Burnley 1 West Ham United 2
Saturday, 1st May 2021
by Chris Wilkerson
The wind and the rain gave ideal background to a storming game of football as West Ham took three huge points away from Turf Moor, coming from behind to beat a dogged Burnley 2-1.With conditions that one would think only added to the awkwardness of an away trip to Burnley, the slick surface instead inspired a quite majestic passing performance from the Hammers. Much credit will go to the manager?EUR(TM)s brave selection of Lanzini in the middle of the park.
Moyes made five changes, with fresh injuries to Ogbonna and Noble, whilst Cresswell and Antonio returned to fitness. Balbuena, Fredericks and, surprisingly, Bowen also missed out as Benrahma, Lanzini and Dawson all started.
The Argentine?EUR(TM)s performance was notable, replacing Noble and holding his position in the centre of midfield with brilliant composure, confident in his own ability and calm on the ball.
Antonio?EUR(TM)s return injected energy and a style to the side?EUR(TM)s attacks, but it was the clinical classic centre forward play that tied the first half performance together.
It was a lively opening 45 with both teams finding success causing opposition defenders discomfort.
For Burnley, their success came targeting Diop with direct and floated passes over the defender. The Frenchman dealt well with flat crosses from the wings, but seemed to lose composure under a high ball.
This approach earned Burnley their first goal. A simple ball delivered over Diop caused the defender all sorts of bother. The situation could have been dealt with simply, but instead Wood claimed possession on the byline, kept it in and went round Diop.
A bouncing ball under the striker?EUR(TM)s control yards from goal forced a challenge, Soucek lunging around thigh height and only bringing the New Zealand international to the deck.
Wood picked himself up and dispatched forcefully into the corner, the faintest touch from Fabianski no impediment to the ball?EUR(TM)s destination to give Burnley a 1-0 lead just inside 20 minutes.
It could have shaken the West Ham players, but if anything it looked to inspire them, and it took only two minutes for parity to be restored.
After a sweeping move that ended with a Fornals shot blocked on the way to goal by Antonio, the Hammers reset to go again. Moving the ball out to the right, Lingard made it down the channel before laying back a pass to Coufal. It was set perfectly for the full back to deliver, and his cross into the six yard box floated over Tarkowski and met the head of Michail Antonio, the striker brushing aside Lowton at the back post to smash a header in from close range.
It was the perfect response and set the tone for the rest of West Ham?EUR(TM)s play. Moves were crafted with wonderful passing, one or two touch football and a constant blur of movement that left Burnley chasing shadows. Lanzini, Fornals and Benrahma were key, their confidence to play sharp passes to teammates and receive the ball with ideas or movement already started kept defenders grasping at thin air.
Whilst the home side were winning high balls and scrappy second ones, it was West Ham who played the football, some of the most delightful to watch of all this momentous season.
It earned them the lead not long after that equaliser. This time it came from the left and the magic of Said Benrahma. The Algerian has not won over every West Ham fan, but none can deny his influence on not just this victory, but the style the side swaggered around with too.
This time he received it just outside of the left side of the Burnley area. The defender remained a yard away, scared of the speed of turn and thought he was up against, which allowed the most exquisitely curled cross to beat the deep Burnley defence and somehow find a pass that Antonio could tap in between defence and goalkeeper all inside the six yard box. When it comes to striker?EUR(TM)s instinct, Antonio was starting to hammer home his progress.
If he had stayed as clinical, if he had stayed even competent in front of goal, he could have easily had his hat trick before the game was through.
The goal began a deluge of West Ham wasted openings. Some were chances in the box, some were misplaced passes to halt moves that needed only to find the last pass. Either way, West Ham could have settled this long before half-time.
Benrahma was unlucky with two more openings. One just wide from inside the Burnley box, another a brilliant break where his desire to pass to Lingard let him down.
At the other end, all the hosts had was a long straight ball, although why change what was working. Each one bothered Diop, but the Frenchman was given little assistance from Fabianski. Multiple balls would have been taken in by a more proactive goalkeeper.
The half ended with the impressive Hammers in the lead of a very engaging game of football. They came back out with no steps missed, the intent on the money straight away. Of course they failed to capitalise.
Antonio was the guiltiest party, wasting opportunities for himself and others. The Hammers could have been in the lead moments after the break, the blame split between Fornals passing wide when a through ball was on, but mainly going to Antonio as he delayed a clear pass and then misplaced it.
What was notable was the attitude, the mindset of the West Ham players. They never focused on anything missed, resetting and going at Burnley once more. From that wasted break, Coufal put in a cross with drive and power that was cleared desperately by the Burnley defence in front of goal. The corner was glanced on by Soucek, striking Antonio at the back post, yards from goal but at an awkward height.
As with the first half, Burnley struggled to live with West Ham when they flew forward at their best. But when Antonio missed a simple chance from two yards, momentum shifted.
The chance itself was as easy as they come. Another passing move gave Fornals space on the right side of the area. His shot fired across the face of the goal and to the right foot of Antonio with an open goal in front of him. The striker had judged it, but hit his shot off his standing foot, watching in despair as it deflected away to safety.
And as if the shock of peril had awoken them, Burnley came back into the game and found their style could scare West Ham equally. They pressed higher, pushed more men forward and piled on the pressure in the way you would expect. For West Ham, Antonio was losing energy and Lingard remained on the periphery, having easily his least effective game in a West Ham shirt.
