Carabao Cup
Tottenham Hotspur 2 West Ham United 1

Wednesday, 22nd December 2021
by Chris Wilkerson

West Ham United were knocked out of the Carabao Cup this evening, a tight and engrossing affair won by the hosts as Tottenham progressed to the semi-finals.

A riveting first half saw all three goals, Bowen equalising with a fantastic finish but sandwiched between two sloppy pieces of West Ham defending that the home side capitalised on.


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David Moyes will rightly feel his side deserved more, dominating the second half and arguably creating the better chances, as well as suspicions of offside around the winning goal.

His side adapted well to the pressure on them and to the changes in the starting line-up. It was revealed that Michail Antonio would miss the game having tested positive for COVID-19, the good news being that the test was last week and the striker could make his return for the Boxing Day fixture.

There was a third competitive start for young Harrison Ashby and a return to the side for Ben Johnson as the Hammers played with two aggressive wing-backs that made it much more a three at the back than a five. Johnson had been a risk, the manager stating beforehand he was not sure the defender was really fit enough to play, but on the right side of a back three he looked composed and comfortable in his defending.

Rice and Soucek remained in the middle of the pitch, but it was up to Vlasic and Lanzini to support makeshift striker Jarrod Bowen in attack.

The first half was a breathless and hectic battle, both sides committing men forward and attacking at speed. Physical and balanced, it was a long way from the more drab affair at the London Stadium earlier in the season where Tottenham were lifeless and many shades poorer than the Irons.

This game was toe-to-toe, Soucek and Hojbjerg in the thick of things with fouls and bruises, the Czech midfielder extremely fortunate to escape the opening five minutes without a card, let alone the whole 90. It was just, simply put, a very good game as the ball went end-to-end in search of an opening goal.

Kane drew the first real save of the match as the first ten minutes finished, stinging Areola's hands with a left-footed drive after a delicious Lucas Moura pass. The shot had venom but was comfortable for the French goalkeeper to palm firmly away.

Amidst the back-and-forth of it all, both teams tested their opponents' defences, and West Ham's was the first to crack.

The mistake was Diop's, undoubtedly, although Lanzini will take his share of blame too. The Argentine lost it under pressure in his own half and Tottenham pounced. It must be said that Tottenham at their best under Pochettino and ever since were never a wonderful attacking team. They were an organised team who pounced fiercely, and they did so here.

Lanzini was dispossessed and Tottenham took advantage. With the momentum their way, they moved West Ham's defence back and forth before hitting a low and direct pass into the box. Diop had no man to mark, but had no reason to lunge recklessly at a ball he couldn't win. Now on the floor, Diop left a chasm of space that Hojbjerg sprinted into from outside the box, running past both Rice and, less forgivably, Lanzini who left the runner and let him go undeterred.

The pass was played back to him and he took a few touches before rolling it across goal for Bergwijn to pass neatly into the back of the net and give Spurs the lead.


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From the restart, West Ham piled forward and instantly created a scattering of chances. They nearly equalised almost instantly, Soucek powering in a header from a lovely Vlasic cross and forcing Lloris to push the ball behind. From the corner, Soucek flicked the ball on at the front post but it somehow evaded the runners in. The ball was cleared and the Hammers picked it up, a cross to the back post again causing issues as Soucek dominated the defender and forced Lloris into another good saved and earned another corner.

It resulted in another big chance, this one the clearest of them all. Hit hard to the far post, Rice did well to block Lloris's path and Dawson was up high, beating his man and with a header inside the six-yard box. It sailed over and the defender was rightly furious with himself; he should have scored.

It seemed the pressure would be relieved. But as Tottenham played their goal kick short to the feet of Eric Dier in the penalty area, the defender passed out only to Soucek. Having pressed high on short goal kicks often this season, West Ham got their reward as Vlasic ran at Spurs box, took a low shot that fell to the feet of Bowen. With his back to goal, the forward showed the kind of skill that has encouraged those who think he could make a dangerous striker.

He took it in, turned sharply and left the defenders beat before driving it low into the far corner, giving Lloris no chance and his side a deserved equaliser about three minutes after they had conceded.

The instant reprieve was followed by sharper disappointment when Tottenham were level a minute from play starting again.

This time there was no questioning Lanzini's faults, Bergwijn standing him up on the edge of the area and driving by him and down the right side of the area with ease.

