Brentford 2-0 West Ham United
Sunday, 14th May 2023
by Chris Wilkerson
West Ham were easily beaten by Brentford at the Gtech Community Stadium this Sunday afternoon, conceding both goals in the first half in a 2-0 defeat.With nine changes made from the midweek victory against AZ Alkmaar, the game was clearly deemed of secondary importance to the second leg on Thursday. Watching the makeshift side perform, there was very little reason to think the first XI will be changing soon.
As poor as they played, the goals came from one sloppy mistake and West Ham's early season bane, the throw-in. Brentford could have scored more, but never really pressed into a higher gear, and were never really asked to as The Hammers allowed them possession and time with it.
It was only Aguerd and Soucek who survived the rotation in the starting line-up, and the pair were arguably the two worst West Ham performers.
There just wasn't a real Premier League game being played, at least not competed. Brentford were not made to play with any intensity, and with their season drifting to an end, they offered no particular desire to find it.
Equally, everyone of a West Ham persuasion could have happily pretended this game didn't exist, and could only have hoped for more changes to the side, to just rest everyone. This fixture was a distraction from the important business of European football, with relegation all but gone as a threat.
Considering the motivation, the wholesale changes and the lack of minutes some of these players have had, it was no surprise to see a collective struggle.
The depth in this squad is not great, but they could all fairly argue that they are given little chance to play their way into any form.
It needs to be remembered that this was a side with no individual rhythm and no familiarity with their teammates. Whilst it is easy to assess this as a group of players who could be moved on and improved upon, there is very little scope to impress when the game is clearly not important and the players have very little opportunity to play on instinct, so little chance have they had and so little would they know their teammates game.
With that in mind, it is fair to excuse them somewhat for a very bad performance. The criticisms are really of the ones who have played, and should be in better shape. Aguerd, Soucek and Downes were incredibly disappointing.
Many of the problems stemmed from that central midfield pair. They struggled to move the ball forward, play anything in the way of an effective pass and, in some instances, looked uncomfortable having to kick a football.
Brentford's best moments came from capitalising on West Ham mistakes, which has been a theme in recent fixtures between the two.
They could have scored in the first 10 minutes when The Hammers conceded possession needlessly, and a cross curled at goal beat Ogbonna's head when Damsgaard flew in to meet it. He should have scored, flicking wide from around six yards as Fabianski flailed at nothing.
There was a little joy for West Ham fans in those early stages as Fornals and Lanzini exchanged passes, but this tease of joy was just that, and whilst the Argentine kept using the ball and moving it round with short, quick passes, the Spaniard lost his way.
After a frankly boring 20 minutes, Brentford were finally handed an opportunity by the West Ham defence that they couldn't waste.
Aguerd had a freekick after a Brentford offside, exchanging a short pass into midfield and receiving it back. Whatever he thought might happen when he passed to a midfielder running towards him, he clearly found getting it back to be a real problem. Under a little pressure, he passed back into midfield again, but he must have done so without looking because his pass was straight to a Brentford player.
Handed the opportunity, they took advantage, moving it quickly across from the left to the right, where Mbuemo had moved into the empty space left by Emerson's movement forward.
When he got it, he moved into the area and passed the ball into the far corner to give his side the lead, although it was through Fabianski's palms and should have been stopped.
Moyes's side have failed to win in their last 15 league games when conceding the first goal, and whilst Thursday proved that they can win from behind, the goal came in the 21st minute and West Ham showed absolutely no signs of fighting back over the next 70 minutes.
Brentford were the only side looking likely to score. It's not just that they had the threatening attacks, they had the only attacks. West Ham offered nothing.
Fabianski would come to redeem himself, saving well from Wissa around the half hour mark.
It was even more dramatic four minutes before half-time as Brentford looked for a second.
They won't know how they didn't get it. Another long throw was arrowed into the box, and whilst Fabianski was able to punch the ball away as it was guided across the face of goal, he could only punch to the penalty spot.
It was volleyed back, blocked as it bounced to the corner by a West Ham defender, flicked at goal on the six-yard line by a Brentford attacker, which forced a low save from Fabianski.
The ball was still loose, and bodies were flying everywhere to block and stop. It was poked away from the centre of goal but remained in the area and loose for one more chance. By the time the last shot came in, three bodies had flown in for the block, and it was passed wide of goal.
West Ham had survived, but they couldn't keep it at just 1-0 before the first 45 was over.
After a litany of long throws had been launched in, one finally gave Brentford their deserved second goal.
It was simple, as simple a goal as you'll see. A long throw from the right was flicked on at the front post, and Wissa had moved away from his man to get enough space to guide a header into the far corner and make it 2-0 right on the cusp of half-time.
West Ham did react, with arguably their best move of the game as Aguerd went direct with a diagonal to Ings on the left, who took it down and drove inside off the flank, into the area and shot low st the near post, forcing a very good save from Raya.
It was the last action of an atrocious half of football. Brentford had West Ham mistakes and long throws as their game plan. What West Ham had as theirs is hard to ascertain.
