West Ham United 2-0 Leeds United
Sunday, 9th January 2022
by Chris Wilkerson
West Ham made it through to the fourth round of the FA Cup this Sunday afternoon with a 2-0 victory over Leeds United.A controversial first half goal for Manuel Lanzini and another in the dying moments of stoppage time in the second half by Jarrod Bowen were enough to give The Hammers a win at the London Stadium.
Their reward was to be drawn away at the lowest ranked side left in the competition, a fourth-round tie at Kidderminster Harriers awaits them.
There were changes for the hosts, Ryan Fredericks making a return to the first team as both Coufal and Ashby were ruled out. Areola started, whilst Nikola Vlasic came in for Sa??d Benrahma who is out in Cameroon for the Africa Cup of Nations.
It started at a good pace, as all games between these two seem to do. It was back and forth, Leeds open to play on the front foot and pressing West Ham whenever and wherever they took control of the ball. Bielsa?EUR(TM)s side are struggling this season, fighting relegation and consistently without key players through injury.
It never changes how they try to play, but it certainly easier to play through them with the likes of Bamford and Phillips unavailable, whilst big threat Raphinha sat on the bench.
Lanzini looked most comfortable of the West Ham players in dealing with the pressure put on any player in claret and blue with the ball at their feet. More than ever, the Argentine seemed comfortable using the pace of his opponent and just skipping around them or neatly laying off and moving quickly into space.
To the opposite was Issa Diop, who put the defence under pressure a short and sloppy pass to Rice that gave the midfielder little chance to get the ball. Thankfully, Leeds wasted possession in a dangerous area.
It took ten minutes for the home side to really get to grips with the game, but when they did, they showed the control of a team confident in their play and able to dominate their opponents. Bowen soon had a shot cleared off the line, a cross from Rice on the left headed out weakly by the defender and Bowen reacting in the middle of the box, but his shot was weak and whilst accurate enough to beat the goalkeeper, the defender on the line had a simple job to clear. Moments later, an Antonio shot from the edge of the box was deflected and looped onto the roof of the net. West Ham were starting to threaten regularly.
Soon Leeds could thank the leniency of the officials as Dawson took down a cross into the box and tried to knock it around the defender. An outstretched arm and the flick of a hand stopped the ball going beyond him, but the referee waved it away. VAR agreed, but the hand was certainly out of a natural position and blocked the path of the ball for Dawson to go on.
There was half a chance for Bate in the West Ham area, a volley scuffed weakly to goal when in space, but with ten minutes of the half remaining, the home side broke the deadlock.
It was Antonio down the left that really earned it, making a typical channel run, brushing off the defender and then holding the ball on the flank as he waited for options. His pass into the area to Vlasic was turned from a fine pass to a chance on goal as the Czech forward leaned into his man with his back to goal and then spun the defender and left him chasing. It can be questioned whether Vlasic was fouled, and he was most definitely pulled and held as he ran at goal. His shot was blocked and spat out between himself and the goalkeeper. Vlasic stumbled and got there first, poking the ball at Meslier's chest and the rebound fell out to the feet of Lanzini, who passed it firmly into the back of the net and gave his side the lead.
VAR checked the goal, and it looked likely that Jarrod Bowen, who was offside when Vlasic struck his first blocked shot, had done enough to get the goal ruled out. The wide man had darted at the ball and definitely made an attempt to get to it. To the welcome surprise of West Ham's players and fans, VAR allowed the goal. Whilst Bowen had not affected Meslier or the ball, he had undoubtedly made a challenge to get to it and there is little doubt that the goal should not have stood. Considering the earlier handball and the clear foul on Vlasic, maybe it was a rub of the green that West Ham deserved.
Huge credit should go to both Antonio and Vlasic. There was as much skill as desire to make something happen, a determination combined with class that is key to this side's success.
A few minutes later, Antonio had another chance. This time it was a long and flat pass from the West Ham half by Rice that put Johnson in down the left flank. His first-time pass with that weaker left foot evaded the defender and found Antonio, and the striker arguably could have done better as he stretched to meet the ball, but his effort was poor. Of bigger concern was his condition, the club's record Premier League goalscorer left in a heap on the floor and clutching his ankle in some pain. He was treated on the pitch and, after a couple of minutes, thankfully able to recover. As all of a West Ham persuasion worried, it was a reminder of the lack of alternatives up front.
In the dying moments of the half, Fredericks drove forward from right and into the centre, leaving defenders in his wake and then slipping it wide to Bowen. The right back carried on his run, and Bowen laid it off to him for a big chance in the box. Fredericks, often lacking composure and technique on the attack, scuffed his shot at goal when he really should have scored.
The Hammers went in 1-0 up at the break, deserved on the balance of play but a goal that certainly should not have stood.
Bielsa reacted, making two changes at the start of the second 45, Stuart Dallas and Raphinha thrown into things as the manager looked to get more from his side. It sent pacey winger Dan James through the middle up top, a different type of threat for Dawson and Diop to deal with.
The control of the game remained with West Ham, and it was up to them to finish off opponents low on morale, form and quality.
The most fun to be had was in watching Michail Antonio deal with the very close attentions of Diego Llorente as the pair battled on and on. The Spanish defender had decided the best approach to dealing with Antonio's threat was to try and keep a grip of him. His failure was a sight to behold, Antonio repeatedly shrugging him off, rolling him or just beating him with the ball at his feet. It is safe to say that the game away from the side and his return goal against Southampton has brought the striker back to his best. It was one occasion of spinning around the centre back and being too strong when they came together again where Antonio found Bowen in the box, but his shot was saved.
