West Ham United 3-1 Leeds United
Sunday, 21st May 2023
by Chris Wilkerson
If you’re having dream weeks, there will be some who can think of no better way to cap off the one West Ham have just had than to beat an Allardyce team and tip them to the edge of their doom. A 3-1 victory over Leeds United at the London Stadium did exactly that this Sunday afternoon.Rodrigo's opener was quickly cancelled out by a Declan Rice goal before half-time, before The Hammers completely took over the game and finished with a two-goal winning margin that could have been many more. Goals for Bowen and Lanzini wrapped up the three points at a canter for a team that has moved away from the relegation scramble with a touch of class in recent weeks.
There was no drama going into the game for West Ham, with survival already secured, and the freedom from any pressure saw The Hammers brush Allardyce's quite pathetic Leeds United team aside with some ease.
With six changes from the team that won in Alkmaar, Moyes showed he would still be treating these remaining games with the required respect. Back in came Fabianski, and he was joined by Emerson, Coufal, Ogbonna, Ings and stoppage-time hero Pablo Fornals.
The atmosphere inside the ground was in stark contrast to the feelings that have pervaded the majority of the season, but winning a European semi-final can - and has - changed the mood around the club. This was a game of celebration, and the result matched the occasion.
There was even time for a standing ovation inside the first five minutes, as hero in the stands Knollsy made his way to his seat, sporting the kind of shiner you might expect.
On the pitch, West Ham's intensity was clearly a little depleted, and Leeds were eager to take advantage of that in the early stages.
The Hammers played with a relaxed joy about them, and whilst that may explain the slow start, it also paid dividends as the game went on, the composure in their play helping them to show their class.
These last couple months of the season have been a bit of a reminder that this team is better than where they are. That has been the case every time they come up against a relegation rival. Southampton, Bournemouth, and now Leeds have been beaten by the better team.
Leeds may well have thought that an early goal would rock a team whose minds would be elsewhere, and that pure desire and discipline would help them maintain it.
All that was really proven by the fixture was that Leeds cannot defend, and cannot be taught to defend by Sam Allardyce in two weeks.
The visitors did start the better, a Jack Harrison volley standing out as one particularly decent chance.
Rodrigo was also presented with a very good opportunity after a long ball over the top allowed Bamford in behind the defence. His pass across goal made it through to Rodrigo at the far post after Rice missed the interception, but the Brazilian must have expected it to be stopped, and wasn't ready when the ball came to him. It bounced off his touch and the chance was gone.
In the end, they were still rewarded for their bright start, and with a fabulous Rodrigo goal.
It came from a long throw, something Moyes's side have struggled with this season, the American Weston McKennie proving to have a Delap-like arm as he rifled in a throw from the left.
It arrowed into the middle of the pack, and was met by a beautiful volley from the Brazilian, Rodrigo stepping to the ball and taking it fully on the volley as he beat Ogbonna to the ball.
It cannoned off him and flew into the top corner, leaving Fabianski with absolutely no chance.
Conceding a goal inside twenty minutes against an Allardyce team can be a critical blow, allowing the man to sit his team deep, defend bravely and counter at pace.
But despite thinking himself a pioneer, he has not been wise enough to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the club he's taken over. By trying to force this Leeds team to defend, he's negated their attacking strengths, whilst being unable to suddenly fix their defensive woes.
So sitting back immediately after scoring was a move that only benefitted his opponents.
Now West Ham were being given more time on the ball and an invitation to attack. Breaking deep defences is a problem this Hammers side has not proven itself adept at, but Leeds are just not very good.
It didn't take West Ham very long to grasp that, and they took over the game as they did. Whatever joys Leeds were finding in the first 20 minutes, that game was gone. The next 70 minutes would be all about Moyes's side.
The influence of Paqueta and Fornals grew in this period, and this may have been the first game this season where the Spaniard played with the same joy and freedom that we are used to in his game.
Fornals popped up everywhere, hunting for space as he moved off the left flank. Emerson raided forward down the wing without challenge, and The Hammers pinned Leeds back.
They nearly equalised from a smart corner routine, Bowen's ball to the far post headed back inside to Ings on the penalty spot, who couldn't generate enough power to threaten goal, but did guide it into the melee in front of the goalkeeper Robles.
It bounced, it bobbled, and it nearly went in as Soucek tried to scramble it home, but Leeds and their goalkeeper did enough to block and smother it to safety.
It was a warning shot, and the Hammers probed for more. And what they produced was a lovely team goal for the equaliser.
Leeds have kept one clean sheet away from home this season, and you could see why.
Paqueta passed it out wide to Bowen, and at no point was either man put under any pressure. With time and space, Bowen looked up and played centrally to Fornals.