He got deep into the box, pulled it across goal and found Lucas Moura squeezing in between defenders to poke it at goal. It was right at Areola and not hit with any power of note, but the goalkeeper let it go past him as he dived to the floor.

It was bafflingly poor goalkeeping, and only after replays was it clear that Reguilon was running right into his path, even standing on the prone stopper's leg on the floor. He did not pass directly across his line of sight, but clearly interfered with him and looked to be offside. With no VAR, the decision went the way these always seem to go, and Tottenham got the benefit of it to lead. Regardless, Areola was weak and bravely is a prerequisite between the posts.

The chaos didn't stop there, Soucek denied a tap in at the back post as Vlasic and Bowen combined well to give Lanzini space to cross coming in from the left. The ball was curled delightfully towards goal, but Skipp slid in when Soucek looked destined to score. With the wing backs in place once more, the freedom for Soucek to get into the box was reminiscent of last season when the system was a more common sight for the Hammers.

Just before the half came to an end, there was a fantastic Dawson challenge in the box to deny Bergwijn a glorious chance. The two first-choice defenders have been a huge miss for this side, but Dawson has responded well. His defending inside the box is mostly perfect. Unfortunately, Diop's is far from it.

Had the two Frenchmen in the side done the simple jobs, West Ham would be leading. As it was, the drop from first choice to squad players was clear, and whilst Areola is truly competing to be a regular, Diop is proving why he might not ever again.


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The break gave the fans a chance to catch their breath and both managers time to tweak their sides.

Spurs came out in the second half with less desire to attack, happy to protect their lead and try counter attack. On the other side, West Ham looked to steady the wild ride in midfield, Lanzini dropping in a bit more to gain some control of the ball. It helped there, with Rice improving greatly for it, but changed Vlasic's role and the attacking midfielder's influence waned.

His development has been curious, the Croat being given a slow introduction to the side as the manager looks to ease his ??30m man in. The lack of pre-season has clearly been a hindrance, but an assist and a confident display, especially working well centrally and offering a threat near Bowen, show there is more to come from Vlasic and this game could be an indication that he is ready to make more of an impact in bigger games.

It was a good night for Bowen too, who came close just shy of the hour mark after patient passing in midfield was suddenly turned by a long and direct pass from Lanzini. Bowen was in, controlling the high ball and beating the Tottenham defender recovering, only for Lloris to show his class and be there ready to flick the ball away from Bowen's toes just as he looked set to score. It looked simple, but it was brilliant proactive goalkeeping.

Tottenham sat deep, allowing West Ham the ball out wide. It was not all their design, West Ham were also brilliant in forcing the home side back and Declan Rice looked a class apart as he began to dominate midfield and make sure any lost possession was regained and attacks started again.

Moyes sent on the cavalry, Fornals and Benrahma coming off the bench for the tiring Lanzini and Vlasic, both of whose influence on the game had waned significantly.

Fornals was as he always is, relentless in his hard work and smart with his passing and pressing. Benrahma was his usual enigmatic self too, but carried a threat. With Spurs pushed back, space in the attacking third became limited and Benrahma showed how easily he can find it where others had clearly struggled.

His decision making was not perfect, but it was better than his recent showings. He clearly worried the Tottenham defence and outclassed them in sparkling moments too. A lovely flick into the air to control and sudden volley from the corner of the box flashed across goal and had Lloris beaten, only to go wide of the far post.

At the other end, Tottenham had their big chance of the second half. A poor pass gave Diop the chance to intercept, but when he flew out of defence to meet it, his touch was so heavy as to be a pass straight back to Kane. The England captain played it through to substitute Son and it looked a chance to end the contest, only for a heavy touch to allow Masuaku the chance to shield the ball back to Areola. It may say something that even Masuaku was aware to an error from Diop and more tuned in than his teammate defensively.

Yarmolenko was brought on for the enthusiastic Ashby, and it is worth noting that the youngster impressed. He was never shy receiving the ball, calm and confident in possession and irrepressibly energetic. The cover of Johnson inside him on the right side of the back three worked well, something the coaches at under-23 level had tried to some success before Johnson's promotion to the first-team squad.

West Ham piled on the pressure, but Tottenham stood resolute. A late effort from Yarmolenko was deflected onto the bar, but the game ended with an undeserving defeat for the men in claret and blue, a match decided by the faults at the back.

