West Ham United were looking for their sixth success of the season on the road and to beat a newly promoted team for the fourth straight time. Unfortunately, they couldn’t do the double over Sheffield United, as a late penalty gave the Blades a point as the match ended 2-2.
David Moyes made three changes to the team that were knocked out of the Emirates FA Cup by Sky Bet Championship side Bristol City five days ago, as Alphonse Areola, Pablo Fornals and Jarrod Bowen came back into the starting line-up to replace Łukasz Fabiański, Aaron Cresswell and the suspended Saïd Benrahma.
Along with Fabiański and Cresswell, the substitutes bench once again included Divin Mubama, Kaelan Casey, Oliver Scarles, Callum Marshall and Lewis Orford.
Given that Chris Wilder’s side hadn’t played since their FA Cup victory against Sky Bet League Two outfit Gillingham, you would have expected a fast start from them but in actual fact, both sides struggled to get to grips with each other in the opening stages and the first chance arrived in the eighth minute.
The home side were applying pressure. It was fortunate for the Hammers however that they couldn’t make it count. William Osula and Gustavo Hamer failed to trouble Areola but when Vinícius Souza had a go, he forced the Frenchman into a good save.
The Irons then grew into the game and could have gone ahead when Danny Ings got on the end of a ball from Tomáš Souček ahead of home goalkeeper Wes Foderingham but couldn’t beat him. Shortly after, they had other chances but again didn’t take advantage of them. A Kurt Zouma header and a Bowen attempt followed but there was still no breakthrough.
The defences of both teams were on top early on, and with sixteen minutes gone, a free-kick from Hamer was prevented from getting past Areola, while a shot from youngster Andre Brooks went over the top.
By this point, the newly-promoted side were having the best of the game, Osula had a great chance which he failed to make the most of, having said that though, the linesman’s flag had gone up beforehand.
It was the home side’s first game at Bramall Lane this year and they obviously wanted to put on a good show for the majority inside the stadium. It was only down to Areola that they weren’t ahead shortly after the flag denied them. The French stopper then thwarted Ben Brereton Díaz after the former Blackburn Rovers player was well set up by Brooks.
Moyes’ men had already achieved three wins over the Premier League’s newcomers this season and with twenty eight minutes played, they were on their way to another. Ings had his shot blocked but luckily, it dropped for Maxwel Cornet who sent the ball past a helpless Foderingham and claimed his first goal for the club.
Osula was at the heart of everything that the hosts were trying as they searched for a route back into the game but the East Londoners managed to survive, as there were no clear-cut opportunities created in order for the Blades to level.
In contrast, West Ham had opportunities to extend their lead through both Ings and Bowen but they too were passed up.
The visitors were made to pay for their latest missed chances as, just before the break, Areola made a save when he was tested by Osula, only for the ball to fall to Brereton Díaz, who followed up and subsequently equalised.
West Ham would have been disappointed to see their advantage slip but they knew that they would have time left to earn a crucial three points.
Wilder’s men were given a boost by that goal and definitely had the momentum on their side when the action recommenced. They moved the ball upfield and two loanees combined, as Manchester City’s James McAtee sent a dangerous cross into the box but all that Arsenal’s Auston Trusty could do was head over the top.
The home side made a change during the interval, as Oliver McBurnie came on to replace Osula. He nearly made an instant impact but his initial header towards goal was blocked, while the second went over.
Just before the hour mark, Brereton Díaz was through for what surely would’ve been his second goal of the afternoon but thankfully for those in the away section, the end product was lacking. To be honest, it would have been easier to score!!!
Konstantinos Mavropanos had a chance to restore the lead for the visitors but his header was off target. Then Ings had another chance to get on the scoresheet but, once again, he couldn’t get the better of Foderingham
Minutes later, Moyes decided to make his first change, as Ben Johnson entered the fray for Cornet.
Ings was giving the West Ham fans who had made the journey to South Yorkshire a real glimpse of what he could do and he won his side a penalty after being brought down by Hamer. The Hammers have had a number of penalty takers in recent times but this one was left to James Ward-Prowse who stepped up and confidently beat Foderingham.
Shortly after West Ham had gone back in front, Wilder introduced Rhian Brewster in place of Brooks.
Moyes saw his side waste a chance to make the points safe before late drama insued.
Brewster put a late challenge in on Emmerson Palmieri which referee Salisbury only saw worthy of a booking. He was then asked by the VAR official to review his original decision. Vladimír Coufal was booked for speaking out of turn and finally, after a long look, he produced the red card for the former Liverpool youngster.
As the game went into six added minutes, the hosts were awarded a free-kick, as the Czech defender was also given a second yellow card and a subsequent red.
In the midst of the chaos, Mubama took the place of Ings as the Hammers’ boss made his second change.
If you thought that was the end of the drama think again!!! Salisbury gave the Blades a penalty when he interpreted that Areola had fouled McBurnie, when replays clearly showed that the decision should have been awarded the other way.
In all this, the Frenchman was injured, meaning Moyes had to call upon Fabiański to replace him and face up to McBurnie’s penalty. Unfortunately, the Pole couldn’t keep it out and Sheffield United looked as if they would come away with a point.
West Ham wanted a second penalty after Bowen went down but nothing was given and after the stoppage time period was extended by another seven minutes, the final whistle was blown.
With their participation in the Emirates FA Cup having been ended, the East Londoners are back in action on 1 February when AFC Bournemouth make the trip to Stratford.