In the reverse fixture between West Ham United and Wolverhampton Wanderers back in October, it was the home side who came out on top, as they won 2-0, thus dropping the visitors into the relegation zone. The Hammers were looking to complete the double at Molineux on Saturday afternoon but the hosts, who are now under the stewardship of Julen Lopetegui, took all three points from the crucial encounter, meaning David Moyes’ side are now in the bottom three.
Three changes were made to the side that played the last Premier League game at Leeds United on January 4, as Angelo Ogbonna replaced Craig Dawson. Aaron Cresswell regained his place in the side, as he came in for Thilo Kehrer who dropped to the bench and Michail Antonio retained his place from last weekend’s FA Cup win at Brentford. Gianluca Scamacca was also on the bench, alongside goalkeeper Darren Randolph who continued to take the place of the injured Alphonse Areola. There was also a surprise inclusion amongst the nine substitutes, as Kurt Zouma had made a quicker than expected recovery from knee surgery to make the matchday squad.
With both teams struggling at the bottom of the table, this was a cagey affair. Hwang Hee-chan was close to putting his side ahead but for a timely block from Nayef Aguerd. Rúben Neves connected with a volley soon after but he flicked it over the bar. The Irons then tried to apply some pressure themselves when Jarrod Bowen fashioned an opportunity but unfortunately, he volleyed straight at home stopper José Sá, while Antonio wasn’t able to find a way through.
Vladimír Coufal was then involved at both ends. Firstly, he did brilliantly to clear the danger following a cross from Nélson Semedo, before having a great chance himself, following good play from his compatriot Tomáš Souček and Lucas Paquetá to set him up. Although the Czech’s effort beat Sá, unfortunately Hugo Bueno was in the right place to clear before the ball had crossed the line.
The visitors were in the way of everything that Wolves could throw at them, as Aguerd denied Matheus Cunha room to get a shot on Łukasz Fabiański’s goal.
When referee Simon Hooper blew the whistle for the break, it showed how important the game was to both sides, as there was nothing to separate them.
The Hammers could have opened the scoring early in the second-half when Antonio tried his luck but unfortunately, his attempt went inches wide.
To be frank, the East Londoners could have done with that chance going in because moments later, a West Ham counter-attack broke down and Wolves charged up the pitch and that particular phase of play ended with Daniel Podence firing the ball past a helpless Fabiański.
Moyes made his first change on the hour mark, as Saïd Benrahma replaced Souček. The Algerian nearly made the impact that he was sent on for, as his cross found Paquetá but the Brazilian midfielder’s subsequent shot was no trouble for Sá.
The Irons really need something to go in their favour at present and on this occasion, it certainly did. Neves hit the bar and then quite unbelievably, the rebound fell to substitute Rayan Aït-Nouri, who had earlier entered the action in place of the goalscorer and he saw his effort hit the post. Believe me, the visitors were mightily relieved!!!
In the seventy sixth minute, Moyes decided to go with two upfront as Scamacca entered the fray for Pablo Fornals. The striker was straight into the action, as he played in Benrahma but his attempt didn’t even go close to testing Sá.
Moyes’ side were still determined to try and get something from the game and they were still piling on the pressure but unfortunately, Paquetá’s ball couldn’t reach Scamacca and the chance had gone.
Having said that, chances kept coming for the visitors, as the Italian summer signing had not finished there, he got his head to a cross from Captain Declan Rice but could only send the effort wide. Coufal then got in on the act but the home defence stood firm, before Rice finally tried his luck again but his ambitious shot was unfortunately off-target for those in the away end.
Six minutes of stoppage time were signalled at the end of the ninety and deep into the allotted period, Lopetegui’s team thought they had struck the final blow when substitute Raúl Jiménez, who had replaced Cunha on sixty four minutes beat Fabianski but Moyes’ men were given a reprieve when VAR ruled the goal out for offside.
This defeat means that Wolves have jumped above their opponents in the table but the Hammers still have hope of bouncing straight out of trouble but they will have to beat fellow strugglers Everton in Stratford next weekend.