Premier League
Nottingham Forest 1-0 West Ham United 

Sunday, 14th August 2022
by Chris Wilkerson

It’s no points out of six from the opening two games of West Ham’s Premier League season, as David Moyes’s side fell to an unfortunate 1-0 defeat away at Nottingham Forest.

With the City Ground bouncing, celebrating their first top-flight home game since 1999, the home side were buoyant and flew out of the traps, roared on by their expectant home crowd. In the end, they lived a charmed life to collect their first win of the season, and can thank referee Robert Jones for those three points.

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It was a lucky bounce that gave Forest the lead, but mere moments after The Hammers had had a goal disallowed at the other end. A lovely counter-attack, led by and finished by Benrahma - coming in for Lanzini in the only change from last week. But his goal was scratched off after a collision between Forest's Mangala and Michail Antonio.

The incident was a second before Rice had slid through Benrahma, the Algerian finishing wonderfully in one of his better West Ham performances, but VAR called Jones to look at the incident again. Replays show the defender stepping in front of the run of Antonio before the pair meet, and it would appear the striker committed a foul on the basis of being stronger than his opponent.

It was one of many questionable incidents that the referee chose to give in the home side's favour. Antonio was short-changed all day by the abysmal performance, and a second half handball a yard from the goal, quite clearly intentionally done, was punished with only a yellow card, undermining the laws of the game which state it should have been a red.

To get to these moments, West Ham had to weather an intense storm of attacks early on, the newly-promoted side flying out of the traps with an intensity that was impressive in the baking heat of an early-afternoon August Sunday.

It caused problems, and the frantic nature clearly made the West Ham players uncomfortable. Declan Rice was, somewhat harshly, booked early on after two fouls on the edge of his own box. Both were a little from behind, but the referee rushed to show his card.

Whilst it was chaotic, it didn't really result in chances for Steve Cooper's side. The only time Fabianski was really tested in the early stages was when Bowen rose to head a clearance at his own goal. At the other end, West Ham didn't carry the same intensity but found half-chances of their own. Cresswell came close with a nice freekick that skimmed the top of the net as it went over.

Whilst the attention centred on Lingard, greeted with fake ??50 notes thrown onto the side of the pitch by West Ham fans, the threat was Taiwo Awoniyi. The striker, signed from Union Berlin this summer, worked hard and terrorised the backline, managing to appear almost as if in their pockets when either of the centre backs got the ball, yet found pockets of space around them when he needed to threaten. One cross from the right was headed just wide after the forward found the gap between Zouma and Coufal, and was free to stand in it and head at goal unopposed.

Sa??d Benrahma, oft-criticised on these pages and by many West Ham fans, was his side's best player. Comfortably so, revelling in the freedom the team was allowed by Rice sitting deeper. He was helped by Cresswell, whose overlaps opened space for him, and who let Benrahma overlap when Cresswell himself carried the ball, moving away from the touchline to give Benrahma the space.

The Algerian was a threat throughout. Early on, he carved out openings for himself and tested Henderson, one shot in particular rebounding out directly to Soucek, but hitting him forcefully before the defender could hook away.

With time, the sting was taken out of Nottingham Forest's attack. West Ham carried on as they had been, less erratic, a slower tempo, but finding openings. Cresswell threw in a few dangerous crosses that seemed destined to always be just behind or ahead of the runners, and the one that found a head was just slightly behind Soucek, who headed right at Henderson.

Soucek was another one whose game will split opinions. On another day, he has a hat trick, and his marauding runs caused the home side problems. He retains that ability to just ghost in, but his own finishing, and a bit of luck, crucially deserted him today.

Still, Benrahma kept going. Beating Worrall down the left, he was unlucky to hit his ball across goal into Bowen's midriff as he stumbled over the defender's feet, Moments later, a curling effort at goal dropped just behind Antonio, and the striker was a touch unlucky he could only hook his leg far enough around it to divert the ball wide.

Forest immediately countered down the other end and Neco Williams was thwarted by Fabianski from close range, the Pole darting from one side of his goal to the other to make the save. His critics, who belie his foot speed these days, will do well to have taken note.

But the game was encapsulated soon in one horror spell.

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This time it was West Ham who were countering, a smart volleyed pass by Fornals taken down beautifully by Benrahma, and the Algerian flew up field. He beat one, was pulled back by Lingard on the edge of the box, and then laid off to Rice.

The England midfielder dallied as passing options failed to present itself. Then one opened up, and Rice slid through Benrahma, the winger drifting behind the defence but staying onside. He put it away with ease, and West Ham thought they had a lead just before half-time.

