Derby County 0 West Ham United 2
Monday, 30th January 2023
by Chris Wilkerson
A professional performance from West Ham saw The Hammers beat Derby County 2-0 at Pride Park this evening, guiding them safely into the Fifth Round of the FA Cup.Goals early in each half from Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio were enough for a strong West Ham side to beat their League One counterparts. Their reward is a trip to Old Trafford to take care on Erik Ten Hag?EUR(TM)s Manchester United.
David Moyes sent his side out once more in the 3-4-3 shape that has seen them pick up wins against Brentford and Everton, and whilst the manager made changes, it was a senior side sent out. In came Areola, Kehrer, Johnson, Soucek, Downes and Fornals for Fabianski, Zouma, Coufal, Rice, Paqueta and Benrahma.
A relatively good start saw West Ham rewarded with a goal inside the first 10 minutes.
It came from good work by Antonio and Soucek, the pair combining passes on the edge of the box before Antonio flicked it over the defence, seemingly passing it through to Bowen.
But Soucek continued his run, beating the defender in the air to flick it inside for Bowen, who smartly deferred to the Czech midfielder and was given an easy chance inside the six-yard box, which he buried with aplomb.
It wasn?EUR(TM)t a goal that allowed West Ham to loosen up, by any means, but it did seem to help a sense of calm wash over their play. The Hammers sat deep, deeper than some might have liked in a cup game against League One opposition, but it seemed to suggest a return to more of the football that worked so well when this side was flying.
Which did mean Derby had their fair share of possession. However, the pleasing thing was just how little West Ham were bothered by this. Derby never really created a chance, and they will have felt this period of the game, where they were able to get on the ball, should have been their opportunity to do so.
What West Ham had was a team of very good experience, and notable solidity. In front of Kehrer, Ogbonna and Aguerd sat Downes and Soucek. It didn?EUR(TM)t scream creativity, but it was also not likely to get overwhelmed by a team buoyed by their underdog status. It was controlled, almost locked down, not allowing the game to tell its own story.
It may not be pretty, but it?EUR(TM)s smart. And it worked.
The entertainment was provided mainly by Antonio, who not only showed the kind of work rate that won the hearts of West Ham fans, but pulled the flicks and tricks out of his bag, too. The narrative around Michail has been interesting since the transfer window came into view. His comments on his BBC podcast may not have been greatly received, but they were never derogatory, and only a man speaking the truth from his perspective.
Whilst it is clear a move away was possible, it was not actively and aggressively chased. His performances in the last two games have proven that the club?EUR(TM)s record Premier League goalscorer is not one to down tools. The effort has been at maximum.
There were other little bits that wouldn?EUR(TM)t receive attention in a more entertaining game, the defensive work of Soucek in midfield being one. No grace, as there rarely is with Tomas, but grit and determination, which he gives in spades. And he kept the team on top, winning big tackles and smart interceptions.
The sides went in at the break with the Premier League team in control and leading 1-0, and the tie was soon settled after the restart.
After an inconsistent first half, Fornals moved away from the left wing and into a more central area. This allowed him to make the passes from midfield that Downes and Soucek weren?EUR(TM)t, which got West Ham moving faster and attacking quicker.
It was his intelligence off the ball that earned West Ham their second goal, just five minutes into the half. With a throw-in down the right, inside West Ham?EUR(TM)s half, Fornals drifted into space behind the Derby press. It was subtle, just a movement into an empty area, but when the ball came to him, Fornals turned and looked to make a dangerous direct pass.
He attempted to pass almost instantly to Antonio, trying to guide the striker through. The interception from Curtis Davies in the heart of the Derby County defence was good, but luck evaded the captain and his side.
The ball flew out wide to Bowen, who got it down and drove to the byline. As he approached, he sent a low ball across goal, right into that corridor of uncertainty between goalkeeper and defence, towards Antonio. The attempted clearance only flicked the ball into the air, and Antonio had the easiest of opportunities as he headed into an empty goal from inside the six-yard box.
Any hint of a contest was banished, and the rest of the game was played entirely in West Ham?EUR(TM)s control.