With 25 minutes remaining, Burnley had their biggest chance. A floated and flat cross to the back post was met by Diop, but his header was down and into his own area. Dropping to Brownhill, the ball was volleyed at goal and saved well by Fabianski into a pack of players in front of goal. It bounced and deflected until it fell to substitute Jay Rodriguez, only for a wild shot to send the ball flying wide from yards out.
Whilst they took more control of the ball and came into the game, it did allow West Ham more space in attack. Antonio, Lingard and Fornals all came close.
Instead the focus was on high balls and desperate clearances. Soucek won 16 headers, whilst Diop and Dawson made 12 clearances apiece at the back ?EUR" an insight into the way the side were forced to defend.
But whilst it didn?EUR(TM)t feel hugely under West Ham?EUR(TM)s control, the chances didn?EUR(TM)t rain down, and as the heavens opened, Moyes?EUR(TM)s side were able to see out the game and take another massive three points. European football of some sorts remains in our control, whilst we keep the pressure on those above us in the top four spots.
In what was a quite special West Ham display, rarely will the passing have been that slick for such long spells of a game, the result carried the spirit of this team. Key players returned, others missed out, but it?EUR(TM)s 34 games and 5th place. Really, it is.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
He did his basic job well, the vital volley save in particular and at a key moment. Questions should remain over how his positioning when not engaged made it harder for Diop. Fabianski could have been further forward or more aware of times he could take charge.
All the robotic superlatives about this man are fully deserved and apply again. He is a machine. Up and down the flank all game, he seems happy to be a neat passing right back as he is a no-nonsense full back. Another assist and this is still his debut season.
His delivery has been sorely missed. And his composure on the ball, both ends of the pitch, settled the side down and supplied Benrahma and Lingard. Did his defensive work with little fuss, and he could do with teaching Johnson how to lean into an attacker to ruin their balance.
Not always quite in control, and not the presence of Ogbonna who would have been a better presence besides Diop, but a couple crucial interventions when things looked their worst and stood strong against a barrage as the game wore on.
There were moments, maybe a whole half, where the ball being in the air made him fall to pieces. The flatter ones were dealt with, it was the ones in the swirling wind or where he had time to make a decision. It is a weakness everyone can see. But he kept going and as things got scarier, he stood up to it, winning 8 headers to go along with those 12 clearances. The recovery deserves credit.
Soucek the attacking force was quiet, but he did seem able to get up there more as Lanzini covered. It was the battle in the middle and all those headers. Yes he gave away the penalty, and it was a touch clumsy, but it was also a desperate tackle on a man who could have easily scored and trying to save the blushes of others.
Not a headline catcher, not an attention grabber, but Lanzini was quietly spectacular. In that deeper role, his composure was critical and he took down balls under pressure with skill and assurance. Looked an absolute natural, and an absolutely brilliant option for a third man in midfield in tough games with Rice and Soucek. Should jump ahead of Noble on this display. Comfortably had the most passes on the pitch and had a 95% accuracy. Some of those are short or in quick succession, but they are not pointless passes and helped the fluidity of the team. Lynchpin.
Another who did brilliantly in a way that won?EUR(TM)t warrant major analysis. He was just everywhere, a part of the attack and a part of the midfield, defended from the front and was excellent winning back the ball, including in the build to a first half goal. His passing was intelligent, as he always is, and it was only his lack of sharpness in the Burnley box that cost him man of the match. He and Lanzini were a joy together, a wavelength of intelligent passing and movement.
He wasn?EUR(TM)t bad, per se. But he was on the edge of it for a lot, and when he was involved he was doing the simpler bits. Looked tired, although he was also tasked with doing a lot of Antonio?EUR(TM)s defending from the front. He was involved with lots of little passes and a threat, but just a little off the boil and not at his best.
If he had scored, and he easily could have, it could have been a Payet-like performance. He has more pace than the Frenchman, but not his consistency. The ball for Antonio?EUR(TM)s goal shows he has the talent, it just needs directing and honing. At times, Burnley just couldn?EUR(TM)t live with him. They couldn?EUR(TM)t even cut him down like they usually would, he was faster and better than them to an extent he skipped away before the tackles could really come. He played like Lingard has been for weeks, but without as much end product. Today he brought some, the assist for Antonio?EUR(TM)s second a piece of magic.
For most of this second half of the season, there have been periods in matches where Michail looks lumbering. But then it clicks and he bullies or beats a man with ease and starts a move. Or ends it. Today he showed pure striker?EUR(TM)s instinct to get two goals, but should have had more. The game did not need to be close, Antonio could have ended it. But the two goals were the kind no-one else in this side scores and he is crucial. It is just cruel we have been without him for such stretches.
(Replaced Benrahma, 78) What he did was take pressure from the defence with his running and hard work. With minimal time, he injected energy into a flagging team and it?EUR(TM)s how he helped the team regain a threat and it?EUR(TM)s running that means more than what he actually did.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Aaron Cresswell, Craig Dawson, Issa Diop, Tomas Soucek, Manuel Lanzini, Pablo Fornals, Jesse Lingard, Said Benrahma, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Michail Antonio 21 Michail Antonio 29 .
Booked: Craig Dawson .
Sent off: None.
Burnley: Pope, Lowton, Mee, Tarkowski, Taylor, Brownhill, Cork, Westwood, McNeil (Gudmundsson 75), Wood (Barnes 85), Vydra (Rodriguez 61).
Subs not used: Peacock-Farrell, Norris, Pieters, Bardsley, Stephens, Dunne.
Goals: Wood (19, pen).
Booked: Mee, Gudmundsson.
Sent off: None.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.
Man of the Match: Manuel Lanzini.