Then VAR got involved. Just before Rice had passed, Antonio had made a run ahead of him. Mangala stepped across to block him, was knocked to the floor, and the move continued.

It would be charitable to say that the collision was a 50/50 - the defender blocked the runner like they now do so regularly at corners - so the goal standing originally surely weighed in West Ham's favour?

It did not. The goal was ruled out, much to the fury of Antonio who had been battered from pillar to post by Niakhate for most of the first half, and ignored by a referee who would have looked more at home down the local park on this sweltering Sunday.

When the game restarted, Forest took the lead. A move down the left saw Forest find space down the side of the box. A ball rolled back to Lingard in the area offered Moyes's chosen one the chance to score once more against him, but the shot was poor. Scuffed into the ground, it rolled at goal and Johnson flicked out a foot to try to clear.

But all he did was knock the ball into Awoniyi's knee, and it bounced off him and bobbled into the open goal, Fabianski floored from an effort to save a shot he assumed Lingard would hit better.

The forward deserved his luck, but it was a cruel blow and one West Ham will have felt even more aggrieved by, considering what had happened mere moments before down the other end.

After half-time, West Ham came out with more intensity to their play. Jarrod Bowen was found, safe from an opening half where he seemed lost in the thoughts of his summer in the country fields.

It took only 25 seconds for lady luck to spit in the away side's faces once more. A lovely curling effort from just outside the area from Fornals beat Henderson, hit the underside of the bar and bounced back up into the area off the line.

Soucek was under it, but his header was in one of the few spots Henderson could reach, although much credit should go to the goalkeeper for getting back up so quickly, and proving his reactions are top class as he palmed the header away.

The opening ten minutes saw the Hammers dominate, and Forest were forced back into their shell. But sloppiness in defence was always a moment away for West Ham, and they nearly handed the hosts a two-goal lead.

With Zouma caught ahead of the ball, Ben Johnson was too weak as Lingard backed into him under a dropping ball. When he needed to head away, he could only head down to the feet of a Forest player, and in a flash Brennan Johnson was slipped through and beat Fabianski. To the relief of West Ham fans and players, the young Welshman had drifted fractionally offside.

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In response, Lanzini and Scamacca were readied to come on. The striker made sense, Moyes needed a goal, but Lanzini was hard to decipher. The ball was moving forward quickly, and Fornals and Benrahma were comfortably his side's best two players.

In the time it took the manager to throw the pair on, Benrahma and Fornals looked to prove him wrong.

First came a freekick from Benrahma, beautifully curled over the wall and beating Henderson, only for the ball to once more bounce down off the underside of the bar and off the line, popping up into the hands of the relieved goalkeeper.

Then came a pivotal moment. A big challenge in midfield was won by Fornals, who fed Benrahma on the left. The Algerian skipped by Worrall's desperate lunge and flew down the wing, before pulling it back to Soucek in the middle of the area.

On his weaker left, the Czech midfielder passed at goal, and Scott McKenna stretched out an arm to block the ball as it hit the target. Henderson behind him might well have saved it, but the laws are clear. Denial of a goalscoring opportunity by the arm is a sending off offence, especially when so blatantly intentional.

The penalty was given, but after referee Jones checked his screen, the brains of the refereeing team decided together to only caution the defender with a yellow card. Why? Who knows, but it was certainly in contradiction to the FA's guidance.

Up stepped Rice, the captain, and he dragged a penalty nowhere near close enough to the corner and saw his effort saved well by Henderson. A second failure from the spot from Rice, who is not the set-piece taker he seems to think he is.

The substitutes made their way onto the pitch, and as Fornals and Antonio went off, so did West Ham's threat in play.

One bright moment from Scamacca aside, the Italian was not involved. And even in that moment, he then wasted it by taking on a ridiculous shot.

Lanzini, well, the game was calling for incisive passing and forward-thinking. Manu offers control, a good passer in tight spaces, but very little creative threat.

Somehow, Bowen had stayed on, but was replaced on the 85th minute by new signing Max Cornet. He had no time to make an impact.

There was still one last chance, Zouma meeting a Cresswell corner and heading down, only for Neco Williams to have made a late dash back onto the line, clearing away dramatically. There was a shout for a penalty, too. Zouma hauled down by a Forest defender as he made a run into the box, but no one really expected the referee to favour West Ham by this point.

In the end, West Ham had fizzled out, and their luck was never with them. They had threatened goal most, come as close as they could come, and been robbed by the referee, too. It was, as the saying goes, one of those days.

