West Ham United are through to the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup where they will face an away tie against Kidderminster Harriers at the start of February after a 2-0 win against fellow Premier League side Leeds United on Sunday afternoon.
David Moyes made three changes to the team that won at Crystal Palace eight days earlier. Saïd Benrahma is on African Nations Cup duty with Algeria, meaning that Nikola Vlašić was handed a start, while Ryan Fredericks came in for Vladimír Coufal to make his 50th appearance for the club. Alphonse Areola also replaced Łukasz Fabiański in goal.
Nine substitutes were able to be named on the bench and amongst those were Pablo Fornals, who had missed the last two matches after contracting Coronavirus, while there was also a rare involvement for Darren Randolph.
Leeds’ Head-Coach Marcelo Bielsa has never won an FA Cup tie during his time in charge of the West Yorkshire club and the Hammers were on the front foot from the start with great movement but they were unable to find the killer touch that would beat visiting goalkeeper Illan Meslier.
The visitors didn’t really force Areola into a meaningful save by this point meaning chances were wasted for both sides until the first goal arrived on thirty four minutes. Vlašić and Jarrod Bowen had their efforts blocked by a combination of both Meslier and debutant Leo Fuhr Hjelde before Manuel Lanzini arrived on the scene and although the French stopper also attempted to thwart him, the Argentine did manage to knock the ball into the net, giving the first-choice keeper no chance.
Once again though, the home fans were made to wait for confirmation of the goal, as although referee Stuart Attwell saw no issues, VAR intervened citing a possible offside. Eventually after a lengthy check the majority inside the stadium were able to celebrate, leaving Bielsa wondering if he might suffer the same fate this time around.
A great team move saw Bowen combine with Vlašić to set up Michail Antonio who could have increased his teams advantage but his shot took an unfortunate deflection off Diego Llorente which caused it to land on the top of the net, while he tried his luck again just minutes later when he was on the end of Ben Johnson’s cross but it was well off target.
Bowen also had an effort cleared off the line by away skipper Luke Ayling before being involved in the next chance shortly after. He spotted Fredericks in a great position and played the former Fulham defender through but his first-time shot forced Frenchman Meslier into another save.
The only work that Areola had to do before the break was when youngster Lewis Bates sent over a curling effort that the on loan stopper plucked it out of the air with ease.
West Ham went into this game having had one extra day worth of preparation, as Leeds were in action against Burnley just a week before this tie and it began to show. The travelling fans did see their side have numerous efforts on goal but the Irons continued to dominate and Meslier was certainly the busier of the two goalkeepers so it was surprising that when Attwell blew the whistle for half-time, the home side were still only a goal in front.
Moyes’ side were still trying to go further in front when the second-half started but nothing they were trying seemed to be able to go past Meslier in order to give them a more comfortable advantage.
During the break, Bielsa made his first substitution as he replaced youngster Sam Greenwood with Raphinha and his side did rise to the occasion a little more than in the opening forty five minutes, the change didn’t really make a great deal of difference and the Hammers kept applying pressure.
They had a great chance when Antonio played in Bowen and the former Hull City winger raced into the area but found Meslier in the perfect position to save with his legs.
Seconds later, Captain Declan Rice sent a shot wide after Lanzini had spotted him in space.
That was the Argentine’s last action as he was replaced on seventy five minutes when Fornals was introduced in his place.
As the match was nearing its conclusion, both Jack Harrison and Daniel James had opportunities to equalise but neither player was able to beat Areola.
The home side made a second alteration with two minutes of normal time to play, as Vlašić made way for Arthur Masuaku.
Four minutes of stoppage time were signalled and West Ham made sure there was no way back into the tie for Bielsa’s men as Antonio played a great ball to Bowen who smashed it into the net past Meslier.
With seconds remaining, a final substitution was made as Andriy Yarmolenko was brought on for Antonio.
Before hosting Leeds again next Sunday, the Irons are back in action on Wednesday night with the visit of newly-promoted Norwich City, who are now under the stewardship of former Aston Villa Head-Coach Dean Smith.