West Ham United 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Saturday, 20th February 2021
by Chris Wilkerson
With backs to the wall and sprinklings of flair, West Ham pushed themselves back into the top four with a 2-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur.A two-goal lead was halved with 25 minutes remaining, but a resolute West Ham held on, with a slice of luck amongst things too. It may have taken 15 attempts, but David Moyes finally beat Jose Mourinho, and in a match full of grit, fight and quite a lot of Tomas Soucek?EUR(TM)s blood.
Fornals and Antonio returned, Johnson and Lanzini dropping out as the manager returned to the 4-2-3-1 formation that has pushed this side higher and higher up the table. That change sent the message the fans needed to see and the club needed to take onboard - one that ignored reputation and trusted our own ability.
Not that it could do anything to quieten the anxiety that comes with watching West Ham.
But those nerves have been rarely justified this season - not that success can stop them - and it may be time to not just understand and see that this West Ham side has something about them, but actually believe it.
Five minutes into the game, they reminded us all once more.
Down the right were Coufal and Soucek, careful and considered on the ball, scrapping for it if any resistance came. After Soucek retrieved a 50/50 and the ball was laid back to Bowen, the winger was given as much time as he wanted to ready a cross into the box.
The time was used well, Bowen curling a cross at goal that evaded the head of Dier and dropped onto Antonio?EUR(TM)s toe. His poke at goal was stopped once by Lloris, but the striker reacted first to the loose ball and cannoned it into the back of the net from close range for the 1-0 early lead.
The goal was a cushion that gave the team confidence to play, with Lingard, Fornals, Bowen and Antonio showing great fluidity in their positioning and movement, swapping places, popping up in different areas of the pitch and causing issues with running on and off the ball.
Lingard and Antonio may feel they could have extended that lead only a few minutes later, the pair combining to get Lingard into the area, but the on-loan midfielder?EUR(TM)s stabbed pass back to the striker was too far ahead of him and drifted on when he had had the chance to shoot himself.
At the other end, a Lamela-led counter attack forced an opening for Kane, but his shot from the angle fizzed wide of the goal. It was a warning shot, a reminder of the life in Tottenham and the threat of Harry Kane, the striker who has 11 goals in 15 appearances against the Hammers.
Soon he maybe should have scored. A corner bent in towards Fabianski was not dealt with by the goalkeeper, and his punch into the air kept the ball in danger. One Tottenham header forced it at goal, only for Soucek to win the next, at the cost of his own safety as he stayed down. The ball dropped to Kane, stopped once from shooting eight yards from goal only for the ball to fall to him once more.
This time his shot flew at goal, but was blocked by a wall of West Ham defenders. Once cleared, the referee then noticed the injury to Soucek, his face covered in blood and a cut opened on his eyebrow. The midfielder ran down the tunnel for stitches, West Ham forced to play five minutes with ten men and the momentum shifting to the away side as they were allowed to dominate the ball.
The pressure held, but other than a missed stab at goal by Moura, Mourinho?EUR(TM)s side were kept at bay.
With Tottenham now in the ascendancy, West Ham dropped back in and defended resolutely. The remaining 20 minutes of the half were quiet, Kane with one chance saved very well by Fabianski, whilst Dawson and Diop both could have done better with headers from corners.
Moyes will have been delighted to go in with the one-goal lead at half time, whereas Mourinho?EUR(TM)s displeasure was made clear at the return from the interval as Matt Doherty and Gareth Bale were dragged onto the pitch to make a difference. To the Welshman?EUR(TM)s credit, he was arguably the best player on the pitch in the second half.
Whatever was said at half time, the task for Tottenham was almost immediately made harder by more Jesse Lingard magic.
Cresswell played a firm pass into Antonio?EUR(TM)s feet down the left, and the striker used his body to hold off the defender and lay the ball back to Lingard. He knocked it on to Fornals, the Spaniard returning it to Lingard and running in behind. Lingard beat Sanchez to the pass and then ran on to his own flicked pass and, with the ball just inside the corner of the area, Lingard lashed it with his left across Lloris and into the bottom left corner of the Frenchman?EUR(TM)s goal for a 2-0 lead.
The flag went up instantly, the assistant referee indicating Fornals was offside. Replays showed he may have been in-line when the final touch towards him was played, and that his movement to the ball could have caused the flag to be raised, but closer replays showed the last touch had come off Sanchez, Fornals had been onside when Lingard touched the ball and West Ham had a two-goal cushion to protect for 45 minutes more.
Of course, they could have considered stretching that lead, but the game became completely entrenched in the West Ham half, the defence dropping deep and the ability to retain the ball draining from the side. It was attack versus defence until the final whistle.
Which, as ever, was a horrible, anxiety-ridden watch. Kane was able to play as a real striker as Bale took control of the build-up play. Down the Tottenham right, he had the beating of Cresswell and offered another dimension of threat that Lamela had not carried.
Pressure piled on and it was with just under half an hour to go that the lead was halved. A Bale corner from the right to the near post was met by Lucas Moura, his header guiding it off the inside of the near post and beating Fabianski to make the game 2-1. Cresswell had lost him and the header was far too easy, even if perfectly executed.
Benrahma replaced Bowen, but there were tired legs further forward, barely any time in control of the ball and counter attacks withering before they could ever relieve pressure on the defence. Lingard and Antonio were fading.
With the ball coming back again and again, it seemed only a matter of time before Mourinho?EUR(TM)s side equalised. Bale was playing with confidence, first-time passes opening up space for teammates who failed to deliver. Alli was thrown into the fray next as Jose played his last card.
The chances really started to come.
One breakaway looked destined for a goal. Kane was free down the right, with teammates flooding through the middle waiting to tap in his slide-rule pass across the face of goal. The England captain delivered, but it was, somehow, Declan Rice whose toe won the battle for the ball in desperate defending that saved a sure goal.
