Premier League
Leeds United 1 West Ham United 2

Friday, 11th December 2020
by Chris Wilkerson

David Moyes's West Ham United moved into fifth in the Premier League table after a fantastic 2-1 win against Leeds United at Elland Road.

After an early setback saw them go a goal behind from the penalty spot, West Ham worked tirelessly and played some excellent football to take a deserved three points back to London.


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And while David Moyes not take any credit publicly, his tactical and selection decisions were all totally vindicated. With Masuaku missing - today revealed to have had knee surgery - the manager gave Said Benrahma his first West Ham start and played him behind the striker Haller. Not only did the Algerian play wonderfully on the ball, his positioning to stop Phillips pulling the strings deep in midfield limited Leeds and gave West Ham another attacking edge.

His inclusion was the big news for the side, the one change to the team that started in the disappointing defeat last weekend to Manchester United.

That team news caught attention, but it was comparisons in height between two teams that ended up a huge part of the story in a game where two set-piece goals clinched the Hammers their victory.

The game started poorly for the visitors, Leeds earning a penalty inside two minutes. Fault lie in many places: Haller for losing the ball meekly in the middle; the two defenders being easily split by one pass for Bamford through; even Fabianski so easily rounded by Bamford before taking him down.

At first, it looked not to matter. Klich stepped up and rolled a weak penalty down to Fabianki's right, the goalkeeper guessing correctly and getting down well to save. However, VAR always lingers, and as Fabianski's heel was maybe an inch off his line as the ball was struck, the penalty was ordered retaken. The second time Klich changed corners and changed shooting boots, this time finding some power to drill it home with five minutes on the clock.

Leeds had started fast, but West Ham looked not the least bit concerned. They settled back into their game quickly, a sign of the confidence this side deservedly has after a great start to this season. Bowen, in particular, was lively, whilst Fornals started in his usual hardworking fashion, even with more defensive discipline required in his position without Masuaku and the five-man defence.

Haller was much more involved too, heartening for those who have worried about his work rate. Unfortunately for him, his touch was often poor, passes often just a yard too short or too far, whilst every opportunity he made in the box found a defender's body in front of his shot.

In the battle of the England midfielders, two players who were rarely going to be near each other on the pitch, Rice looked head and shoulders ahead and was in imperious form throughout. A burst forward from the middle led to another opening for Haller blocked by the centre back.

Twenty minutes after conceding, the visitors drew level. Having made their chances from good passing football and sharp wide play, it was the height and physicality that told. Bowen was provider, swinging in a corner to the back-post, one it should be noted that was won by the hard work of Coufal down the right.

Bowen's corner evaded defenders and flew towards Soucek, who rose higher than his marker to head home and beat the floundering Leeds goalkeeper, his hand almost collapsing as the ball brushed it and went into the goal.


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It was reward for how well they had settled and taken the game on after the early setback, but a level game always saw threat at either end of the pitch.

Leeds were holding the majority of the ball and their midfield runners were finding spaces between defenders where maybe they wouldn't have been were West Ham's back five still together. Rodrigo, wasteful in front of goal, turned his man in the area before hammering right into Fabianski's grateful grasp.

At the other end, Benrahma began to play, and it was a joy to watch for anyone not of the Leeds persuasion. His skills were delightful, his turn of pace dangerous and his eye for goal offering something a little different for a West Ham side that have at times looked functional. His six shots, all outside the area, were never hugely threatening but offered the side that other facet to their play.

It all led to a half-time with the sides level and very well matched.

Bielsa reacted, two attacking substitutions made during the break, possibly in reaction to how West Ham had been allowed to have parts of the game their own way.

It looked from the outset to have been a sharp move, his side flying out of the blocks again in the opening minutes of the half. Their pressing and constant movement was as evident in this game as it ever is, working triangles and moving themselves and the ball around, searching for angles and openings that rarely presented themselves. Bamford was just wide with a half-chance on the edge of the box, but his evening faded after flattering to deceive when winning that early penalty.

