Premier League
Luton Town  1-2 West Ham United 

Friday, 1st September 2023
by Chris Wilkerson

Another one done!

West Ham secured their third win of the season at a raucous Kenilworth Road this Friday evening, beating newly promoted Luton Town 2-1 and moving back to the top of the table.

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The hosts were playing their first ever home game in the Premier League, but whilst the Hammers came unstuck in similar circumstances last season against Nottingham Forest, Moyes?EUR(TM)s side were much more professional in this match, controlling the game and weathering the storm of emotion to take all three points.

In a tight affair, made all the more uncomfortable by the compact ground, The Hammers were sensible and strong, using their experience to remain calm, which allowed their superior ability to eventually win the game.

Goals from Bowen - to make that three in three from away games - and the captain Kurt Zouma were enough for the win, although a stoppage-time header from Luton centre back Mads Andersen made the last few minutes far more tense than it should have been.

With Soucek sidelined, Benrahma returned to the starting lineup, whilst Aguerd returned in place of Ogbonna following his suspension. New signing Mohammed Kudus waited for his debut on a strong West Ham bench.

Moyes and his side looked well aware of the situation they were walking into, and they were well prepared for the passion that would force Luton forward in the opening exchanges.

It was not a particularly entertaining start, engrossing in its intensity, but with very little quality. There wasn?EUR(TM)t a shot until the 12th minute, a Benrahma volley dragged wide.

The Hammers came into this game off the back of two wins where they played the majority of each performance without the ball. Here, Luton were happy to rush back into shape and defend in numbers, forcing Moyes?EUR(TM)s side into a different approach.

They were patient, using possession to take some of the fire out of Luton?EUR(TM)s game, looking for spaces to exploit as the hosts sat in to defend their box.

Some may have expected West Ham to go out and dominate this game aggressively, casting aside The Hatters, but Luton haven?EUR(TM)t risen to these heights without ability. They know that mere survival would feel a miracle, and they?EUR(TM)re clearly committed to working as hard as they can, hoping the work, determination and effort will make up the difference where other teams have deep squads, and deep pockets.

You could see it in this game. A rabid crowd, rightly in a dreamworld and loving every second, roared them on, and their team responded to them. They fought, they battled, they made sure that West Ham would earn it if they were to beat them.

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What will give them heart is that they did this. The Hammers are not the most creative attacking force in this league, but they will create more against supposed better teams. Their first real opening was not for 35 minutes, when a quick combination from Bowen and Paqueta faltered, but fell for chances. alvarez was blocked, Benrahma fired over.

The brave defensive display will have worried some West Ham fans. This is not a team that has shone when defences sit back and let them have it, but West Ham have changed a little.

The tweaks that allow Ward-Prowse and Paqueta to create in the middle mean that it is dangerous to sit too far off them. When Luton did, they set themselves up for the two midfielders to deliver with space. Paqueta did.

It was a simple goal, beautiful in that simplicity. With possession there?EUR(TM)s to play with, Paqueta received around 30 yards from goal in a central area, moving left.

He had time to pick a pass, and he used it, looking up and curling a cross ahead of Bowen at the far post. It dropped perfectly for the forward to head at goal from six yards out, and though he headed at the goalkeeper, Kaminski couldn?EUR(TM)t keep it out, only pushing it into his own net. The Kaminski method was flawed.

A third goal for Bowen this season, too, meaning the winger had become the first West Ham player to score in the first three away games of a season since Vic Watson, a little over 90 years ago.

It did very little to change the flow of the game. Luton finally had a chance as half-time approached, Chong flicking wide when close to goal after a ball bounced loose on a corner.

The Hammers will have been happy with their approach and their lead going into the break, but well aware that their hosts would come again in this game. With that crowd behind them, they would be forced on as time ticked away.

To Luton?EUR(TM)s credit, they were not naive. They did not pour forward in desperation, they did not take undue risks with the adrenaline of their fans behind them.

That said, the game did open up a little, it had to. West Ham could be a little less cautious, and a little more cutthroat, whilst Luton needed to get back on level terms.

