West Ham United 2 West Bromwich Albion 1
Tuesday, 19th January 2021
by Chris Wilkerson
West Ham United kept up the pressure on the European places as another gritty performance gave them a 2-1 win at the London Stadium, doing just enough to keep Sam Allardyce's West Bromwich Albion at bay.It was another game you wouldn?EUR(TM)t be thrilled to watch again, and in the end it was overshadowed a little by a potential rule-breaking agreement between the two clubs that stopped Robert Snodgrass playing. That story is sure to develop over the coming days.
On the pitch, it was always clear that West Ham were the better side, although an inability to put the game to bed always gave West Brom a chance to take a point they really would not have deserved.
There was just one change to the side that beat Burnley at the London Stadium three days prior, with Lanzini brought in to start and Fornals dropped to the bench. The Argentine went into the number 10 role, with Benrahma pushed wide left.
Benrahma was lively in the first half, his partnership with Cresswell down the left seeing a lot of the ball. Predictably, West Brom sat back and allowed the home side control of the ball, not something West Ham have been accustomed to this season. It allowed for a frustrating watch, the visitors counter-attacking sparsely and Moyes?EUR(TM)s side struggling to break down a typically resilient Allardyce defence.
There was an early chance for Dawson from a corner that the centre back should have done better with, but otherwise little to awaken the neutral viewer from their slumber. At the other end, Ogbonna came close as a header at his own goal was dealt with by Fabianski.
The football was torpid, this West Ham team more of a relentless battering ram than anything full of guile and subtlety. Benrahma was guilty of overplaying on the edge of the box, but also appeared the only man able to do something a bit different or beat a man to create space.
His movement was helping Cresswell, his 81 passes and 116 touches comfortably the highest in the game, and he found good crossing positions and some wicked deliveries often fired in brilliantly to a forward line not on their heels to attack the ball.
With the half drifting to a close, it was Benrahma down the left who created enough to spark some life into the West Ham attack.
Twisting and turning for space once more, his cross from down the flank went high and beyond all defenders, and was volleyed back across goal brilliantly by Coufal. It was fired across at some pace, hitting Jarrod Bowen on the chest and flying into the net. Replays showed the winger did well to turn his body and guide the ball goalward and give his side the lead with seconds of the half remaining.
Typically described as a good time to score, it seemed to hamper West Brom little. Five minutes after the restart, they were back on level terms.
It was poor defending from the Hammers, backing off Pereira as he ran at the left side of the area. With defenders retreating, the Brazilian fired in low to the far corner from the edge of the box, beating Fabianski and smashing his side back level as West Ham conceded their first goal of 2021 and their first for over seven hours of football.
It gave Allardyce?EUR(TM)s men a lift, although the motivation it gave them to attack did allow the home side to play football with more space in the opponent?EUR(TM)s half. Unsurprisingly, Albion reverted to type about five minutes later, settling on the edge of the box to defend.
The bodies at the back continued to frustrate the Irons, and it was numbers that saved them once more from going behind. After Bowen squeezed a ball to Antonio on the six yard box with his back to goal, the striker laid it off to Lanzini and his shot was stopped only by the head of Jay O?EUR(TM)Shea on the line, the goalkeeper beaten. Moments later, Rice was only inches wide as he struck from outside the box.
They were close again moments later, Rice running down the side of the area as Cresswell passed a freekick into the path of his run, only for his shot to flash across the face of goal and find neither net nor a West Ham player waiting.
Moyes made changes, Yarmolenko and Fornals coming off the bench to replace Lanzini and Benrahma, with Bowen switching to the left wing, accommodating the Ukrainian. Less than five minutes later, the manager?EUR(TM)s decision was rewarded.
Cresswell crossed from the left once more, he put 10 in across the 90, and his ball to the back post was quite excellently headed back into the middle by Yarmolenko.
Antonio reacted first, the ball behind him, somehow swinging round and volleying the ball in and past Sam Johnstone in the net when others would have struggled to even make connection. Yet again, Antonio?EUR(TM)s influence proved vital and it was his second winning goal since returning from injury.
Huge claims for a penalty were ignored by the referee as Soucek was clearly and blatantly fouled in the box, and it is incredible to think there appears no logic in what decisions VAR gets itself involved in. The challenge was a foul, it was missed by the referee and a clear error in a game he had made many small ones in.
Instead play went on, and it remained tight and tense as the Hammers sat very deep and accepted they would defend for the last 15-20 minutes of the game.
This kind of defensive approach is both overly cautious and a huge risk. It allowed West Brom freedom to attack without much threat of what could happen in their own half.
Soon Conor Gallagher was guilty of missing a big chance, the ball rolling to him in just inside the area, but the midfielder tried to cut across the shot and instead fired straight to Fabianski.