Again West Ham settled and positioned themselves in the match. Another Haller effort, created with good movement and control in the box, was blocked wide and the intent to attack and win this game returned. He came close moments later, a header tipped just over the bar from the corner. For all his poor touches, Haller had five efforts on goal, the most West Ham touches and remained an aerial out-ball for the defence when under pressure.

It was Benrahma's growing influence that really gave West Ham the edge. Whilst some of his shooting was wasteful, the quick turns and sharp play in pockets of attacking space were clearly unsettling the Leeds midfield and defence.

It also allowed for good movement into spaces he left behind, his threat clearly keeping defenders preoccupied even when not on the ball. It was this kind of movement that led to a big chance for Pablo Fornals.

Rice found himself wide left and shifted the ball centrally before rolling a pass across and into the area for Fornals. The defender lunged wildly and missed it completely, but Fornals shifted his weight expecting the worst, then stretched to take his shot first time when he still had the space to take a touch and move towards goal. The ball beat the goalkeeper but rolled agonisingly wide.


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Moments later, Fabian Balbuena did everything but score. A Coufal freekick from the right was perfect and the Paraguayan defender met it brilliantly, only for his bullet header to be stopped wonderfully by Meslier in the Leeds goal.

As the last ten minutes approached, it was interesting to see Bielsa use his third and final substitution as Moyes stood firm. It soon didn't matter. This time it was a Cresswell freekick, and the whipped ball to the back post was met in full flow by Angelo Ogbonna, towering over his man and powering in a perfect header into the top corner to give his side a well-deserved lead.

It also prompted Moyes to make his changes, Noble first for Benrahma, soon followed by Ben Johnson for Bowen to slot West Ham back into their five-man defensive system. The changes gave Leeds more impetus as the ball soon started to come back much quicker. That being said, the Hammers will feel they should have put the game to bed.

First it was Haller, this time an outrageous overhead kick on a bouncing ball that the goalkeeper did well to save.

If the misfiring forward suddenly coming alive with an acrobatic effort was surprising, seeing Ogbonna and Balbuena combine on the right of the Leeds penalty area before the Italian's cross was headed against the post by his Paraguayan defensive partner was somehow hilarious, frustrating and extremely effective.

Moyes prepared one more change, Snodgrass flying in to strip that side back to even more basics, Leeds had their one chance.

With defenders and midfielders almost as deep as they could sit, a cross between Ogbonna and Balbuena found Rodrigo for one final chance. Six yards from goal, the forward found space and a solid header, but found Fabianski too with a header straight at the goalkeeper.

Snodgrass came on for a few seconds of running, Noble picked up a yellow card and the referee put the lips to his mouth and blew the final whistle to confirm three very impressive points for West Ham that moved them into fifth in the table. It was only their third win in the Premier League against Leeds, their second at Elland Road since a Nigel Winterburn goal gave the Hammers a 1-0 win in Leeds in November 2000.

The win was thoroughly deserved and earned by hard work and clever tactical moves that will get lost amongst the praise for Bielsa and the football his side play. For all the excellent work he has done there, it was the disregarded David Moyes who won the battle of the coaches.

It's also 20 points from 12 games, allowing us eternal optimists to finally feel some freedom from the turmoil of relegation worries.


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Player Ratings

Lukasz Fabianski
The first penalty save was excellent, it is a nonsense it has to be ruled out. Another perfect example of how VAR shines light on laws that really don't help the game. His positioning was excellent throughout, making difficult saves into easy ones. Even the penalty he conceded was really out of his hands.


Vladimir Coufal
As pointed out repeatedly on commentary, no attacker got anything out of Coufal down our right and he was smart with when and how he attacked. The freekick for Balbuena was perfect too, another little string to his bow with Fredericks and Johnson both ready for any chance to take his place.