The danger was not over. Kane retrieved the clearance and laid the ball to the edge of the area for Gareth Bale. Lining up the first time hit, the ball flew off that left boot but only found the crossbar before flying into empty stands.
Johnson came on for Fornals and the defending continued. It is worth noting the performance of Diop, labelled unreliable in situations such as this, he was a man ready for the battle and performed with the same fight and spirit of Dawson beside him. Coufal too was excellent, as illustrated by how poor Heung-Min Son was.
There was one more chance, one more moment that saw time slow down and heartbeats catch. A ball into the area found no Spurs player, but dropping into space, Coufal beat Son to the free ball. However, his hack away only ricocheted off the South Korean and the deflection spun into the air, looped over a scrambling Fabianski and looked destined to drop cruelly into the goal.
Instead it struck the post, Sanchez could not get to the rebound and the ball was cleared frantically. Stoppage time ticked away painfully slowly, but whistle came. A thoroughly deserved victory, even if it was one with heavy doses of good luck thrown in.
It leaves West Ham in fourth place, a point behind Manchester United, two ahead of Chelsea, five ahead of Liverpool and nine ahead of Tottenham. With 13 games remaining. Fourth place. West Ham. There is no order of those words that will make me really believe they are true.
Who knows, it may go down as another promising situation turned sour by the West Ham of all things in life, but it?EUR(TM)s there, it?EUR(TM)s currently happening.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Some good saves and catches, although that one flap in the first half could easily have led to a goal, and it certainly led to the stitches in Tomas Soucek?EUR(TM)s head.
When it?EUR(TM)s time for a fight, Coufal is game. He scraps in defence, and it was clear he again enjoyed the challenge of facing a much-heralded opponent. Son was quiet, especially when he was moved to play one-on-one with Coufal. He never won a head-to-head, the full back resolute as ever.
Looked comfortable until Bale and Doherty came on, where the two doubled up on him well and Bale had the class to make space quickly against Cresswell and use the ball. His forward passing was good, his corners dangerous and he defends well when we sit very deep and he?EUR(TM)s not drawn out to the wings, and we got deeper and deeper as the time went on.
As Kane remained in the striker position more than the reverse fixture earlier in the season, Dawson was good in close quarters. He made less desperate challenges than he maybe usually does, but led the defence well.
His ground defending is his strength, and he always looks his best against teams that play on the deck. But he stood up to the fight today too, especially as crosses flew in. He stepped out to defend on rare occasions, but otherwise was the most active man at the back, making multiple big challenges, clearances and blocks.
Made a mockery of comparisons between himself and Hojbjerg. Excellent defensively, including the sliding lunge that saved a definite goal, and had the energy in the second half to try drive the team out and forward. In a game where his side struggled to keep the ball, his passing was still good and he kept the side ticking.
No influence in attack, but he fought all game defensively. A near 50% pass accuracy is poor, but the aerial duels won, the scrappy tackling and presence at the back stopped many an attack flourishing. More concerned when Coufal went down than when his own head dripped with blood.
Another game where he was quieter than the rest of his teammates, but his contributions were telling. The cross for Antonio?EUR(TM)s goal was perfect, but he then stuck to the task of tracking Reguilon. That said, it is a surprise to see he only made four passes in his 64 minutes on the pitch. His movement was good, he worked hard and he set up a goal, but he still isn?EUR(TM)t at where he had been before this dip in form. He needs to draw confidence from his assist.
Usually safer on the ball, he was of course everywhere across the pitch and worked as hard as ever. He seemed to be on Lingard?EUR(TM)s wavelength too and the pair dovetailed positionally with intelligence. He can take the assist for the Lingard goal, and take a little credit for leaving the ball to Lingard in the area too. The right choice to start over Benrahma.
Most of West Ham?EUR(TM)s good work came through Lingard, who was again very good in his movement in conjunction with Antonio and Fornals, combining well and complementing each other?EUR(TM)s play. He learned from the early wasted chance where he passed to Antonio, the second half goal showing what he can do with his left foot. The finish was perfect too. He ran himself into the ground, looking tired late on and showing what is still to come with fitness.
Took his goal very well, the movement and reactions to get to the ball good, the reaction to the rebound showing a striker?EUR(TM)s instinct. His presence unsettles defenders and we are such a better team just for having him bullying defenders up top. After the goal, an accomplished performance in the basics of holding the ball up, laying off to runners and springing to action for the counter.
(Replaced Bowen, 65) Unfortunately for him, he came on when the rest of the attacking players were out of energy and the team was only really defending. Bothered Sanchez, tying him up in knots on a couple of occasions, but limited to brief moments. His throw to Cresswell in his own half was daft and caused problems.
(Replaced Fornals, 82) There to make it harder for Bale down the right. Did his work diligently in his brief time on the pitch.
(Replaced Lingard, 90) On for seconds.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Aaron Cresswell, Craig Dawson, Issa Diop, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Jarrod Bowen, Pablo Fornals, Jesse Lingard, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Michail Antonio 5 Jesse Lingard 47 .
Booked: Tomas Soucek 56 Issa Diop 62 Michail Antonio 69 Pablo Fornals 72 .
Sent off: None.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Tanganga (Doherty 46), Dier, Sanchez, Reguilon (Alli 76), Lamela (Bale 46), Hojbjerg, Ndombele, Moura, Son, Kane.
Subs not used: Hart, Alderweireld, Davies, Winks, Sissoko, Vinicius.
Goals: Moura (63).
Booked: Lamela (36), Hojbjerg (42), Reguilon (44).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Craig Pawson.
Man of the Match: Declan Rice.