West Ham United 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur
Sunday, 24th October 2021
by Chris Wilkerson
It happened again at the London Stadium this afternoon, West Ham disposing of Tottenham Hotspur to move into the top four. A second-half Antonio goal was enough to take a 1-0 victory in a tight contest with little margin for error.The win also shakes off doubts about how Moyes's side reacts to league games that follow Europa League matches, this being the first win on a Sunday after European football on Thursday. It is worth remembering - and enjoying - that Tottenham rested eleven players for this game, making wholesale changes for their Thursday night Europa Conference League tie so they could be at their best for the mighty Hammers. 0 points from those two matches.
At times attritional, there were large periods of the game with very little in the way of chances or excitement, but it always rested on a knife-edge. In a typical game that would be settled by a single goal, it was to West Ham's favour that they had a world-class striker and Tottenham only had the ghost of Harry Kane.
The home side started brightly, in a similar but not quite as impressive vein as at Everton last weekend. They looked sharp, hungry and in control. Throughout the game, even when that spark shone far less brightly, the difference in the teams was always that one was assured and comfortable in how they play, whilst the other were solid but without any clear plan. Moyes has got his team playing with confidence, and a confidence that holds in different match situations. His opposite number seems a long way from that.
The first start again failed to yield much in the way of chances, but they did test the goalkeeper. One effort from Fornals was spectacular, a lovely acrobatic volley in mid-air after a cross from Bowen. It troubled Lloris very little, but gave a signal of intent. The move was really made by the play of Johnson down the right, playing once more in Coufal's continued absence.
Both teams were unchanged from their game the weekend before, which meant Lucas Moura and Tanguy Ndombele were the two who supported Kane and Son in the Spurs attack. Everything went through the much-maligned Ndombele, and he was the only one of their players to come out of the game with any credit. If it wasn't him making moves tick, his side went nowhere.
The away side came to life after 20 minutes and started to control the tempo of the game, inspired by a half-chance first for Son and then Moura that was wasted, but underlined the threat they have.
The South Korean forward looked the only one likely to bring a goal, and it was lovely football between him and Ndombele that opened West Ham up minutes later. It was simple too, Son laying off to Ndombele 30 yards from goal and then sprinting towards the penalty area. Ndombele played the pass through brilliantly and Son was too fast for the centre backs, but his shot was tame and right at Fabianski.
There was balance to the half, and neither team ever felt like they had a complete grip of the game. When one was on top, it was never long from the other having a period of pressure. Both sides were well aware of the threat the other held on the counter too, leaving things less than enthralling for the neutral. It was a gripping watch with vested interest - it always felt like the pressure could give - but it had little of the flow or creativity imbued within it to leave any on the edge of their seat.
Still, there were moments, and chances came for each team before the half was out.
For West Ham, Soucek should have scored with a header from close range. Fornals, whose return to form today was timely, did excellently to create space on the left of the area and bend a ball to the far post. Soucek rose above the defenders and made good contact with the header, only to guide it inches wide.
At the other end, Ndombele was given a free header after a Reguilon cross, running into the area from midfield unopposed only to head the ball right at Fabianski.
It twisted and turned again, one moment Antonio bursting into the box and skying a left-footed shot when he may have been better passing, whilst at the other end Kane was thwarted by an excellent Fabianski save. Reguilon delivered smartly from the left, looping a high ball to the far post for the England captain to attack, the forward having the run on a standing Cresswell and soaring above him to head at goal. It was central, but just above Fabianski and the reactions of the West Ham goalkeeper made for a very sharp save.
As the half ended, the teams will have felt they were not far from clicking into gear. Certainly for West Ham, many promising moves and breaks were let down by a short pass or misguided delivery, the fine margins that had stopped a promising half becoming anything more.
Unsurprisingly, the managers sent their sides out unchanged and hoping that that little bit extra would come from somewhere.
Their hopes seemed futile, the game drifting aimlessly for large swathes of time. West Ham, either by design or not, allowed Tottenham wholesale possession and the away side dominated the ball. They never dominated the game, so blunt were they in attack, with the haunting spirit of Harry Kane drifting around with zero impact and almost negative threat.
It continued with Ndombele's creativity being the only idea Spurs seemed to have. He deserves credit, the ten alongside him were abjectly average at best, even though they may feel they could have scored when a ball fired across the face of goal just missed Skipp and flew away to safety.
For all the time on the ball they had, they created nothing. Tottenham ended the game with 63% possession, yet failed to have a single shot in the second half.
West Ham were flat, comfortably holding their opponents at bay but failing to really create anything themselves. With little working in attack, they needed something a little different to get them going again.
Thankfully, Tottenham defender Cristian Romero was there to offer it, unnecessarily and aggressively shouting in the face of Fornals as he lay on the floor after a challenge. The Spaniard grabbed his leg and flared up to face him, causing a little ruckus and bringing something fire into a derby that had been rather benign up to this point.
The Argentine was booked - mainly for being a moron - and Fornals was suddenly racing around with a little more energy. The game was certainly poised, there was little space but also a feeling that either team could score. The little bit of handbags only served to bring West Ham back into Tottenham's faces and on the hunt for their own chances.
The energy it gave everyone's favourite Spaniard started to tell. He had defended well and protected Cresswell, but now the energy was working in the Tottenham half too. He nearly slid Bowen in with some excellent play through the middle, and then won the ball back and shot at goal, his deflected effort tipped over by Lloris.
