West Ham maintains top four lead with win over Leeds United
The top-flight Hammers kept their European dreams alive by finishing a nervous night in fifth place following this victory over a lively Leeds United side who paid the price for their desperate finish.
David Moyes had watched anxiously as his team survived an early storm and weathered a storm in the second half, but where the visitors failed to capitalize on their superior possession or legitimately find the net with their countless chances, the First-half goals from Jesse Lingard and Craig Dawson made sure the Hammers pocketed all three points.
Halfway through the opening period, Lingard shot the rebound after his penalty was saved and then Dawson joined the star on loan from Manchester United on the five-goal mark with a threshing header as he approached. half an hour.
Last Saturday’s loss to runaway leaders Manchester City was just the Hammers’ second loss in a dozen Premier League games since Christmas and kicked off in seventh place – four places and 10 points in the game. above visitors – Moyes made two changes.
Re-fit, first-choice goalkeeper Łukasz Fabiański returned to replace injured Darren Randolph while Said Benrahma replaced Ben Johnson as the Scotsman went for a flat back four.
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After a minute of applause in memory of former Hammers boss Glenn Roeder, who died last Sunday at the age of 65, Leeds were firmly in the spotlight, forcing an early corner before Helder Costa, then triggered an upward, inclined effort that flew a few inches from the top. .
And with less than seven minutes under referee Mike Dean’s watch, the visitors had scored just twice for Tyler Roberts to have his low shot ruled out for a marginal offside following a VAR review, before the Patrick Bamford’s tap-in was not denied after Raphinha carried the ball out of play a fraction of a second earlier.
The loss to Aston Villa last weekend marked the Yorkshiremen’s third loss in four games and, arriving in the capital to face a Hammers side who had already beaten his side at Elland Road in December, Marcelo Bielsa did not perform. only one change as the new Kalvin Phillips. replaced Pascal Struijk.
Leeds’ lively start continued as Bamford’s deflected effort wound up in Fabiański’s gloves, while at the other end West Ham barely entered the final third during a sterile quarter of an hour for the men of Claret & Blue.
In the 18th minute, however, the Hammers finally threatened, when lone striker Michail Antonio sent a cross from the left winger to the far post, where a disappointed Tomáš Souček shot unusually far from the header.
But after their slow start, Moyes’ boys finally spat on life mid-halftime, when Lingard embarked on a poll run inside the Leeds penalty area, where Luke Ayling clumsily knocked him over.
After dusting off himself and having a brief debate with skipper Declan Rice, who had converted the Hammers’ last penalty against another Yorkshire Sheffield United side, the large loaned boy from Old Trafford placed the ball in place.
And, although the low penalty kick was taken way too close to Illan Meslier, the French keeper still found the shot too hot to handle and he was powerless to stop Lingard from continuing to redeem himself by digging into the rebound. in the net.
When Antonio was knocked down as the half hour approached, Aaron Cresswell’s 20-yard free kick was deflected behind for a corner, which the Hammers left behind and then floated to the far post, where Ayling, outnumbered, saw Dawson come home as Souček was training. an orderly line behind him.
By this point, Leeds’ early grip had loosened considerably, allowing Lingard to shoot past the far angle of reach, while Benrahma curled up over it before launching into a race. labyrinthine that culminated with another 18 yader that Meslier set aside for a corner.
As the interval approached, another corner of Cresswell saw the nearby pole vibrate, but this time it was just the thud of Souček crashing painfully onto the woodwork in his unsuccessful pursuit of the cross and that same piece. of wood was swaying again in the stoppage time, when Dawson ran to meet another flag kick from No.3 with a falling header that struck the base of the right upright.
On two occasions Bielsa made a double change at the break as Jack Harrison and Ezgjan Alioski replaced Costa and Mateusz Klich for the restart and this reshuffle almost paid instant dividends for the Leeds boss, but Bamford bowed terribly after giving Issa Diop the slip and then Raphinha’s acrobatic effort was spectacularly knocked down by the Fabiański alert.
In an action-packed start to the second period, Phillips was also warned for knocking down Pablo Fornals, who responded by sending a plunging 30-yard volley off Meslier’s crossbar and after Raphinha’s shot flew a few centimeters wide, Bielsa made her third and final night shift by introducing Rodrigo at Roberts’ expense.
Raphinha has always tried to find the net and the £ 17million Brazilian has always failed, this time seeing his vicious 15-yarder parried by Fabiański as he sizzled in the cold early March night with a quarterback of the remaining match.
After Jarrod Bowen came off the bench to replace Benrahma for the final 20 minutes, Bamford negligently sent Raphinha’s perfect pass into the dark Stratford sky just six yards away and that, indeed, ended any hope that Leeds regain a foothold in the game.
Lingard was cautioned for kicking the ball as West Ham tried to muster their ideas against a team, which had taken 17 shots on goal at home and, after Dawson cleared Vladimír Coufal’s accidental deflection off the line, Johnson replaced Lingard to solidify the faltering home defense during the final minutes to leave the Hammers in fifth place as they head to second place Manchester United on Sunday night.
West Ham United: Fabiański, Coufal, Cresswell, Dawson, Diop, Rice, Souček, Fornals, Lingard (Johnson 87), Benrahma (Bowen 73), Antonio.
Unused Submarines: Martin, Trott, Balbuena, Lanzini, Noble, Odubeko.
Leeds United: Meslier, Cooper, Ayling, Dallas, Llorente, Roberts (Rodrigo 60), Costa (Harrison h / t), Klich (Alioski h / t), Raphinha, Phillips, Bamford.
Unused Submarines: Caprile, Davis, Berardi, Poveda, Jenkins, Huggins.
Reserved: Phillips (49), Lingard (79)
Referee: Mike Dean