Momentum Keeps Rolling on the Road
West Ham United may have been beaten at home by Manchester United in the Premier League but they followed up the Carabao Cup triumph away at Old Trafford this week by continuing their top-flight momentum on the road, as they came from behind to win 2-1 against Leeds United at Elland Road on Saturday afternoon.
Although ten changes were made for the cup success on Wednesday night, David Moyes reverted to the team that played in the league last Sunday but Michail Antonio was restored to the starting line-up in place of Nikola Vlašić who dropped to the bench.
Having had two contrasting results against very different Manchester United teams over the past week, West Ham fans might have felt that if their team didn’t win this game then Wednesday’s triumph wouldn’t have counted for much.
The visitors applied pressure on Marcelo Bielsa’s men early on, as Saïd Benrahma found himself on the ball and in some space before running past Stuart Dallas and attempting a shot. It was a close effort but unfortunately, it landed just wide of Illan Meslier’s near post.
Jarrod Bowen has started all of the Premier League matches for the Hammers this season and he was at the centre of the action here, as he combined to good effect with Pablo Fornals. The Spaniard then played the ball into Antonio, who nearly opened the scoring, only to be denied by a last-ditch save from Meslier.
With injuries and suspensions depriving the hosts of many of their regular starters, the Irons were creating several good openings. Benrahma went close but the young Frenchman made another superb save before the same pair were involved again, only to produce the same outcome, as the Algerian was well set up by Antonio.
It was then the turn of the hosts to attack and Dallas tested Łukasz Fabiański but the Pole managed to tip his powerful effort over the bar.
Leeds were still looking for a first win of the campaign and an uncharacteristic mistake from Tomáš Souček allowed them to go in front, as it was pounced on by Rodrigo who headed towards the area and found Mateusz Klich and he then spotted Raphinha who finished the move off and beat Fabiański.
Although the hosts were winless going into this game, the visitors were looking for a first top-flight win since the 4-1 trouncing of Leicester City on 23 August but they weren’t daunted about coming from behind.
Their forward play has caused problems for a number of teams they have faced this season and it almost did the same for Bielsa’s side when Benrahma set Fornals away. The Spaniard wanted to add more goals to his tally but instead passed to Bowen but he was off balance when he took the shot and unfortunately couldn’t beat Meslier.
The Hammers were having difficulty trying to contain the threat of Raphinha and he nearly put the hosts into a more commanding position. Dallas broke up what looked to be a good move from Moyes’ side and set up his teammate. The Leeds’ key man then tried to find his way past Fabiański again but fortunately, the Pole was saved by the post.
Benrahma almost set up Kurt Zouma minutes before the break but the ball was just too high for the former Chelsea defender to reach. There was another chance for the visitors seconds later, as Fornals was through on goal but unfortunately for the large travelling contingent, Meslier thwarted the Spaniard.
The Hammers had come from behind in the opening game of the season against Newcastle United and having found themselves in the same position here when referee Kevin Friend blew the whistle for half-time, could they do it again?
Having started well in the match, the Irons allowed Leeds to get a rhythm going as the first-half went on but it was a different story after the break, as Souček atoned for his error which led to the hosts opening the scoring when Meslier was finally beaten but this time, the East Londoners were denied when VAR intervened, as the official had spotted an obstruction by Antonio. Friend checked the monitor and reversed his original decision to the disappointment of those in the away end.
Bielsa’s men were still piling on the pressure and they nearly doubled their advantage when Raphinha played the ball into the feet of Klich but a crucial block from Vladimír Coufal prevented him from doubling the hosts’ lead.
West Ham were also putting their opponents under pressure and it paid off when they finally found an equaliser.
The Czech defender found himself in the thick of the action again as he picked out Bowen and the former Hull City man was able to take the shot on and the effort went past Meslier via a couple of deflections. The leveller went down as an own goal credited to Leeds’ defender Junior Firpo. Needless to say that the travelling support didn’t care one bit.
West Ham then had a chance to go ahead themselves as Meslier struggled to deal with a free-kick from Aaron Cresswell while under pressure from Souček. The goalkeeper was helpless as the ball dropped invitingly for Antonio but the Frenchman could breathe a sigh of relief, as Antonio made a hash of the chance and sent the ball over the bar.
On seventy eight minutes, Moyes made his first change as Vlašić came on to replace Fornals.
As Hammers’ fans will remember from last weekend there was late drama in the closing stages of the encounter and the same happened here but it went in favour of those in Claret and Blue.
As the game entered stoppage time, Antonio was played in by Captain Declan Rice and sent a shot screaming past Meslier, meaning that the Irons would be taking all three points home from Yorkshire.
In order to ensure the result was secured, Moyes made further changes as Craig Dawson and Andriy Yarmolenko entered the fray for both Bowen and the matchwinner.
That win means that the East Londoners have moved onto eleven points from six games. UEFA Europa League action resumes on Thursday night when SK Rapid Vienna visit Stratford.