Premier League
West Ham United 1 Sheffield United 1

Saturday, 26th October 2019
by Chris Wilkerson

West Ham United played out their third poor performance in a row as they could only muster a draw with visitors Sheffield United.

A first half Robert Snodgrass goal was cancelled out by Lys Mousset's second half volley to see the teams shares the points as the game finished 1-1.

Manuel Pellegrini made five changes to the side who had lost at Everton so disastrously, and had lost the last two games.

In came Zabaleta, Cresswell, Balbuena, Snodgrass and Yarmolenko, with Fredericks, Masuaku, Lanzini and Fornals either relegated to the bench or, for Masuaku, the squad completely.

It was a game that brought back memories of Carlos Tevez, David Unsworth and football brought to courtrooms all those years ago.

What that forgot was how Sheffield United had not only risen to the Premier League again, but were beginning to thrive; the Blades came into the game yet to be beaten away from home this season.

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With a more solid midfield three, The Hammers were definitely more functional, more industrious, although it did sacrifice a little of their quick midfield interplay and ingenuity.

Yet it was Snodgrass in that central three that was having the biggest influence on the game, making runs down the left flank and allowing Anderson to float across the pitch wherever he felt.

The opening 20 was quiet, with the away team happy to play deep and let West Ham try and force the play. They were allowed the majority of the ball, but didn't do much to threaten the goal at all.

It was Sheffield United who were the side that had the dangerous chances. Their first corner of the game should have seen the scoring opened, O'Connell allowed an easy header down into the six yard box for McGoldrick.

The ball was tight to him, but the flick with his right boot was right at Roberto when the whole goal beckoned for him. There wasn't a defender near him, whilst O'Connell and risen without challenge.

After a slow start, it gave Sheffield United a little encouragement. There was another free header, this time from a free kick, and Lundstram threatened with half an opening after Balbuena had passed the ball right off the pitch to Chris Wilder under no pressure.

The game turned in the five minutes before half-time.

First, a dangerous move down the right side ended in a wonderful whipped cross. Roberto dived out to reach it, but the ball went beyond him and Callum Robinson had an open goal to head into. The Sheffield United fans celebrated, but the ball deflected off the striker's head and back away from goal.

It had looked impossible to miss, but replays showed the faintest flick from Roberto's finger, enough to just divert the ball off the path Robinson was expecting.

And it was barely a minute later that West Ham scored.

Having survived a tricky spell, the space afforded from Sheffield United's growing confidence in attack allowed West Ham to pounce. Roberto fired an early clearance forward towards Haller, and whilst the striker made no connect, the defender's headed clearance was weak.

It fell right to Yarmolenko, who passed the dropping ball into the run of Snodgrass, flying forward from midfield, without a second's hesitation and into a clear path of goal.

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The Scot drove on into the box and dispatched the ball beyond Henderson for his first goal of the calendar year, and in only his second Premier League start since April. It was little more than his industry had deserved.

It gave his side a 1-0 lead going into the break, but whilst they had controlled much of the ball, with 68% possession, they were lucky not to have conceded on multiple occasions.

The visitors were right to feel hard done by, and came out in the second half with a clear intent to take more of the game to their fragile hosts.

That allowed for space on the counter, which was an avenue Pellegrini's men were set up to exploit.

They should have done within five minutes of the restart, a three-man break of Anderson, Yarmolenko and Haller making inroads into the area but the big striker dallying when receiving the ball in the area; too eager to look for a pass when he could have threatened goal.

Sheffield United have come out to step forward more and try build with the ball. West Ham have a great counter chance on 51 but they dawdle when into the box, Haller waiting on movement from others when maybe his concern should have been how he could score.

A minute later, George Baldock, younger brother of ex-West Ham striker Sam, was denied on the right side of the West Ham area, his fierce drive stinging the palms of Roberto. He should have done better.

The pattern continued. Again West Ham countered, again they were wasteful. Anderson drove at goal then, after a weak pass to Yarmolenko, continued his run into the area and was found by the Ukrainean. One on one, Anderson blasted right at Henderson from close range, missing what should have been an easy goal.

And then, up the other end once more, George Baldock wasted a chance on the right side of the penalty box, blasting wide when given time and space to do much more.

It sparked Pellegrini into life, who took Anderson off for Lanzini and moved Snodgrass out to the left to control the Baldock's forays forward.

The game was starting to be controlled by the hosts, and eventually they were rewarded.

A cross from that right side once more was flicked rather tamely out to the edge of the area by Diop. Noble floundered under the ball and it was nodded down to Lys Mousset just inside the area.

Without letting it drop, the striker spun and volleyed into side foot in the far corner of the goal. It was neither sweetly struck nor powerful, but Roberto was easily beaten nonetheless.

It left the game on a knife edge with 20 minutes remaining, and the once dynamic left side of West Ham had now become functional and a little sluggish.

But Sheffield United backed off, either comfortable with their point or hoping to sucker West Ham into a mistake.

It could have cost them, especially as they had been so dangerous when forcing the Hammers back.

Yarmolenko was again creator as Aaron Cresswell fluffed his lines when presented with a glorious chance.

A lovely dinked pass to the back post saw Cresswell sprint in unmarked, but the full back took a touch when he needn't, and it gave defenders and goalkeeper the chance to pressure him into a weak effort. There was no need; Cresswell should have shot first time from eight yards out.