It leaves the pressure on. A bench that could only find eight of the nine players allowed, Ben Johnson again at centre back and a bench still short of the quality to change a game.

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Manager's Rating

David Moyes: 5/10
Whilst his team did deserve to win, his changes when chasing the game were poor, he left players on who were not performing, and it just didn't seem like he knew what the team needed to find that edge.

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Player Ratings

Lukasz Fabianski
Even if he?EUR(TM)s up on his feet, there?EUR(TM)s no way he?EUR(TM)s reacting to that deflection into the goal. Made some good saves, the one to block Williams in particular.

Vladimir Coufal
Defensively, he was fine, But with Bowen basically absent, Coufal became the only option to play down the right. Too often, his decision was a lump forward or a poor crossing choice. There is very little to suggest he will make a comfortable wing back.

Aaron Cresswell
Overlapped well, and really enabled Benrahma to play the way he did. Some good deliveries, calm in defence. Calmly been the best player in the two games.

Kurt Zouma
Looks cumbersome, either injured or unfit, although he can look that way when at his best. But Awoniyi unsettled him, lost him on occasions, and he doesn?EUR(TM)t seem to be a leader at the back.

Ben Johnson
Not helped by his senior partner. Was reasonably fine, covered into the wide spaces well, but doesn?EUR(TM)t look comfortable playing at centre back.

Declan Rice
Shaky early on, and whilst his yellow was harsh, they were both silly fouls and petulant play. The penalty was poor, and yet not at all surprising. A harsh five, but his standards are high and he has not met them yet.

Tomas Soucek
His game will be remembered for the missed header, but the threat he offered with his late runs into the box probably outstripped that offered by anyone but Benrahma. In other games, he gets some luck and a hat trick. Kept the ball well, keeping it simple, which won?EUR(TM)t win him plaudits, but is what works for that midfield. Most tackles and most clearances.

Pablo Fornals
Just seems to be the only player in the side who can see a difficult pass and make it, especially forwards. He and Benrahma looked to be playing a different game to their teammates, one with risk and threat. Unlucky not to score, but worked hard, found space and did well helping defensively in the middle.

Said Benrahma
Robbed of a 9/10 by an awful referee and pure bad luck. It wasn?EUR(TM)t non-stop, he had his quiet patches and ended the game well, but was the best player on the park. Beating men for fun, in a way West Ham fans have only really seen against poor sides in the Europa League, and finding end product. Crossed well, deserved goals, not just the one ruled out, worked hard. You wouldn?EUR(TM)t be in a rush to sell that player in a rarely pedestrian West Ham squad. Consistency is next.

Jarrod Bowen
An anonymous performance against Manchester City is forgivable, to an extent. But this was abysmal, a relatively useless performance.

Michail Antonio
A hard game to judge. He unsettled Niakhate, and was let down repeatedly by a poor referee. But he didn?EUR(TM)t really threaten. On the other hand, Scamacca offered very little when he replaced Antonio, the Italian yet to learn that you have to forage for yourself when you lead the West Ham line.


Manuel Lanzini
(Replaced Fornals 68) Just not the player to bring on when you need to find a goal. Maybe in a deeper position, to get the ball moving, but not as a 10. He is not that player, he wasn?EUR(TM)t really before his injury and really isn?EUR(TM)t now.

Gianluca Scamacca
(Replaced Antonio 68) One glimpse of something, and his idea to chest the ball down in the area to a teammate was probably the right one, but quiet. The creative verve was gone once Fornals went off, which limited service to the striker.

Maxwel Cornet
(Replaced Bowen 84) Came on as the side went lifeless and couldn?EUR(TM)t inject anything to it.

Alphonse Areola
Did not play.

Darren Randolph
Did not play.

Harrison Ashby
Did not play.

Conor Coventry
Did not play.

Flynn Downes
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Aaron Cresswell, Kurt Zouma, Ben Johnson, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Pablo Fornals, Said Benrahma, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.

Goals: None.

Booked: Declan Rice 11          .

Sent off: None.

Nottingham Forest: Henderson, Worrall, Niakhate (Cook 79), McKenna, Williams, Mangala (Cafu 84), O’Brien, Toffolo, Lingard, Johnson, Awoniyi (Surridge 72).

Subs not used: Hennessey, Biancone, Soh, Mighten, Taylor, Hammond.

Goals: Awoniyi (45+2).

Booked: McKenna, Henderson, Johnson, Surridge.

Sent off: None.

Referee: Robert Jones.

Attendance: 29,281.

Man of the Match: Said Benrahma.