Leeds United 1-2 West Ham United
Saturday, 25th September 2021
by Chris Wilkerson
An enthralling encounter between two exciting teams was settled in the dying moments as a wonderful Antonio goal gave West Ham a 2-1 win, coming from behind to take all three points.Arguably the two most entertaining teams in the league came together and didn?EUR(TM)t disappoint, an open game flying from one end to another as the two sides registered 35 shots.
The breathless pace seemed to knock Moyes?EUR(TM)s side off-kilter in the first half, but as the game wore on, it was the Hammers who took control in the second half.
Even in the first half, not at their best, chances presented themselves to West Ham and Illan Meslier in the Leeds goal deserved the man of the match award after a brilliant performance.
Leeds were lacking players in key positions, with Bamford injured and 18-year-old Charlie Cresswell making his first Premier League start for the club.
For West Ham, the team was expected, with Antonio returning to replace Vlasic from the side who so painfully lost to Manchester United in the league the week before.
Away at Elland Road is always a tough tie, but the hosts were pinned back early on as West Ham came out of the traps. There was a big chance for Antonio after Benrahma and Soucek bundled it through the defence, only for Meslier to tip his effort wide.
Benrahma forced a good save from the goalkeeper moments later, bending one to the far post only for the French goalkeeper to fly across goal and tip wide once more.
From the corner, Leeds broke and looked through on goal. The pass would have found a man through on goal but for the work of Said Benrahma, getting back to intercept and save a clear opportunity.
The home side had not started too well, but this moment woke them up, and gave West Ham an indication of what they were facing on the break. These are two teams who counter attack at speed and Leeds looked threatening any time Raphinha got on the front foot.
With this encouragement, the open space and chaotic pace of the game really became evident. In that chaos, Leeds thrived, whilst West Ham struggled to get fully to grips with the game.
It appeared to unsettle Rice and Soucek, both of whom looked slightly off their usual standards on the ball in the first half. Somewhat sloppy play from Rice allowed Leeds a chance for Klich that Fabianski saved well.
But it was sloppy play from his midfield partner that Bielsa?EUR(TM)s side punished to take the lead.
With Zouma upfield, the ball came back to Soucek in his own half. Under pressure, the Czech midfielder turned to pass to Ogbonna and was too weak and lazy with it, Rodrigo taking the ball and driving down the line.
His pass inside to Klich was good, and the Leeds midfielder did well to roll his man and lay it off to Raphinha, who placed it into the bottom corner from the edge of the box and gave his side the lead.
The Brazilian midfielder was excellent, ascending above the madness and playing with finesse and skill whilst everyone else just tried to keep up.
Leeds were the better side in the first half, undoubtedly seeing their much-vaunted style disrupt West Ham?EUR(TM)s rhythm. There is little to take from a game against Leeds and apply elsewhere in the Premier League, no one else plays like them and sides often find themselves working out to best deal with it whilst the game goes on.
West Ham clearly hadn?EUR(TM)t in the first half, but still had their chances. The danger came from the spaces they left trying to do so, and they were relieved to see a Raphinha effort hit the base of the post from a similar position to where he scored.
Whilst half chances never quite fell the right way for West Ham, they undoubtedly should have levelled just before half time.
Fornals, who struggled to find his best form, was played through by Antonio and sprinted into the box, one-on-one. A sloppy touch just before his shot took the ball a little out of reach, and his effort on the stretch was well saved.
Bowen saw a good shot effort fly wide just before the referee blew to end a disappointing half for the Hammers.
Something needed to change, and it?EUR(TM)s to Moyes?EUR(TM)s credit that his side improved after the break, especially impressive as the personnel remained the same.
He was certainly met in the changing room by a team who looked more frustrated than they had for some time, which is to the credit of their opponents.
Whatever the changes were, whatever was said in that dressing room, it did not click to begin with.
It was a disallowed goal that really signalled the change in control that West Ham had.
A poor freekick was headed high into the air by the Leeds defence, failing from above to Meslier. The goalkeeper went up with Antonio and failed to hold the ball, and Soucek was there to provide the finishing touch.
Inside the ground, the fans celebrated as the goalkeeper lay flattened. Watching at home, the foul was more obvious, and the referee finally saw why when told to check the screen. Meslier was floored by the waved arm of Antonio and left with a bloody face to boot. The goal was quickly disallowed, although the subsequent yellow card for Antonio only came once the howls of the home fans found the ears of referee Kevin Friend.
Just look an angry and frustrated team, and it?EUR(TM)s because we can?EUR(TM)t handle Leeds
It was one of many poor set pieces, yet the threat was clear once the delivery was good. Cresswell?EUR(TM)s only good delivery of the game was headed powerfully at goal by Soucek - who was more of a presence in the penalty area in the second half - and forced Meslier into another fine stop.
It felt like luck was truly against West Ham at this point, but in the space of a few minutes it all turned their way.
