractors who think they’re not good enough for the Premier League.

Though our home form is good and the league is tight, realistically we won’t stay up this season if we don’t pick up some points away from home. We now have 15 days to plan a first away win in a year at Everton. Not having to carry a passenger in Fagan will do us no harm at all on this score.

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Bolton Wanderers Reserves 1 Hull City Reserves 2

Bolton Wanderers Reserves v Hull City Reserves at Leyland

Standing behind a 'No Standing' sign watching the Tigers' stiffs

Amr Zaki scored the winner tonight as a vastly experienced Hull City reserves line-up edged out youthful Wanderers opponents in Leyland.

Zaki ghosted in at the back post to head home from a teasing right-wing cross with just a few minutes left on the clock. The Egyptian seemed to take a kick to the stomach as he dived in, as he took a minute to recover once the ball had gone in, but was soon fine.

Kamel Ghilas had opened the scoring from close range late in the first half after good work down the left flank. but within 30 seconds of the restart Zoltan Harsanyi equalised for the Trotters.

City, with missing man Dean Marney playing alongside presumably-back-from-Grimsby Nicky Featherstone in midfield, enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, without creating many gilt-edged chances.

However, in the first half we spurned a virtual open goal from a few yards (I think it was Featherstone who blasted it over), while Mark Cullen did well to go through for a one-on-one but his firm shot was saved.

At the other end, the Trotters conspired to miss a few easy chances, particularly in a spell after their goal, while Liam Cooper deflected one goalbound shot over and Matt Duke did well to get down and keep out a low drive among other good saves.

If you’re wondering why I’m sketchy on most of the details above, it’s mainly because I was stood at pitch level behind the goal so the view made the game hard to follow at times. It’s also that even some of the players find it hard to properly concentrate during a reserve match so forgive me for chatting and letting my mind wander.

The torrential rain abated in the second half long enough for me to whip my Flip video camera out and after about 30 deleted clips as attacking moves fizzled out, I finally managed to capture the Zaki goal.

Hull City line-up: Matt Duke, John Leonard, Ibrahima Sonko, Liam Cooper, Kevin Kilbane, Richard Garcia, Nicky Featherstone, Dean Marney, Kamel Ghilas, Amr Zaki, Mark Cullen. Subs: Mark Oxley, Darragh Satelle, Jamie Devitt, Ryan Kendall, Daniel Wilkinson.

Bolton Wanderers line-up: Rob Lainton, Joe Riley, Adam Blakeman, Chris Stokes, Rhys Bennett, Sam Sheridan, Javlon Campbell, Stuart McDonald, Zoltan Harsanyi, Aaron Mooy, Michael O’Halloran. Subs: Maison McGeechan, Jay Lynch, Tom Eckersley, Nathan Battersby, Liam Irwin.

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Hull City 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 2

January 31, 2009: Hull City face West Bromwich Albion at The Circle in a relegation six-pointer, taking the lead deservedly twice only to be pegged back twice due to terrible defending.

January 30, 2010: Hull City face Wolverhampton Wanderers at The Circle in a relegation six-pointer, taking the lead deservedly twice only to be pegged back twice due to terrible defending.

So nothng’s changed over these 364 years? Not exactly. The personnel was different: only two City players started both games, Dawson and Mendy. Wolves were undoubtedly more of an attacking threat than West Brom. And we were beset by problems which meant a draw in this instance wasn’t actually that bad.

With Kamel Zayatte ruled out with ankle problems, Amr Zaki not fully fit and Craig Fagan being injured in the warm-up, Phil Brown had to change both his defence and attack from the ones he’d have intended to field. Furthermore, Tom Cairney was making his debut, Stephen Hunt was trying too hard to show his loyalties lie firmly with his employers and not his suitors Wolves and Seyi Olofinjana was sat on a bench in Nigeria, watching the Africa Cup of Nations.

Despite the problems, I thought we put in a performance that just about deserved three points. It was refreshing to see not one but two strikers on the pitch, Jozy Altidore and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, the former creating both goals and creating a one-on-one for himself which hit the keeper’s legs, while the latter superbly opened the scoring from the edge of the box and looked dangerous in the air all game.

The problem with having 2 up front, and 2 wingers as well, is it places a huge burden on the 2 central midfielders to deal with the packed opposition midfield. George Boateng battled admirably but as an attacking midfielder making his Premier League bow Cairney understandably looked a little lost when balls needed to be cleared or tackles made.

And as the game wore on Wolves increasingly won the midfield battle and managed to push several of them forward to join their lone striker in attacks. Both goals conceded came from positions where we could easily have cleared two or three occasions, but from the midfielders just as much as the defence.