Noble came on for Antonio to give an extra body in midfield, but it only stifled any counter attack even more. As time ticked away, there was always the likelihood of that one last chance. It fell to Darnell Furlong, the right wingback flying in from wide to meet a cross into the middle, volleying inches wide with Fabianski rooted to the spot.
As the ball kept coming back from either clearances or just sloppy passes forward, one last shank into the box looked to cause issues. Gallagher went down under a Yarmolenko challenge and the referee blew, only to book the West Brom player for diving.
It was the last hurrah, West Ham holding on to remain unbeaten for six games and record a fourth win in a row.
The win puts them seventh in the table, three points above Frank Lampard?EUR(TM)s Chelsea and only two shy of fourth placed Liverpool. With 32 points from 19 games, Moyes?EUR(TM)s men are only seven short of their total from the whole of last season.
It was another match that won?EUR(TM)t live long in the memory, but the three points and the lofty place in the table means it will be gladly forgotten amidst increasing belief in this side.
The more worried amongst you may point to the complete lack of striker on the bench and no alternative to Antonio and his hamstrings, but surely nothing could go wrong there, right?
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Better command of his area today, came for crosses with good catches and a punch that relieved pressure from the late long ball barrage.
He looked more troubled by Grosicki than any other winger has been able to make him, but he adjusted well and his assist unlocked the game.
Untroubled defensively, winning some good headers against players clearly taller than him, the left back was also good on the ball and can feel aggrieved that good crosses were not attacked better in the area. The stats might read only two accurate crosses from ten, but his deliveries were often good. Sees a lot of the ball and passes much better than the rest of our defenders.
Maybe a touch harsh to blame him for the goal, but the lack of pressure on Pereira?EUR(TM)s shot was very poor. Dealt with the aerial threat well and was otherwise untroubled.
Calm and collected. Every game, Ogbonna is calm and collected. Must be a dream to play alongside. A clear level or three above the attackers against him.
Very little for him to clear up defensively as the midfield was often bypassed. Good to see him driving at goal and shooting, it offers a different threat, but he does need to calm down a touch. Accurate on the ball, as ever, but merely untested in his defensive duties.
It is interesting that when Soucek sits deeper and gets on the ball more, Rice is comfortable to allow him to play and be his deputy. A lot of long balls out wide to open the play, his passing has definitely improved with his growing confidence. Still a bit clumsy when dribbling, but he dominated the middle and did well aerially in defence too.
Very unlucky not to score when his shot was blocked on the line, and he was otherwise neat, tidy and linked well with Cresswell and Benrahma. He is certainly better than Benrahma at collecting the ball from midfield and playing smartly in dangerous situations, but lacks the spark and acceleration to trouble defenders like his teammate.
Relatively quiet first half as the ball stayed down the left often, he did brilliantly to instinctively guide Coufal?EUR(TM)s volleyed cross into the back of the net. The least touches of all our starting outfield players, he may have been confused to see Yarmolenko come on whilst he remained on the field. He was good in bursts, but on the periphery at times.
Yes, he is still guilty of doing a bit too much with the ball at his feet, but there?EUR(TM)s an ability to turn a man inside-out that this team needs. It needs someone with flair and who is a bit unpredictable because the rest can be a little too risk-averse. In a dull first half, he had a spark lacking in the rest of the team.
Still a little short of his best, but starting to get there. Bullied defenders at times, one sent flying in a 50/50 shoulder-to-shoulder challenge, and his instincts in front of goal are starting to make it questionable why he wasn?EUR(TM)t used as a striker all through his career. 41 goals now for the club, all in the area, and only behind Di Canio and Noble.
(Replaced Benrahma, 62) The header was excellent, setting up Antonio and securing the goal that won the game.
(Replaced Lanzini, 62) Seemed to come on to do the running for the tiring attack. Was pressing where Antonio normally would be, before getting back to the wing to defend in front of Cresswell.
(Replaced Antonio, 83) Very little to do other than add some bite in midfield and marshal the troops through the last few minutes.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play. Also unused: Issa Diop, Frederik Alves.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Aaron Cresswell, Craig Dawson, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Manuel Lanzini, Jarrod Bowen, Said Benrahma, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Jarrod Bowen 45 Michail Antonio 65 .
Sent off: None.
West Bromwich Albion: Johnstone, O'Shea, Bartley, Ajayi, Gibbs, Gallagher, Livermore (Robson-Kanu 79), Pereira, Sawyers, Grosicki (Furlong 70), Robinson.
Subs not used: Button, Krovinovic, Ivanovic, Edwards, Peltier, Kipre, Field.
Goals: Pereira (51).
Booked: Gallagher (90+3).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Graham Scott.
Man of the Match: Aaron Cresswell.