One moment, Raphinha had again got in down the left and found Klich in acres of space in the box. But the midfielder passed wide when he really should have scored.
Minutes later, fortune stopped hiding for the West Ham attack. Patient build-up went from right to left, and then right again as Rice fired across a diagonal. Coufal gathered and saw Bowen free down the line.
The tireless winger drove into the box and shot, his effort blocked by the defender but ricocheting into the body of Junior Firpo and into the back of the net. For all the struggles of the first half, the side deserved that break for their improvement in the second.
Leeds United, who had run quite endlessly for an hour were deflated. The space was still there in the game, and there were gaps still when they mustered a counter, but the runners were not there and those 50/50s in the middle were no longer pounced upon.
The home side retreated, but West Ham did not. Last year, the manager may well have settled for a point. But this season, this team have the confidence of a great year behind them. There are few games they do not feel they can win. With Leeds wounded, the players in claret and blue stepped forward and went for the win.
Antonio came to life, Rice was finding his passes and surging forward. That said, they created very little, themselves shattered by the effort required to match their opponents.
Whilst a draw may well have been fair, West Ham?EUR(TM)s ambition and endeavour was rewarded with the move of the game.
Vlasic defended with energy and commitment as others tired, and helped his side win the ball back. It fell to Coufal, who dinked a little pass into midfield for Rice.
Once more he burst forward, but found a sensational pass into the middle for Michail Antonio, the striker giving everything he had left to push forward.
He took it in, then flicked it around the defender to stroll through on goal. Into the area, the striker opened his body up and placed the ball into the bottom corner, giving his side the three points they will feel their effort deserved.
And so it ended, a fantastic result given they had gone behind and after Leeds had truly tried to run West Ham into the ground.
The players deserve credit, fighting through when a little off colour to match and then bully Leeds late on in the game. The manager does too, not only for reacting without panic to the poor first half, and for pushing on to win when many would have accepted a comeback point away from home.
Just another day to enjoy something else about this West Ham team.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
A decent performance from Fabianski, who dealt with most that came his way with ease. Worth noting how sharp he was off his line when Dan James got behind in the first half.
Was upfield when the side conceded. It?EUR(TM)s to his credit that the pace of Dan James never seemed to be even a footnote in the game. Lovely pass to Rice to release him and start the move to win the game.
Raphinha was in control of the game until he was forced off injured. When he dropped deeper and pulled strings, Cresswell didn?EUR(TM)t press up against him. When he went down the line, he beat Cresswell too easily.
His defending was assured and he does just look a class act at the back. Took command of the ball and dragged his side forward on a few occasions. It came back to bite him on the first goal, but it was necessary and he cannot be blamed for what happened behind him.
The centre backs were not particularly tested by Rodrigo up front, and Ogbonna was quiet at the back. Did his job fine, just not particularly tested, whilst Zouma seemed to be the magnet as balls came in.
Outnumbered in central midfield by a tireless team, it was a hard ask for Dec. He grew into it and, as others tired, took more control. The run and pass for Antonio were excellent.
A first half as poor as he?EUR(TM)s played for West Ham, but he recovered his composure in the second half. It helped that Leeds could not keep the tempo up, but Soucek also got into things much better and threatened in the box too.
An interesting one for Benrahma. When he was good, we were good, and he was the biggest threat in the first half. Not only that, he made two quite vital interceptions in and around his own penalty area when others were missing. Too harshly criticised by those who see him as a luxury.
In a game full of tireless runners who could graft and play, Fornals struggled to match what Leeds were doing. He should have scored at least one, but did come to life just before he was substituted and showed his vision.
He flitted in and out of things, but when Leeds tired, Bowen didn?EUR(TM)t. Considering his efforts in the last two games, it was astonishing to see him flying forward and defending high up the pitch, whilst still defending his flank too, as the time ticked away. Made the goal himself and deserves to be given it.
A frustrating Antonio performance. There were moves that broke down due to his poor touches in simple situations, and he then went looking for the ball and cost the attack its focal point. But he still caused issues, came close on a number of occasions and then came to life to take his goal quite fantastically.
(Replaced Fornals 78) For his defensive work rate alone.
(Replaced Bowen 90+2) On for only a few minutes.
(Replaced Antonio 90+7) On for even less.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Aaron Cresswell, Kurt Zouma, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Said Benrahma, Pablo Fornals, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Jarrod Bowen 67 Michail Antonio 90 .
Booked: Pablo Fornals 28 Michail Antonio 55 .
Sent off: None.
Leeds United: Meslier, Firpo, Cooper (c), Raphinha (Roberts 69), Dallas, Rodrigo, James (Harrison 45), Phillips, Cresswell, Klich, Shackleton (Summerville 90).
Subs not used: Klaesson, Gelhardt, Hjelde, Drameh, Greenwood, McCarron.
Goals: Raphinha (19).
Booked: Meslier (70).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Kevin Friend.
Man of the Match: Michail Antonio.