At the start of 2021, David Moyes picked up three points at his former club Everton and in Sunday’s late kick-off, he was attempting to do the same against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Unfortunately though it wasn’t achievable, as the Red Devils won 1-0.
Mark Noble took over the captaincy from Declan Rice, as the one-club man came in for Jesse Lingard who couldn’t play against his parent club. Moyes made two other changes from the side that took on newly-promoted Leeds United last Monday, as Jarrod Bowen was preferred to Saïd Benrahma with the former Brentford man dropping to the bench. Ben Johnson was handed another start in place of the injured Pablo Fornals. Youngster Connor Coventry was also included in the matchday eighteen
Christopher Kavanagh was meant to be in charge of this game but he was replaced by Martin Atkinson, as Kavanagh was self-isolating due to contracting Coronavirus.
West Ham were still searching for their seventh away win of the season, having not won on the road since the victory over Aston Villa on 3 February and started the game well. The Hammers were keen to test the resolve of Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side after they were involved in UEFA Europa League action and thought they should have been awarded a penalty as early as the third minute.
Craig Dawson was on the end of a corner and was tripped by Aaron Wan-Bissaka but Atkinson thought that the Watford loanee had gone down easily.
Having already amassed 48 points, the Irons were keen to try and grab anything they could from this fixture and set about trying to break the flow of the home sides game.
Having said that, just past the twenty minute mark, the visitors might have fashioned a chance when Aaron Cresswell’s cross took a deflection off Scott McTominay. When the ball came down from the sky, in an effort to try and make something of the opportunity, Bowen tussled with home goalkeeper Dean Henderson who could only punch away. The former Sheffield United and Shrewsbury Town loanee could eventually breathe a sigh of relief, as it dropped to one of his own players and the chance had gone.
The hosts had a great chance to go ahead when Mason Greenwood bent in a cross towards teammate Marcus Rashford. Fortunately though, Issa Diop made a vital block to send the effort wide of the post.
Solskjær’s men were really ramping up the pressure by this point but the East Londoners ensured that nothing was going to get past them, as Dawson, Cresswell and Diop all dealt with the danger. The defensive duo had cleared most of what Solskjær’s side had thrown at them but when they had to call on Łukasz Fabiański to help them out, he didn’t disappoint as he got a hand to the ball to divert it onto the crossbar.
Given that the Hammers’ boss has a poor record here, he would have been pleased to see his team go into the break still in with a chance of getting something as the game was still goalless.
Some teams just know how to get the better of others and with the East Londoners only managing one league draw on this ground since escaping top flight relegation on the final day of the 2006/7 campaign, the loyal fan base watching from home might have predicted what was about to happen.
Crystal Palace, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal have all claimed wins here and with just seven minutes of the second-half gone, it seemed as though West Ham weren’t going to add their name to that list. In the fifth round of the FA Cup last month, McTominay was the match winner and he nearly made the breakthrough as he was on the end of a corner from Bruno Fernandes but the ball went past Fabianski and into the net, having taken a deflection off Dawson.
To be fair to the Hammers though, they didn’t let their heads drop and they almost got back into the game when Cresswell initially picked out Michail Antonio from a throw-in. The striker then volleyed into Bowen’s path and the former Hull City player was looking to set up Tomáš Souček but unfortunately, the Czech was unable to latch onto the ball.
Both teams were in good form going into this game and although the Red Devils had been on top for most of the evening, the visitors did have their moments as there was then action at both ends with Fabianski doing brilliantly to keep out a swerving effort from Fernandes, while Souček had a great chance to equalise but unfortunately headed wide under pressure from home skipper Harry Maguire.
Benrahma was back on the bench for this one but just after the hour mark, Moyes decided to make a double change. The winger, along with Manuel Lanzini, replaced Noble and Johnson.
The changes seemed to make a difference as Bowen then went close on two occasions. His initial effort on goal was blocked by Maguire before he headed a Cresswell corner wide of the far post. Had the ball found the net, the away side would have been denied an equaliser as he was in an offside position.
Cresswell had been playing well throughout the match and although he often found himself in dangerous areas, it was Solskjær’s men who looked more likely to double their advantage. This was evident when Greenwood took the ball upfield and fortunately for the Irons, his effort came back off the post.
One last chance for West Ham saw Benrahma play in Souček but Luke Shaw prevented him from getting through.
After seeing the results go well for them before this game began, the East London side, who have climbed up to fifth after last Monday’s victory had kept their grip on that position ahead of Sunday’s London derby, as Arsenal visit Stratford.