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The Hammers thought they?EUR(TM)d doubled their lead only five minutes into the half. After a corner was headed clear, Benrahma fired a sharp pass from the left wing into the feet of Antonio in the box. His first touch was poor, poor enough that it turned into a good pass for Emerson as the left back sprinted into the box. He smashed it home, finishing well, but the flag was quickly up; Antonio had received in an offside position.

Soon Ward-Prowse had created a chance for Benrahma, the England midfielder bursting onto a loose ball, pushing forward from midfield and through the Luton defence, squaring from wide right in the box across to the left, but Ross Barkley had recovered to excellently block Benrahma?EUR(TM)s shot.

Then it was the Luton Town striker Adebayo with a big chance at the other end after a speculative cross from Nakamba left the trio of Aguerd, Zouma and Areola expecting someone else to deal with the ball. It bounced to the back post, where Aguerd reacted to hold the big striker off, and Adebayo could only flick a leg at the ball to divert it wide.

That flurry of activity after the 50th minute had added some excitement, but at the hour mark, Bowen?EUR(TM)s goal was still the only shot on target. Benrahma did test Kaminski moments later, but it was a poor shot and comfortably saved.

That came during a relatively strong period for the home team, a rare ten-minute spell where they had the majority of possession. It was only about 56-44, but it was enough to provoke a shift in attitude for West Ham, and for Pablo Fornals to be readied from the bench.

West Ham reacted by just keeping the ball. Any sting in the game was taken out as The Hammers worked it around the pitch, comfortably keeping possession. By the time Fornals got on, Luton?EUR(TM)s moment had passed.

It must be said that Moyes?EUR(TM)s side managed the game spectacularly from around the 65th minute, and had it not been for the stoppage-time drama, it would have been an immaculate job. It wasn?EUR(TM)t particularly exciting, but the air was just slowly let out of Luton?EUR(TM)s lungs.

The home side had a glimpse at goal inside the final 10 minutes after a deep cross was fired back into the middle by ex-Hammer Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, only for Morris?EUR(TM)s shot in the middle of the box to fly over. It looked to be deflected, but a goal kick was given.

As if that opening reminded West Ham of what they could lose, they went up the other end and promptly finished it. It was what you might call vintage West Ham, at least under David Moyes.

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Having just given up Luton?EUR(TM)s biggest chance of the game, the Irons go up the other end, win a corner, and it?EUR(TM)s 2-0. It was as simple as that, Ward-Prowse curling an outswinging corner that Zouma leapt to meet, and headed down into the far corner.

With five minutes to left, it was surely game over. The manager even threw Kudus on for Paqueta, about as relaxed as Moyes can be in a Premier League game.

Everyone had eased off, all except alvarez, who flew into a big tackle and had the Luton Town fans excited, but the Mexican slid through and came out cleanly with the ball.

It seemed like everything was done. Until it wasn?EUR(TM)t.

Maybe the defence had relaxed as much, too. Certainly, they were too easily beaten by a straight ball into the box from deep. Fired in, Morris was between Aguerd and Emerson, and he headed inside to Andersen, who was free between Aguerd and Zouma.

The centre back had come forward as Luton now threw it all at the West Ham goal, and took his chance well, getting power into the header to head across goal and in from only eight yards.

Suddenly, the volume was turned up, the atmosphere electric, and Luton sensed a chance. A corner offered them their last chance.

And it may have offered more. The dropping ball evaded all heads, but did strike the arm of Ward-Prowse as it dropped over the heads in front of him.

Penalty appeals were waved away, and VAR thankfully had no interjection, but controversy remained. The arm was slightly out of a natural position, and hit around the elbow.

Frankly, had it been given, VAR would have been unlikely to overturn. It was an escape.

It was the last of the game. West Ham were back at the top of the table once more, still unbeaten going into the international break. With 10 points on the board, the prospect of Liverpool and Manchester City in the next two games is exciting, rather than troubling. That?EUR(TM)s what a good start can do for you.