An option for Brown when we’d taken the lead again could have been to shore up the midfield and go 4-5-1, perhaps with someone like the hard-working Richard Garcia joining Cairney and Boateng in the middle, but I’m pleased he didn’t. He chose to stick with an attacking set-up, presumably reasoning a third goal would kill them off, and I’m not going to criticise him for that having seen so many ultra-defensive tactics from him.

This game wasn’t a must-win. It was a must-not-lose, and we keep just one point behind Wolves, the team we’re most likely to be able to overtake. Keep in touching distance with them for the next two games, against Chelsea and Manchester City, and with the return of Jimmy Bullard and the full fitness of Zaki we’ll be in with a strong chance.

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Write off Amir Zaki at your peril

Hull City’s loan deal for supposed ‘bad boy’ Amr Zaki (or should that be Zaky, as his official website calls him?) has certainly ruffled some pundits and opposition fans.

Here’s an example of the mainstream opinion, courtesy of Lou Macari’s column in the Stoke Sentinel newspaper: “Amr Zaki, who disgraced himself by going AWOL at Wigan last season, reckons he can persuade some mug to take him back into the Premier League for another extortionate pay day. And he reckoned right, thanks to Hull City.”

Or how about this foaming-mouthed contribution from blogger Jason Mellor on Fanhouse: “Desperate times call for desperate measures, but surely Hull City aren’t that desperate?… Self-centred players such as Zaki bring absolutely nothing to the table…”

Blimey, that’s some spleen being vented there. So what exactly has evil Amr done to provoke such a reaction? Well, he was late returning to Wigan Athletic from international duty with Egypt. Four times. And… er, that’s it.

Let me first be clear. To be tardy in coming back from international duty is bad form once, and pretty inexcusable four times. However, Zaki is hardly alone in doing so – off the top of my head I can think of Madjid Bougherra (twice) and Roque Santa Cruz, while no doubt a Google search would offer up dozens more names. Robinho even sneaked out of a training camp to celebrate his birthday in Brazil. You could say it’s a common concern for managers in signing foreign players.

So which pundits and bloggers are forming a torch-wielding vigilante mob to drive ‘disgraces’ like Santa Cruz and Robinho out of Britain? None. So how many times is it acceptable to them to go AWOL after international duty?

Anyway, Zaki is out of the international picture at the moment, so he won’t have the chance to accidentally-on-purpose miss his flight and stay at home with friends and family for a few more days. Even if he is called up, Egypt only have one international lined up during his Hull City loan spell, and that’s against England at Wembley. So there’s no reason for him to fly back to Egypt for a game at all and no reason to stay on too long afterwards.

Importantly, the Zaki of early 2010 is a fundamentally different character to the one of 12 months ago. Then he was topping the Premier League scoring charts with 11 goals before the turn of the year, officially ranked by Fifa as the world’s best striker with 29 goals in 48 internationals, and being linked with eight-figure transfers to the most glamorous clubs. It’s not too difficult to imagine how that would inflate someone’s ego and make them think they can get away with bending club rules.

Now he returns a chastened character, written off by all and sundry and with a last chance to prove himself in the Premier League. Mess it up and he’ll almost certainly be one of those misfit players that bums around countries like Qatar, China and Kazakhstan, maintaining his big salary but with no challenge or profile.

I don’t think he wants to see the last decade of his career to dribble away like that. I believe he’s determined to show he’s got the goals still in him, and in so doing to fire Hull City to safety. He’s started well, talking a good game in the Hull Daily Mail (‘There have been many things written about me in the past. I want to prove that I am a good player but also a good man’) and moving his family to Anlaby within days of signing. Many players would see out a five-month deal staying in a hotel.

Finally, a word about Zaki’s biggest critic – his former Wigan manager Steve Bruce. From declaring he’d made a massive mistake in only signing him on loan instead of permanently, Brucey changed his tune and declared him ‘the most unprofessional player he’d ever worked with’.

Wasn’t that a bit OTT when at the very same time Bruce had a certain Marlon King on his roster? Surely missing a few flights can’t possibly be viewed by anyone as more unprofessional than being jailed for sexual assault?

I’ve just typed 700 words justifying why Zaki will be a masterstroke signing for City, but I should have just posted this link to a video showing his 10 league goals for Wigan. Poaches, penalties, scissor kicks, half volleys – this guy knows how to score.

Amr Zaky 10 Goals with Wigan Athletic from Amr Zaky on Vimeo.

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