On came Pablo Fornals, replacing the ineffective Noble, and nearly turned the game.

With ten minutes remaining, the Spaniard was found down the right channel by a lovely pass from Balbuena. He skipped towards the area and then played a perfect ball between defence and goalkeeper across the six yard box.

Yarmolenko missed it, and Snodgrass made up the ground as it evaded everyone in the area. His desperate sliding shot was from too tight an angle, the Scotsman only able to divert the ball into the post.

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It was the last moment of note in the game and both teams had to settle for a point, one Sheffield United seemed grateful for as they time wasted late on.

And it was a poor one for West Ham, with visitors given too many chances but also often giving The Hammers the impetus to come at them and create. For all their 61% possession, Pellegrini's men did not create enough to be worth all three points.

What good chances they did create came on the counter, and the wastefulness when 1-0 up cost them a game that was there for the taking. It was also a wasted chance to push back up the table, with sixth place waiting for them if they had held their lead.

It posed the question of whether wholesale changes, clearly as a reaction to last week's performance, ended up just weakening the starting line up. An often one-paced team now lacked Lanzini, Fredericks and Masuaku, leaving Anderson the only man really fleet of foot.

The inclusion of Snodgrass proved wise, but his move to the wing was unsuccessful, and reminds of his limitations as a wideman these days.

There is undoubtedly a malaise in full flow, with creativity against solid defences still an issue, questions in central midfield and the full back areas, an isolated striker and a lack of depth.

An unremarkable season seems set to follow, and with the above issues exactly the same as last season, awkward questions will be asked about any progress being made.

This Sheffield United side are clearly a difficult proposition - still above us on goal difference - but there will be little excuse if a floundering Newcastle are allowed to come away with anything from the London Stadium next week.

But on this evidence, and with their strength in sitting deep with numbers, it is hard to see that as an easy game. The manager has failed in his performances in the last few games, and today was no different. Failure next week would be damning after a horrible October.

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Player Ratings

Roberto Jimenez Gago
Crucial early save from McGoldrick, although hit right at him, but weak for the goal. You expect Fabianski would have stopped it. Hard to tell whether he should be saving some of the goals he lets in or Fabianski has spoiled us, but he's not near the standards of the injured Pole.


Pablo Zabaleta
Solid, if unspectacular. Probably about as bad at crossing as Fredericks, but without his counter pace. Did his job defensively.


Aaron Cresswell
Reasonably solid, the chances down the left often due to extra runners. Should have scored when dallying in the area. Starting to pity him when he gets the chance to cross: Haller is the only option and no one else moves.


Issa Diop
The defence gave away too many simple chances, whilst his booking was a silly tackle. The flick header that led to the equaliser could have been much better.


Fabian Balbuena
No wildly notable change in quality with Ogbonna replaced. But the defence was lucky not to be punished further.


Declan Rice
Put out a lot of fires in the middle, covering a lot of ground. Looked more like himself. Drove forward a few times with the ball, meaning he's now doing the defensive and attacking work.


Mark Noble
Hard to see what he offered today. Played a little more conservatively, and the right side itself was just a bit blunt all game. Could use a performance next week.


Felipe Anderson
He was close to being really good, beating men and making chances on the counter, but also made poor passes on those counters and missed a simple chance that would have given a two goal cushion.


Robert Snodgrass
Excellent first half. Marauded down the left and covered a lot of the pitch, both defensively and in attack. Helped the team look more solid in open play. Second half, not so involved and then poor as a winger.


Andriy Yarmolenko
The assist for the goal was simple yet brilliant, and if his teammates were better, he'd have ended the game with three assists, having put the ball on a plate for both Anderson and Cresswell.


Sebastien Haller
He didn't really link the attack, and for all the extra solidity in the middle, the deeper midfield three left Haller even more isolated. Some sympathy for him, especially when he's left alone to attack crosses against three centre backs. Less touches of the ball than Roberto and only seven more than Lanzini, who played 25 minutes.



Substitutes

Manuel Lanzini
(Replaced (Anderson) Ineffective. Would have been useful when the game was stretched.


Pablo Fornals
(Replaced Noble) Scurrying around as he does, his ball across the goal was fantastic.


Albian Ajeti
(Replaced Snodgrass) Only had five minutes but he wasn't seen.


David Martin
Did not play.


Ryan Fredericks
Did not play.


Angelo Ogbonna
Did not play.


Carlos Sanchez
Did not play.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Roberto Jimenez Gago, Pablo Zabaleta, Aaron Cresswell, Issa Diop, Fabian Balbuena, Declan Rice, Mark Noble, Felipe Anderson, Robert Snodgrass, Andriy Yarmolenko, Sebastien Haller.

Goals: Robert Snodgrass 44                  .

Booked: Issa Diop 28 Fabian Balbuena 62        .

Sent off: None.

Sheffield United: Henderson, Basham, Egan, O'Connell, Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood (Mousset 63), Fleck, Stevens, McGoldrick (Besic 81), Robinson (Sharp 54).

Subs not used: Moore, Jagielka, Freeman, McBurnie.

Goals: Mousset (69).

Booked: Baldock, Stevens.

Sent off: None.

Referee: David Coote.

Attendance: 59,878.

Man of the Match: Robert Snodgrass.