West Ham United 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Wednesday, 31st August 2022
by Chris Wilkerson
West Ham produced their best performance of the season so far, coming back from a goal behind to draw 1-1 at home to Antonio Conte’s Tottenham Hotspur.With steps still to go before this side is at its best, a display in which they bettered pre-season title candidates Spurs was well received, and the home support was raucously involved in every twist and turn.
After having a penalty given by the referee, before being overturned after a VAR intervention, Tottenham went in at half-time a goal up, but were pegged back early in the second half by a Tomas Soucek equaliser.
In a game short of genuine chances, it was West Ham in the ascendancy as the game came to an end, and the home side will feel they had the opportunities to take all three points.
In response, Tottenham looked more pretenders than title contenders, relying on an efficient and unimaginative starting XI, with a sprinkling of quality in their front three. But with Son Heung-Min still short of form, Kane and Kulusevski carried the only threat. That front three will win Spurs games this season, and that sturdy and solid supporting cast will keep clean sheets, but it looks a long way from being a side that will win anything, let alone entertain anyone on the way.
West Ham started the game with their quasi-back five/back four system, that relies on Pablo Fornals?EUR(TM) intelligence to go from wing-back to midfielder to winger, dependent on the situation. In simple terms, he replaced Emerson, with Benrahma brought in further forward, a clear attempt to get that system working with more attacking influence. The sides were pretty well matched-up in terms of standard formation, and there are many similarities between the two teams.
Antonio returned to the starting line-up, with Scamacca missing through illness, whilst there was a place on the bench for record buy Lucas Paqueta, who was unveiled to the fans prior to kick-off.
The Hammers have grown more comfortable retaining possession and showing patience on the ball. They are still searching for solutions to unpick packed defences, but it must be said that Tottenham looked similar. Both teams kept the ball well in front of the opposition defence, passing with patience and looking for gaps, but neither looked likely to score in these moments.
It was in quick transitions that the teams looked most dangerous, but there was little space to be found. Whilst Fornals had forced a save and Bowen faltered when given an opportunity to make something of a breakaway, the away side shaded the early stage. But there was little of note to report until the 11th minute, when a cross into the box was headed at goal by Harry Kane, and hit a hand as its path was blocked. The referee blew the whistle and pointed to the spot, the Tottenham players celebrating their fortuitous penalty.
In came VAR, and it took a full four minutes of deliberation to come to a decision. Referee Peter Bankes was sent to the side of the pitch to view the incident again, and it was here that he saw what over 60,000 people in the stadium could not. The header had flown off Kane?EUR(TM)s head and at Cresswell?EUR(TM)s, ricocheting off it and against his own arm. That rebound off the defender?EUR(TM)s head was his and his side?EUR(TM)s saving grace, and the penalty was overturned.
If anyone inside the stadium wasn?EUR(TM)t behind the team beforehand, it lifted the crowd, and either the reprieve or the support lifted the players, too.
Some shots helped, too, and after a quiet start, West Ham came to life as Declan Rice snapped a leaping volley at goal after a ball bounced around outside the area, testing Lloris enough to give the fans voice once more.
If that had given encouragement to West Ham and their fans, Antonio smashing a post really confirmed that West Ham would not wilt like they had done here against Brighton. It was created by some wonderful football, started by the vision of Kehrer at the back, whose passing from defence has given West Ham another dimension compared to such inconsistent distribution last season.
He slid a ball through the Tottenham press into the feet of Fornals, who clipped a first time ball around his opponent and into the feet of Benrahma, who had found space centrally in that 10 position.
He quickly gave it to Antonio, and the striker drove at a backpedalling defence. On the edge of the box, he shifted the ball right and had a strike at goal, but whilst Lloris was beaten, the post was not, and the ball hammered off it and away to safety.
But what you don?EUR(TM)t want to do against Tottenham is overcommit in attack, this side so built to strike fast on the counter and any turnover of the ball.
On this occasion, Rice took the ball on and, rather than finding a teammate and then holding his position, he saw the opportunity to lay it off and drive into the box for the return.
His pass was poor, a good metre ahead of Benrahma, and Spurs pounced. Dier passed first time to Kane, the striker inside his own half, and the England captain quickly fed Kulusevski on the right. He ran at Zouma, who retreated into his area. Soucek covered the middle, so Kane drifted wide to overlap his teammate. Fornals followed, but then moved to try steal the ball of Kulusevski?EUR(TM)s toes in the penalty area.
With Zouma squared up, the Swedish international just slipped a ball to his right and into the path of Kane, who looked up and slid the ball across the face of goal towards a charging Son.