From that corner, the deadlock was broken. And if we had worried the set-piece threat had seemed lessened as the season started, no one would complain if they had just been saved to decide games against Everton and Tottenham.
It came from the left, Cresswell firing a flat ball towards the near post. It dropped over a defender's head and to where Antonio stood with Harry Kane. One of the two strikers reacted, the other looked lost in his thoughts. It was Antonio who moved, flicking his leg out at the ball as it fell towards him, and from six yards out it ricocheted off him and low into the corner, flying past Lloris and giving West Ham the lead.
The striker sprinted to the corner, celebrating with a Matrix-style bullet dodge and spreading smiles from him to every West Ham fan and player around.
The celebrations were raucous, but they soon faded to a gripping, nervous tension. It left West Ham with just over 15 minutes of the remaining 90 to hold out and protect their three points. Moyes's side dropped back immediately, with a basic 4-4-2 suddenly in place as Antonio and Benrahma came together centrally in front of two deep banks of four. The intent was clear - defend.
Truthfully, whilst it is never easy to watch - the stomach-churning nerves with every pass toward the area - it worked. Tottenham had nothing, neither energy nor creativity. The ball went back and forth in front of the defence, side-to-side with little idea of how to break through and threaten. Any ball that did try to break the lines seemed to find Soucek, whilst Rice absolutely dominated things when they tried to best him. Occasionally they threw it into the box; Zouma and Ogbonna were dominant.
The odd counter from the Hammers offered little, although Antonio embarrassed a host of Tottenham players who stopped as he played on after keeping a ball in on the sidelines. Granted, it had gone out, but there was justification in the way they all stood still. Antonio didn't playing Benrahma in behind the defence, but the ball was a little overhit and left the Algerian with a shot from a tight angle, Lloris inches from his feet as he took it on.
Any hope from Tottenham seemed to fade as Ben Johnson started making marauding runs down the right to waste time. Lanzini and Dawson came on, one to keep possession, the other to defend in the air, but the game was done. The final whistle blew and the stadium erupted. This West Ham team are better than Tottenham, but it's always nice to see it in action.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Claimed well in the air at one point that really relieved pressure. Not the most standout thing in a game, but not always something Fabianski does. He also made an excellent save from Kane, saved well from Son and Ndombele too even though both men should have done better. He had little else to do, but he did each of the things he did need to do with the perfect response.
Heung-Min Son drifted away from him and Reguilon never beat him one-on-one. Johnson was good in the air too, passed well in defence and looks in no way out of place making Premier League starts.
The pace Tottenham have on the flanks was a worry pre-game, but it never really showed and Cresswell was never exposed. The corner for the goal - it may only be one ball, one moment in the game, but it was an excellent delivery and it basically only had to hit Antonio to go in. Superb.
Zouma and Ogbonna played well but without being particularly tested. Tottenham dithered without intent, and then were often stopped by Rice and Soucek in front of the defence. Imperious as a pair in the air, Zouma really seemed to dominate late on.
A good foul on Ndombele was probably the best thing he did, picking up a booking but throwing everything through the midfielder to stop him touching it through to Kane. After that, he was exposed once by a Son run but had a comfortable game. The defence looked strong as a unit and the two in the middle lead it.
The deeper role in the pair makes his game a little quieter, but he has been very good these last two games in the league. 8 tackles may not seem incredible, but it really is, whilst his passing was exceptional short and long. The dribbling in the second half got moves got, got the team going and relieved pressure too. An exceptional talent. Man of the match.
Quieter than Rice, but when the team have to fight, Tomas fights. These last few games have proven he has no European Championships hangover either, he was merely playing a different role. The balance has shifted lately to put him in the roaming role and he is catching the eye for it. That said, his best work was protecting the box late on, and the miss in the first half was a blot on his copybook.
One of those games for him. He was getting close to doing good things and then picking the wrong pass or playing the pass poorly. Sometimes pressed well, but the whole team went deep and we didn't really stop them pushing forward and playing how they wanted.
The best moments in play arguably came through him. A lovely acrobatic volley, a good cross that Soucek should have scored from, forced a good save that led to the corner for the goal. Better today, improving and the best of an ineffective front four until Antonio scored.
His discipline down that right flank was very important, he is a better defender than Reguilon is an attacker. Probably better defensively than going forward, with the side going quiet. Disciplined was the key word, rather than catching the eye doing anything else.
There were times he really bothered Romero and the defender's little strop at Fornals was probably down to how little he enjoyed playing against Antonio. Ran the channels and was effective late on at keeping the ball, even though his energy levels dropped drastically again. Took the goal well, just instinctively reacting and doing the job in a way that makes a mockery of those who say he isn't a striker.
(Replaced Benrahma, 85) Only on for minutes.
(Replaced Bowen, 90) Only on for minutes.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Ben Johnson, Aaron Cresswell, Kurt Zouma, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Said Benrahma, Pablo Fornals, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Michail Antonio 72 .
Booked: Tomas Soucek 0 Angelo Ogbonna 0 .
Sent off: None.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Emerson Royal, Dier, Romero, Reguilon (Gil 84), Hojbjerg, Skipp, Lucas Moura (Bergwijn 90+1), Ndombele (Lo Celso 84), Son, Kane.
Subs not used: Gollini, Tanganga, Davies, Sanchez, Rodon, Alli.
Sent off: None.
Referee: Paul Tierney.
Man of the Match: Declan Rice.