There was a hint of controversy after a Johnson challenge in the air, the right back colliding with Davies after the Derby player had headed a pass back from inside the West Ham box to the edge. It was one of those "if it was in midfield, it?EUR(TM)s a freekick" challenges, but it was an honest attempt at a ball and a pretty reasonable coming together, rather than a foul. Opinions will vary, but it would have definitely been a soft penalty. Without VAR, the referee?EUR(TM)s decision was gospel.
Then came a close shave that would have been a very self-inflicted wound. A little looping ball bounced into the box between Kehrer and Areola. The goalkeeper came for it, but did look like he may be a little short of making it.
Kehrer, unsure of how to defend it, flicked out a leg that he then tried to immediately withdraw. The ball bounced off his thigh and almost through the legs of Areola, but the French goalkeeper got a hand to the ball first and stopped any embarrassment.
On came Benrahma for Antonio, leaving the Algerian playing in a split-striker pair with Bowen, Fornals buzzing around behind them.
The new forward pair almost combined to extend the lead, after a good run by Emerson and a nice pass inside found Benrahma in the box. He quickly passed it on to Bowen in space, but his shot was saved well by Wildsmith in the Derby goal.
Once the changes started, it almost sent out a signal that the game was done. The whole back catalogue of West Ham chants came out as the likes of Mubama, Cresswell and Lanzini got a run out. There was even a "Super David Moyes" chant, showing that the away support still back their manager.
And so it was, the game ending 2-0 and West Ham walking comfortably into the Fifth Round, navigating what could have been a tricky tie with ease, a professional approach and a measured performance.
This game needed to be managed, and it is this control, and their confidence in doing so, that needs to be shown in Premier League games. The attack is improving, with another goal for Bowen and another good performance for Antonio, with a goal as his reward that should lift his confidence. With a solid platform, the attack will flourish, so whilst it might not be pretty for the second half of the season, it just needs to be solid.
With Manchester United awaiting in the next round, at Old Trafford, too, the task gets harder. But a bit of form and a return of confidence could see another win, just like last season?EUR(TM)s League Cup tie.
You?EUR(TM)ve got to be in it to win it, after all.
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Player RatingsAlphonse Areola
An easy night. One nice claim of a cross and then Kehrer's wobble, otherwise he must have been bored.
The odd wobble, especially the one in our box, but otherwise calm and controlled.
Did his job with little fuss.
Wasn't much better than the other two centre backs, but just uses his pace to cover things and makes Emerson and Ogbonna much better.
Just isn't really a wing back, but always solid.
Again, just a couple moments defensively where he maybe should have been better, but his driving runs down the left have given us a different dimension.
A very composed game. There is something to the theory of him playing behind Paqueta and Rice, but it won't happen in this 3-4-3 shape. Knows his game and doesn't try to overdo it.
In a first half where West Ham allowed Derby too much of the ball, he made some crucial challenges. Good assist, too.
Not a great first half, but when he went central, he started to make things tick and it was the reason the lack of possession in the first half became dominance of the ball in the second. Intelligence off the ball makes the second goal.
A good goal, nice assist and a player who looked to be playing instinctively, which suggests his confidence and form are improving.
Worked very hard, involved in the first goal and took his own nicely. Skills, good movement and looked closer to the Antonio we know.
(Replaced (Antonio 64) A nice little cameo, making one good chance.
(Replaced Bowen 78) Ran hard and wasn't bullied by anyone.
(Replaced Emerson 78) Wouldn't have really noticed he was on, other than one or two sharp passes.
(Replaced Fornals 87) Just nice to see Manu on the pitch again.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Alphonse Areola, Thilo Kehrer, Angelo Ogbonna, Nayef Aguerd, Ben Johnson, Emerson, Flynn Downes, Tomas Soucek, Pablo Fornals, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Jarrod Bowen 10 Michail Antonio 50 .
Booked: Tomas Soucek 0 .
Sent off: None.
Derby County: Wildsmith, Smith, Davies (Dobbin 63), Forsyth, Roberts, Hourihane (Rooney 71), Bird (Thompson 61), Mendez-Laing (Cashin 62), Knight, Barkhuizen (Springett 62), Collins.
Subs not used: Loach, Stearman, Robinson, Brown.
Sent off: None.
Referee: Thomas Bramall.
Man of the Match: Michail Antonio.