He turned, faced no pressure and saw the run Bowen had made off the wing. With a packed defence in front of him, Fornals scooped a clever pass over it and into the path of Bowen and into the box. The goal is worth watching for the pass alone.
Bowen was smart, taking it down on his chest as he ran, and then lifting a cross with his right foot to the far post.
Onto it rushed Declan Rice, opening his body up to volley with the inside of his right foot, hitting it into the ground from six yards out and seeing it bounce gleefully into the back of the net. The captain was off, sliding on his knees as he ran to the fans, and barely a soul inside that stadium won't have wondered if that was his goodbye goal. It was his fourth of the season, his best in a single Premier League campaign, and a fitting way to cap off a day in which he won a third Hammer of the Year award.
A couple of minutes later, Leeds lost Bamford to injury, and their already quietened attack was weakened severely. The Englishman had caused a few problems for the defence with his clever runs. Rodrigo couldn't match them, whilst Gnonto offered very little from the bench. Allardyce would later lament that his subs gave him "nothing".
It was a hard game to judge for a West Ham fan, the tension completely gone with both survival ensured and a European final to come. Usually, West Ham games are watched with a somewhat inescapable anxiety, but there was none of that in the London Stadium.
Paqueta's influence began to grow, and West Ham were much the better for it. The Brazilian led a fantastic counter, carrying the ball some 60 yards before laying off to Fornals, but the Spaniard's shot flew wide. It was more interesting to see yet more evidence of Paqueta fitting this team and this team fitting around him, too. Earlier in the season, the former Lyon man would not have been spearheading a counter-attack, but the manager has found a way to get him in the middle of things and the team has benefitted greatly.
Fornals was enjoying himself, too, creating a great opportunity for Emerson after a long run down the left. The midfielder moved inside, opening up the space for the overlap into the box, which Emerson gleefully took as his. The pass was good, but gave Emerson a difficult angle to shoot from, and his effort was well saved by Robles.
Leeds stayed in it and applied some pressure, but not the worrying kind, rather the kind West Ham allow and deal with on a weekly basis. Their best chance came from a Zouma mistake, the defender dallying on the ball when last man and trying to go round his opponent, only to be dispossessed by Rodrigo. But his lay off to Gnonto was wasted first by the Italian, and then by the winger Harrison as Leeds limped into the half-time break when they should have been bounding in.
At half-time, at 1-1, Leeds United had it all in their own hands, against a team who have rotated heavily and played in midweek. But that late chance was about the end of their threat, as The Hammers came out for the second half and took over.
And completely took over, too. Leeds just became a team that West Ham were eventually going to beat. They were too passive, offered no threat, barely retained possession.
The only piece that wasn't really clicking for The Hammers was Ings, but the striker did show on occasion that he has the deftness of touch and skill to get involved in play when the side get up and around him. His best effort looked goalbound until a block, and a block by his own player.
But this was not going to be a day where Allardyce would steal points his side didn't deserve. After a stoppage for a head injury, perfectly timed so the home fans could ask for 10 more years of Declan Rice, there were 20 minutes left in a half where West Ham had played some nice football, but found little cutting edge.
It was all that had been missing, the ball just needed to find one of West Ham's best finishers. They had had half chances, none better than a Soucek header from a corner, but nothing clear-cut.
And so it was the 72nd minute when Danny Ings made space on the edge of the box, drove diagonally from left to right, but slid a pass behind the Leeds defence for Bowen, who had made the same run from the other side, curved perfectly to stay onside, and then was faced with the figure of Joel Robles storming out at him as he got to the six-yard box.
Bowen was composed and cute with his finish, opening his body up and curling it low under the outstretched arm of Robles with the outside of his left boot. It skimmed off the finger of the goalkeeper, but that couldn't do enough to divert it away, the ball continuing on across goal, bouncing in off the far post. Two minutes of VAR later, the goal was confirmed.
The Leeds fans, quietened since the equaliser, were beaten now. The desperation was too gripping, the mockery too loud from the home fans.
The visitors had one last, big chance, Gnonto played through with a simple ball over the top, but whilst he had escaped his international teammate once to get through to the ball, Emerson stuck to his task.
Gnonto went through on goal and had Fabianski come to meet him, but it was Emerson who made the stop, moving ahead of the winger as he collected his feet to shoot, and then blocking the shot in front of the goalkeeper.
Having removed Zouma at half-time for Kehrer, Moyes made late changes. Lanzini came on for Bowen with five minutes remaining, another who it is expected was making his final appearance for the club in 2015.