Aaron Cresswell
A much quieter attacking display, but it was wise and helped limit any exposing of his weaknesses back in a left back role. And his delivery was key again, the freekick for Ogbonna quite brilliant.


Fabian Balbuena
Was unlucky not to end with two goals, whilst he was defensively solid too. Must relax on the ball, but also know not to try passes in danger just because he feels he must. That all being said, both he and Ogbonna allowed players to get in the space between them and it nearly cost the side. The penalty was first, but Rodrigo should have punished them late on with his header.


Angelo Ogbonna
A goal. nearly an assist and eight clearances in what was almost a perfect defensive display. However, he too was guilty of allowing runners through the middle of the defence.


Declan Rice
Imperious in the middle. Did his usual in the second half, growing more confident to step forward and launch attacks. He just does the simple things very well and the necessary work in the middle like its second nature.


Tomas Soucek
It's rarely pretty with Tomas, but he scraps diligently in the middle, wins big headers and has a knack for scoring goals. Bowen to the back post this time and Soucek was bigger, stronger and wanted it more. Then the discipline kicks in, a big unit stopping attacks and refusing to lose the battle in the middle. It worked again.


Pablo Fornals
A bright start soon became a job as part-time Arthur Masuaku. He still had his moments and should have scored with the time and space he had when rushing to drag wide, but with Leeds spending over half their time on the ball attacking down their right, his discipline was very important to keeping Cresswell protected. You would trust him over any other player we have to combine attacking influence with defensive diligence and that is to his credit.


Jarrod Bowen
Although he faded as the game went on, before again being replaced, his threat in the first half in particular kept Leeds worrying at the back. Months ago, he looked a little like a Championship player performing gamely in the Premier League, recently he has looked every bit the part in the top division. Excellent cross for the first goal.


Said Benrahma
Statistically, this is hard to argue, but Benrahma had the biggest influence to how West Ham kept Leeds at bay. Phillips was still influential, but his game was limited not only by the shadow of the Algerian on his tail whenever he received the ball, but also the prospect of being turned by the wily forward. His bursts of pace with the ball under control gave him space to make attacking moves tick, and his shooting from range at least offered a different threat going forward to recent weeks. A very promising first start to keep fans wanting more.


Sebastien Haller
Haller was at times the worst player on the pitch but also improved a lot on aspects he is readily criticised for by West Ham fans. He worked hard, got involved in the build up, used his strength to create space and battled defenders. Equally, his touch was often poor, his passing nearly always the wrong side of fine margins and his finishing not as sharp as it needed to be. It was Jekyll and Hyde, but five dangerous shots is the kind of output his detractors should not ignore.



Substitutes

Mark Noble
(Replaced Benrahma, 84) Whilst he wasn't on long, he came on with energy and looked to keep Phillips muzzled whilst putting himself about.


Ben Johnson
(Replaced Bowen, 85) Quietly slotted into the left wing back spot and did his job.


Robert Snodgrass
(Replaced Fornals, 90+3) On for a few mere seconds to see out time.


Darren Randolph
Did not play.


Ryan Fredericks
Did not play.


Craig Dawson
Did not play.


Manuel Lanzini
Did not play.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Aaron Cresswell, Fabian Balbuena, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Pablo Fornals, Jarrod Bowen, Said Benrahma, Sebastien Haller.

Goals: Tomas Soucek 25 Angelo Ogbonna 80                .

Booked: None.

Sent off: None.

Leeds United: Meslier, Dallas, Ayling, Cooper, Alioski (Costa 46), Phillips, Raphinha, Klich, Harrison (Shackleton 46), Rodrigo, Bamford (Roberts 74).

Subs not used: Casilla, Poveda-Ocampo, Hernandez, Struijk.

Goals: Klich (6, pen).

Booked: Alioski (33).

Sent off: None.

Referee: Michael Oliver.

Attendance: 0.

Man of the Match: Said Benrahma.