It rolled past Fabianski and both Kehrer and Son slid in. Unfortunately for the German, by getting there first, he could only flick the ball into his own net. Questions will be asked of Zouma and Fornals, but the answer remained the same: Tottenham led.
It was an enthralling, if not high quality affair. Combative and competitive, West Ham fans will have been happy to see Kehrer hit a few tackles hard, whilst Yves Bissouma was booked for childishly throwing the ball away after a decision went against him. The midfielder, surrounded by rumours for months before settling for Spurs, looked short of the quality to make any impact on the game. For all West Ham fans might bemoan how negative a back five can be with two midfielders in front, Bissouma and Hojbjerg have less frills and thrills than Soucek and Rice.
Had Son been in form, Tottenham may have had more. Kane was desperate to feed his friend, looking to drop deep and spiral for the diagonals over, through or around the defence. But Thilo Kehrer?EUR(TM)s step of pace was enough to match Son, and it closed down many of his avenues to threaten. The defence was solid and compact throughout, with all four (or five) doing their part. They were supported ably by Rice and Soucek, both of whom looked on their game. That one Rice mistake aside for the goal, the England midfielder was looking closer and closer to his best.
It was The Hammers on top as the half ended, and they came back out for the second 45 with the same determination and drive.
The home side had been brave pressing Tottenham high on quite a few occasions, and it was rare that Conte?EUR(TM)s side looked comfortable under that pressure.
It is one of those tactics that can seem to go unrewarded, and certainly, those rewards are rarely eye-catching enough to catch a fan?EUR(TM)s attention. But when West Ham stepped up high and pressured Tottenham 10 minutes into the second half, the away side panicked and Lloris was forced to play a sloppy pass straight off the pitch for a West Ham throw.
Perisic turned to complain to his goalkeeper, but Vladimir Coufal had not taken his eye off the ball. He rushed to the ball boy/girl and got the ball quickly, firing it into the box at Antonio.
As Michail often does, he made chaos into content, backing into Dier with his back to goal, and then spinning to flick the ball on the 180 degree spin right into the path of Soucek as the Czech midfielder burst his way through the Tottenham defence and midfield, and into the box.
Taking it on the run, it was his left thigh to cushion it down and then a lunging right-footed strike on the bounce from close range to blast it past Hugo Lloris and give West Ham a more than worthy reward for their attacking endeavour. Coufal rushed over to celebrate with whoever had thrown the ball to him so quickly, and the stadium erupted.
With the Hammers on top and on the charge, could they go on to take all three points?
Many of the more pessimistic West Ham fans will feel that the side often cede territory and momentum after scoring, and a little bit of the edge went out of West Ham?EUR(TM)s game as parity was restored. Tottenham, a little less content to sit back and pick off their opponents, got back onto the ball and make something happen. In turn, it was West Ham who looked to favour sitting in for a spell and seeing if they could pounce on transitions.
It became much more level in terms of possession and territory, but still West Ham looked the team to carry the more threat. They had the moments, nearly profiting again from pressing high against the Spurs defence, Lloris losing the ball with a sloppy pass, Bowen doing well to win it back, and then the winger came so close to converting as Soucek fired a ball at goal. His lunge led with his right, and had it been his left, the chance would have been much more dangerous. Instead, it floated harmlessly wide.
With 20 minutes remaining, Tottenham stood patiently in possession as the West Ham fans suddenly roared to life. Walking up off the bench was their new Brazilian, Paqueta sent forward to replace Benrahma.
He had a cameo to shine in, but the way it lifted the stadium did seem to give the players a boost.
He showed flashes, rather than getting straight into the mix of things, but it will have been his combative tackling that caught the eye, rather than some of the skills on show. One incident where he was not awarded a foul led to him quickly wiping out his opponent, a somewhat silly foul but the kind of aggression that will win over the West Ham faithful.
Moyes was soon forced to his bench once more, this time to replace Aaron Cresswell as he took a knock. On came Ogbonna, slotting into that left-sided third centre back position. Conte answered with a substitution of his own, throwing in the showboating Richarlison. It was a mismatch down that channel for pace, the Brazilian quickly beating Ogbonna in the Spurs half and sprinting away from him, but Ogbonna continued to stick very close to his man and crowd him out of opportunities to turn in the remaining 15 minutes.
Coufal had grown into the game, buoyed maybe by his part in the goal, and found the confidence to take on and beat Perisic down the wing. One cross bounced to the back post for Fornals, but the Spaniard couldn?EUR(TM)t get over his volley and blasted over.