Having sparked to life in the first half for the goal, the second half saw some of the best of Vlasic. Moving into central areas, he beat players with clever play and looked dangerous. A lovely turn and run ended with a dangerous freekick won on the edge of the box, although it was a little disappointing to see him dive to win it. Two minutes later, he was chopping suddenly with the ball again and sending a Leeds United defender to the floor with his sharp turn. From the left, he rolled it to the edge of the box for Declan Rice in acres of space, but Rice never got over the ball and wasted a good chance as his shot flew wide. It was one of many moments in the final third where Rice was poor.
These were examples of dangerous moments of attractive play, but West Ham were not finishing Leeds off. With only a goal lead, the away side were always in the game. Quality like Raphinha could easily have seen them turning a late game around.
They had big chances and Harrison will feel he really should have scored. After neat football, a cross from the left was headed away by Ben Johnson, but with no one in a West Ham shirt ready to pick up the dropping ball, there was time for a Leeds player to take it down and shoot across goal. It flew low to Harrison in the middle of the goal, only a few yards out, but it came at him too fast and as he sorted his feet out, it cannoned off him and wide of goal. West Ham had escaped, the deflection could have easily rifled into the back of the net.
At the other end, Fredericks intercepted a ball out from the back and ran at the defence. Both Bowen and Rice stood in space to his left on the edge of the box, but it appeared the two options were two too many for the full back. He dallied, and if you could ever see a player visibly struggling to make a decision, it was Fredericks as he waited, waited and then ignored both better options to go down the outside himself and shoot across goal. It was well hit, but flashed wide.
With that margin still slender, Leeds were emboldened to mount a late charge. Luck had evaded them as Harrison missed before, and it truly felt against them as another huge chance mere yards from goal flew off a player and wide when it could have gone in. This time it was Dan James, a low ball across the face of goal going through Dawson's legs and hitting the Welsh winger on the back of his foot when any touch toward goal surely would have levelled the scores.
Leeds threw men forward and had late chances to throw the ball into the box. In stoppage time, a dangerous cross into the box was won powerfully by Soucek and picked up on the edge of the West Ham box by Fornals. The Spaniard, ever aware of his surroundings, took the ball down and turned to curl a pass over the high line of the Leeds defence for Antonio. He took it down and dribbled forward with his head up, looking for the options to join him on the counter. As he ran down the right, Bowen sprinted to support on the other side and Antonio found him, looking up and passing it ahead of his partner in crime and as Meslier rushed out, Bowen hit it hard and low through the goalkeeper's legs and into the back of the net to secure his side's passage into the next round,
It was a deserved win for Moyes's side. They should have done more to finish Leeds off, leaving a little too much to chance as their frontline misfired, but it was a third win on the spin, and a win against a side that visits the London Stadium in a week's time.
Kidderminster Harriers next, a real FA Cup tie and a big chance for this side to move into the fifth round of the cup.
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Player RatingsAlphonse Areola
Just wasn?EUR(TM)t called upon. Any Leeds chance went wide. Good off his line on crosses which shows he was concentrated and maintained control.
A very typical Fredericks performance. Looks threatening until he has to make a decision, so the good breaks forward were often ruined by what he then did with the ball. Solid defensively and a useful option.
Not perfect, by any means, but defended reasonably well and did offer a threat on the left. Sometimes he cuts back too often onto his right, when his left is good and he showed today that he can be effective with it.
Diop and Dawson were not really tested as the young forward Greenwood never got any change of our Dawson and makeshift forward Dan James didn?EUR(TM)t offer anything in the second half.
One ridiculously poor pass to Rice in the first half aside, he was fine. Made some decent challenges stepping out of defence, although those decisions to go do that are still questionable.
Did a lot of his usual role very well. Defensively smart and protected the defence. Passed well and was good until the final third. His shooting, crossing and set pieces were far from good enough.
Quietly effective. Defended well, especially big headers late on in the West Ham box, and was efficient with the ball, barely losing it and protecting it well on the dribble too.
The spring that is back in his step is making it look like he?EUR(TM)s near levels before his major injury. Today he was beating men in the middle and seemed to enjoy Leeds?EUR(TM)s high press. The speed they ran at him just made it easier for the Argentine to step around them. Took his goal well.
For a half-hour spell in the first half, he was anonymous out wide. But the first goal comes from brilliance by him, and then as the game went on you saw more and more the influence he can have in central areas. Not at the level required out wide but sharp centrally.
In a rich vein of form at the moment. Looks dangerous whenever he gets the ball. Regularly had the beating of his man, looks sharper as a goal threat with it. Deserved his goal, which he finished well, and has a great understanding with Antonio.
Had an excellent game. There were moments he could have been sharper or made better decisions, but he bullied Llorente all game and made a mockery of his touch-tight defending. Brilliant pass to Vlasic on the first goal and a great assist for the second.
(Replaced Lanzini, 76) Very sharp cameo, his passing was direct but incisive and offered a different type of threat. Good to have him back and he?EUR(TM)s needed with Benrahma away.
(Replaced Vlasic, 88) No incident of note in his short spell.
Replaced Antonio, 90) On the pitch for only three seconds.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Alphonse Areola, Ryan Fredericks, Ben Johnson, Craig Dawson, Issa Diop, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Manuel Lanzini, Nikola Vlasic, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Manuel Lanzini 34 Jarrod Bowen 90 .
Booked: Manuel Lanzini 0 .
Sent off: None.
Leeds United: Meslier, Ayling (Forshaw 60), Kock, Hjelde (Summerville 78), Llorente, Firpo (Drameh 69), Bate, Klich, James, Harrison, Greenwood (Raphinha 46).
Subs not used: Klaesson, Dallas, McCarron, Jenkins, Moore.
Sent off: None.
Referee: Stuart Attwell.
Man of the Match: Jarrod Bowen.