Manu got just enough time to show all the hits, with some beautiful pass and move play, and one exquisite ball to Fornals with the outside of his boot. But, more importantly, he got his goal and his moment.
From the move with that gorgeous, first-time pass with the outside of his boot, Paqueta and Lanzini took a short corner in stoppage time. Exchanging quick little passes with no end of skill, the pair somehow broke free of the three men defending them.
The Brazilian danced on the byline with the ball, stumbling through one challenge before evading another and cutting it back into the middle of the six-yard box. Lanzini had followed him with a run into the box and was there for the pass, the ball rolled perfectly into his path and the Argentine smashing home to score the third, secure the win and, just maybe, end his West Ham career in a fitting manner.
There was still time for one last breakaway, and another chance wasted as Rice and Paqueta couldn't quite get it right, but West Ham are in a buoyant mood, and as the Leeds fans left in droves, West Ham celebrated.
It has not been an easy season for The Hammers, but it ended on home ground on a positive note, players, staff and fans alike still awash with glee from Thursday's semi-final victory.
To get to 40 points looked well beyond their reach some months ago, and to do so whilst managing a bigger priority - a chance at a trophy - must make this season somewhat a success.
It all ended with a party at the London Stadium. Hopefully it ends that way out in Prague, too.
David Moyes 9/10: A healthy amount of rotation without losing much on the pitch. The players responded well to the setback, played some wonderful football and look in perfect condition for what is to come.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Good when he needed to be. Absolutely no chance on the goal and was sharp off his line throughout.
A solid, comfortable game without much to do defensively and without a massive impact in attack. Just efficiently did his work up and down the flank.
Offered a good option on the overlap, as he does in most games he plays, and he recovered very well to shut the door on Gnonto, having let him in.
Have to hope he was taken off to protect from injury, rather than because he had sustained one. Poor mistake to be robbed of the ball like he was on half-time, and he found Bamford a problem whilst the forward was on.
In comparison, Ogbonna was strong and steady. Bamford didn't drift his side, and Rodrigo had no presence once he replaced him.
A very good, controlled display, which eventually became a race to see if he could score more goals. Took his goal really nicely, controlled the middle, and the link with Paqueta is just going from strength to strength. If this is a final goodbye at home, it's been magnificent to watch a player - and a man - flourish over time and grow to be something quite spectacular.
He just loves heading footballs, doesn't he? It was a joy to watch him from kick-off, eager to get down the line and be ready to throw his head at another ball aimed somewhat towards him. He does it all over the park, and you start to see why a manager would love him. A committed soldier who does all the ugly, gritty work without missing a step.
His influence on the game grew and grew, and as it became relaxed and the football became fun, he excelled. He brings out the best in others when it comes to linking play and putting on a show.
Seeing Pablo Fornals roaming around the pitch, doing as he wants, working hard and getting involved in play with clever forward passes, it was a joy to have him back. He has had a hard season, and he looked lost, but a bit of confidence has come back recently and you see the player he is.
Bowen is one player who does not change how he plays just because a Brazilian baller is parading around. He just keeps on, working hard, making runs, with direct running and an eye for dangerous moments. He has done it all year, mostly without reward, and has gone under the radar as his goals and assists dropped, even if he was still doing the work. As it's all started to click again, Jarrod is threatening more, and it's a reward for doing the right things.
He does have the ability to play nice passing football and be a point that ties things together or someone to pass to when moving forward. But he doesn't get involved quite enough to make him a starter. The pass to Bowen was classic play around the box, and something you wouldn't expect from Antonio, but the all-action play is always going to be more important to this team than a few good touches.
(Replaced Zouma 46) Looked in complete control of his game and has really settled recently.
(Replaced Bowen 84) Hard to judge that cameo much lower. Played well, passed superbly and then scored a lovely goal. Gracias, Manu.
(Replaced Ings 90) N/A.
(Replaced Fornals 90) N/A.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Emerson Palmieri, Kurt Zouma, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Lucas Paqueta, Pablo Fornals, Jarrod Bowen, Danny Ings.
Goals: Declan Rice 32 Jarrod Bowen 72 Manuel Lanzini 90 .
Booked: Lucas Paqueta 65 .
Sent off: None.
Leeds United: Robles, Ayling, Koch, Kristensen, Wöber, Struijk (Greenwood 84), McKennie (Roca 84), Forshaw (Aaronson 62), Harrison (Summerville 62), Bamford (Gnonto 34), Rodrigo.
Subs not used: Meslier, Cooper, Rutter, Chilokoa-Mullen.
Goals: Rodrigo (17).
Booked: Summerville (80), Rodrigo (82), Koch (88).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Peter Bankes.
Man of the Match: Manuel Lanzini.