There was a chance, too, for the new boys Emerson and Paqueta. Had it been a chance for only one of them, the scoreline may have been different. Again it came from the right, Bowen playing Coufal on the overlap and the right back delivering. This time rolled to that back post area where Fornals had blasted over a bouncing ball. Both Emerson and Paqueta went for it, then both left it for the other, missing out on a great chance to give their side the lead.
Tottenham had had their moments, a Son effort deflected wide inside the box, Kane volleying weakly on the edge when rpesented with an opening, but it was the Hammers who finished the game looking for the win.
West Ham piled on the pressure. With seconds remaining, a long throw from Coufal caused chaos. After a few attempts, Spurs tried to smash it away, but the clearance could only cannon off Ogbonna, bouncing back into the area. Bowen hooked it across the face of goal, a yard or two from the line, but neither Antonio or Soucek could reach as it rolled across and out to safety.
And there it ended, both sides probably happy with the point, but West Ham the side that can feel they had done enough to get all three points. Spurs, and their manager, will have been frustrated not to take more after leading, but they had not done enough to earn their points. Whilst Conte blamed VAR, deflecting as he ever does, West Ham, the staff and players, came away assured that the rhythm was returning and this team can push on after a shaky start.
David Moyes 8/10: The system worked and his changes were smart.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Maybe, being very harsh, he could have guessed what Kane was to do, but he had to stay alert to force the striker into a decision, rather than giving him one. Otherwise, untested.
As the game went on, he became West Ham?EUR(TM)s most dangerous player. The quick thinking for the throw makes the goal, he created huge chances for both Fornals and the Emerson/Paqueta mix-up, was beating Perisic one-on-one and was a source for many attacks. Whilst passing accuracy can be a flawed stat, 82% for Vlad is high.
Passed well out of defence, managed to get forward in support even from his wide centre back role, and was not particularly bothered defensively. A shame to lose him to injury, his mobility is often lamented, but he looked sharper and faster than Ogbonna.
Unfortunate with the own goal, Son gets there if he doesn?EUR(TM)t, and he managed him quite well. His passing is slick, and whilst not particularly complicated, his progressive choices are helping this team play better football.
Maybe a question mark over the goal, whether he needed to try and win the ball before being backed into the box, whilst they were beaten by the one pass Kulusevski had available, but it?EUR(TM)s another harsh critique. Was otherwise very good, composed in the middle and made good decisions on when to go with Kane, and when to leave him.
Had he not made that pass that led to Tottenham?EUR(TM)s goal, and been out of position, he?EUR(TM)s man of the match. Oozed class, passing well, finding a better range of passing, clearing up and winning the midfield battle. Looking back to the Dec that West Ham fans know.
Man of the match performance. He was having another quietly efficient game in midfield, defending well in front of, and dropping into the defence. Then he made one of his runs into the box, darting through the opposition and timing it perfectly to be on the spot and hammer home.
Whilst Jarrod has seemed quiet in recent games, he was involved in key moments here. His pressing was very good when Tottenham were forced back and unsettled, he linked with Coufal very well, and was close to scoring, and excruciatingly close to a late assist. Better, if not all the way there yet.
His tactical intelligence is a huge benefit to the team at the moment. There is no other player you could trust to be a wing back, a winger and a midfielder. Some lovely clever passes, mixed with the odd rough one. Needs to find composure when in shooting positions.
Takes up positions in those half-spaces better than a lot of West Ham players. Combined well with Fornals and Antonio on occasion, but struggles to leave his mark on games against good opposition.
A lot of that thankless, grunt work that Antonio gets through and barely gets appreciated for. Worked hard, occupied those centre backs, smashed the post and then produced a bit of magic for the goal. Don?EUR(TM)t sleep on that, it?EUR(TM)s a majestic spin and flick.
(Replaced Cresswell 72) With Fornals pushed so high, Ogbonna was forced into a combination centre back, left back role. It exposed his lack of pace.
(Replaced Fornals 85) Got forward well, and didn?EUR(TM)t suddenly make us more defensive by replacing Fornals. But that mix-up...
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Aaron Cresswell, Thilo Kehrer, Kurt Zouma, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Jarrod Bowen, Pablo Fornals, Said Benrahma, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Tomas Soucek 55 .
Booked: Emerson Palmieri 90 Lucas Paqueta 90 .
Sent off: None.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Sánchez, Dier, Davies, Royal, Højbjerg, Bissouma, Perišíč, Kulusevski (Richarlison 76), Kane, Son.
Subs not used: Forster, Doherty, Lenglet, Tanganga, Spence, Sessegnon, Skipp, Sarr.
Goals: Kehrer (og 34).
Booked: Bissouma, Sanchez, Davies, Richarlison, Perisic.
Sent off: None.
Referee: Peter Bankes.
Man of the Match: Tomas Soucek.