There was most certainly more to be happy with than frustrated by, but the silly mistakes will sting as they proved so costly.


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Player Ratings

Alphonse Areola
One comfortable save and then just poor goalkeeping for the second goal. Will need to do better in any appearances he has left this season if he is to push to be number one in the next.


Harrison Ashby
Worked hard up and down the flank, was never really exposed defensively and was braver and smarter in possession than Johnson has been for the first team in his appearances. He was protected by the system, but took advantage of that to put in a good performance and leave an impression.


Arthur Masuaku
Started sharp and definitely combines well in short passing down the left. But his end product was non-existent.


Ben Johnson
Has always looked a player who would be more than capable of player as part of a back three and the manager, who admitted the player may not have been fit enough to play this game, will be buoyed by the way Johnson fit in seamlessly to a new role. An option now that maybe wasn't there before.


Craig Dawson
Marshalled Kane well throughout, the striker's lack of pace and love of a bit of a grapple an absolute joy for a defender like Dawson who is a bit of a throwback and lacks for pace. Defended his box very well.


Issa Diop
The two goals came down his side of the box, one an error that was just completely unforced and entirely of his own making. Was poor on the ball, didn't cover the side he should have for the second and nearly gave away a third. It was a horror show performance, and one where he could not fight his instinct to force defensive actions where a wiser defender would hold his position and understand the shape and style of his team.


Declan Rice
By his standards, the first half was poor, but he took control of the second and was the classiest player on the pitch. Winning the ball back has become so common that his defensive side is now being overlooked. You can see why, the skill on the ball he now has and the driving runs are just impossible to ignore. Misplaced two of 90 passes.


Tomas Soucek
Very unlucky not to have scored and earned his side the first goal not only from the corners and chances he made with the skill he has at attacking balls in the box, but a wonderful regain of possession from the Tottenham goal kick. Maybe, with things stuttering a bit lately, the return to a system that allows him more freedom in the box is wise.


Manuel Lanzini
Carved out one chance and looked reasonably good on the ball, but was very poor defensively and reminded everyone that he is not one to sit in and trust to defend. Unsurprisingly neat on the ball, of course, but needs to be switched on to track runners and cannot be beaten so easily on the edge of the box either.


Nikola Vlasic
Sharp for 45 minutes and faded when his role changed and he was seen less in central areas. It underlines the fact he was a success as a 10, rather than a wide player, but he could be the answer to getting more from a striker in front of him as he looked good playing close to Bowen. An assist, albeit it from a bad shot, but he deserved it after creating chances before.


Jarrod Bowen
The goal was fantastic and showed that he has the wherewithal to be a dangerous striker in the box. He made good runs and, with the right delivery, can attack a cross well enough for it not to be a pointless endeavour. But lost his way a little when Vlasic was withdrawn and he no longer had anyone around him. He is an option as a striker, this proves it, but probably not in games where the defence is deep and we dominate the ball outside the box.



Substitutes

Pablo Fornals
(Replaced Lanzini, 68) An upgrade on Lanzini, one as calm on the ball but who takes a few more risks going forward and is smarter defending from the front and at the back.


Said Benrahma
(Replaced Vlasic, 68) Looked a spark, albeit misguided at times. There's something about him as a sub, the energy and the unpredictability, that makes you think he may be better introduced into games against tiring defenders.


Andriy Yarmolenko
(Replaced Ashby, 80) Not hugely effective but offered a calmer passing option int he final third.


Darren Randolph
Did not play.


Jamal Baptiste
Did not play.


Ajibola Alese
Did not play.


Ryan Fredericks
Did not play.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Alphonse Areola, Harrison Ashby, Arthur Masuaku, Ben Johnson, Craig Dawson, Issa Diop, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Manuel Lanzini, Nikola Vlasic, Jarrod Bowen.

Goals: Jarrod Bowen 32                  .

Booked: Jarrod Bowen 37          .

Sent off: None.

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Doherty (Tanganga 83), Sanchez, Dier, Davies, Reguilon (Royal 83), Skipp (Dele 77), Hojbjerg, Moura (Winks 61), Bergwijn (Son 61), Kane.

Subs not used: Gollini, Rodon, Lo Celso, Ndombele.

Goals: Bergwijn (29), Moura (34).

Booked: Romero.

Sent off: None.

Referee: Paul Tierney.

Attendance: 59,924.

Man of the Match: Nikola Vlasic.