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Manager's Rating

David Moyes 8/10: Impressive to get his team to control that game, very different performance from the previous two. Moments where Luton looked to be making an impact, his side stepped up their control of the ball and pushed Luton back.

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Player Ratings

Alphonse Areola
One good claim from a cross, and another dropped catch that was a big error. No blame on the goal, although you could say a disorganised defence is such a situation is something a goalkeeper is part of.

Vladimir Coufal
Looked better on the ball, which is likely due to having better passers and receivers around him. Defended gamely, a few excellent tackles in there.

Emerson Palmieri
Couldn't get into the game going forward, stayed secure in a controlled defensive performance, until the sloppy ending.

Kurt Zouma
Will be furious at the panic in stoppage time, with a sloppy goal, but otherwise was too good for what Luton had up front, and then scored what was ultimately the winner.

Nayef Aguerd
Not completely comfortable, but without the errors that have come when he's up against it. Emerson, Aguerd and Zouma were all too relaxed for the Luton goal, not reacting to the presence of an extra man in centre back Andersen.

Edson Alvarez
Having a disciplined defensive midfielder who will just do the job to protect the defence makes a big difference. In a tight game, one where Luton were going to make it about hard work, but never risk too much, the midfield needed to be won. They worked wonderfully as a group, but alvarez was particularly good in the clutch moments.

James Ward-Prowse
West Ham had control, in part to the brilliant balance and performances in midfield, but without a set-piece delivery like that, West Ham draw a game they had dominated. Clutch moments that didn?EUR(TM)t happen last year will be what decides success this season.

Lucas Paqueta
Got into the battle, kept his head, and in a game with little space, played with intensity, the cohesive unit in the middle won it, and Paqueta then did what you pay the big money for, he stood up and created the goal.

Said Benrahma
You could argue it wasn?EUR(TM)t his type of game, but you have to also wonder when he's going to ever dominate a full back or opponent at this level. He wasn't outwardly bad, and he at least took shots, but he isn't convincing, and it's not a major surprise that the manager has considered his options there during the window.

Jarrod Bowen
Worked hard, covered his flank, offered the odd moment of danger and then he's the man on the end of the cross to open the scoring.

Michail Antonio
He wasn't given much to work with, nor did he do particularly badly with what he got. But he couldn't impose himself on the defence, one that was comfortable with three at the back and one striker.


Pablo Fornals
(Replaced Benrahma 71) Worked hard and did a lot of the pressing and running in the Luton half, but also failed to have an impact on the West Ham play with the ball.

Danny Ings
(Replaced Antonio 80) Ran, did the work, no impact.

Mohammed Kudus
(Replaced Paqueta 90+1) Debut win, no dramas...

Lukasz Fabianski
Did not play.

Aaron Cresswell
Did not play.

Thilo Kehrer
Did not play.

Angelo Ogbonna
Did not play.

Maxwel Cornet
Did not play.

Divin Mubama
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Alphonse Areola , Vladimir Coufal, Emerson Palmieri, Kurt Zouma, Nayef Aguerd, Edson Alvarez, James Ward-Prowse, Lucas Paqueta, Said Benrahma, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.

Goals: Jarrod Bowen 37 Kurt Zouma 85                .

Booked: Emerson Palmieri 81          .

Sent off: None.

Luton Town : Kaminski, Burke, Andersen, Giles (Kaboré 72), Bell, Doughty (Ogbene 78), Nakamba, Barkley (Mpanzu 71), Chong (Woodrow 84), Adebayo (Brown 71), Morris.

Subs not used: Kaminski, Burke, Andersen, Giles (KaborĂ© 72), Bell, Doughty (Ogbene 78), Nakamba, Barkley (Mpanzu 71), Chong (Woodrow 84), Adebayo (Brown 71), Morris.

Goals: Andersen (90+2).

Booked: Nakamba (87).

Sent off: None.

Referee: Paul Tierney.

Attendance: 10,802.

Man of the Match: Edson Alvarez.