If anything, they were worse in the second half, at least they were before the manager was compelled into using his bench.
Brentford had big chances early on, Wissa wasting one after Soucek had stumbled with the ball and played a backwards pass without looking, barely getting it out of his feet as he gave it to the Brentford striker.
Two minutes later, Wissa should have scored, and would have if not for the block from Ogbonna. Schade had flown down the left and fired a cross over to the far post where Wissa waited on the edge of the six-yard box.
But as his header went at goal, Ogbonna turned his body and jumped, his leg blocking what was sure to be a goal.
So bad was it, Moyes was forced to turn to his first teamers just before the hour mark. Rice and Benrahma were called for, and so was academy starlet Divin Mubama as West Ham went looking for a way back into the game.
It improved the side, most notably now with an ability to play forward through midfield, whilst Benrahma looked to carry on some of his bravery on the ball from the win against Alkmaar.
Brentford should have immediately added a third, Damsgaard flicking a leg out at a fast ball going across the West Ham six-yard box, and somehow getting too much on it to blast it high and wide.
But the game did turn in West Ham's favour. They even thought they'd scored, but VAR harshly ruled it out, possibly deciding that this team just did not deserve a goal.
It came after Benrahma danced with the ball on the left, cut onto his right and clipped a ball to the far post. It was a bad cross, hitting the post and bouncing off Mubama.
It bounced away to Lanzini, but the Argentine was smart and sharp, immediately volleying it back across goal for Ings, who headed home from a few yards out.
Celebrations were muted, and rightly so as VAR had its time to have their say. As it cannoned off the post and into the leaping Mubama, it smacked off his hand from a yard away. That was enough, apparently, for the goal to be ruled out.
There was another 22 minutes to play, but there's no need to relive that. Nothing happened, and it was just another 22 minutes on the road to Thursday's second leg.
And in the end, that's all that matters. Everyone got a rest of some sorts, the damage wasn't too awful, nobody got hurt. It's not exactly perfect, but let's pretend today never happened, like that nativity play you have to watch before Christmas.
David Moyes 7/10: Shocking in a game where we were abject, but resting that many players was ideal, the substitutes did work to get things going, but this just doesn't matter to anyone.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Should have stopped the first goal but recovered to make some good saves.
His limitations have not been improved upon and it's hard to see him growing into a starting Premier League full back. Needs to go get some game time at a club where he'll consistently start.
Just offered nothing.
Has a worrying mistake in him in nearly every game. He's a good passer, and you begin to wonder whether having a midfield that struggled with the ball is making it harder for him.
Keeps it simpler. You lose Aguerd's recovery pace if you go with Ogbonna on Thursday, but he's more reliably consistent than the Moroccan.
His performance made me revisit criticism of Rice's forward passing. His bad games would be Downes?EUR(TM)s best. The second goal comes from him backtracking and backtracking in possession.
Both the deeper central midfielders were bad with the ball, but whilst Downes was too cautious and couldn?EUR(TM)t see forward passes, Soucek struggled with that and doing simple passes. It's like he's always being tackled by his other leg.
First start in the league since the opening weekend, and Manu showed why many feel he has had nowhere near enough football this season. It's possibly a higher score than he warranted, but it?EUR(TM)s boosted by the fact he was playing with a team that couldn't meet his standards on the ball.
There were little glimpses early on that he and Lanzini could link well, playing nice triangles and quick exchanges. But that disappeared and Fornals couldn't find a pass. He's beginning to look a player suited only to our strict counter-attacking years, at least as a wide player. Needs to be used centrally, which is where he played before joining.
Just offered nothing. The talk about his injury putting a dent in the season is hard to justify with hindsight.
Had little moments where he threatened, he's improved his linking play and looks better with shorter passing around him.
(Replaced Fornals 58) Worked hard and was game to chase and defend from the front, but couldn?EUR(TM)t get into the game.
(Replaced Cornet 58) A lot didn't come off, but he suddenly gave us a threatening presence on the ball, and nearly made a goal, if not for VAR.
(Replaced Soucek 58) Helped move the ball much better through midfield and keep attacks going by regaining possession.
(Replaced Ings 83) Offered a direct running threat but couldn't get into the game
Did not play.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Ben Johnson, Emerson Palmieri, Nayef Aguerd, Angelo Ogbonna, Flynn Downes, Tomas Soucek, Manuel Lanzini, Pablo Fornals, Max Cornet, Danny Ings.
Sent off: None.
Brentford: Raya, Hickey (Roerslev 85), Mee, Pinnock, Henry, Janelt, Jensen (Onyeka 70), Damsgaard (Baptiste 77), Wissa (Dasilva 78), Mbeumo, Schade (Ghoddos 85).
Subs not used: Cox, Zanka, Ajer, Stevens.
Goals: Mbeumo (20), Wissa (43).
Booked: Hickey .
Sent off: None.
Referee: Michael Oliver.
Man of the Match: Manuel Lanzini.