After orchestrating their own early downfall, West Ham looked strong and surged forward for the rest of the match, earning a crucial three points.
History has not been on West Ham’s side when it comes to playing Leeds. Coming off of a hard-luck loss to Manchester United, the Hammers needed to right the course of the ship and re-write their history against Leeds, both eventually accomplished.
Arthur Masuaku’s injury and subsequent surgery meant David Moyes was going to be making changes to his team. Would it be a new left wingback? Would it be a new formation? Would this mean that Said Benrahma would finally start?
An hour before the match the team sheet showed that a new (old?) formation was in use and Benrahma would get his full debut as a secondary striker for West Ham. His position did move around throughout the match, but the excitement to see him get a full runout was palpable.
More from Green Street Hammers - West Ham
- Brighton vs West Ham predictions: Can James Ward-Prowse help end the curse?
- West Ham and two Premier League rivals made huge transfer stand
- Lucas Paqueta bet allegations discussed in West Ham and Man City transfer talks
- Bournemouth vs West Ham predictions: Premier League opener amid transfer chaos
- West Ham near Denis Zakaria transfer after final James Ward-Prowse bid
The only thing that took some excitement away was the idea of the Hammers playing in a back four. Recent memory against Aston Villa showed that the Hammers were much more vulnerable with two centre-backs and this fast-paced Leeds attack could cause problems.
The pre-match cautiousness over the new system was seemingly justified just three minutes into the match. A very simple ball down the center of the pitch to Leeds striker Patrick Bamford split Fabian Balbuena and Angelo Ogbonna and caught Lukasz Fabianski sleeping. The late keeper took the legs of the striker out and a yellow card and penalty followed.
After elation from a penalty save, VAR would deem a retake was necessary with Fabianski coming a millimetre off the line. Pleas from captain Declan Rice and Fabianski for Michael Oliver to go and look for himself were ignored as the decision was controversial at best, and Mateusz Klich would convert on his second chance. VAR seemingly missed the encroachment from Leeds players that should have ruled another re-take, but we digress.
The Irons would show their steely resolve by pressing play and more importantly, limiting the chances that Leeds could create. Despite instances of heavy Leeds possession, shots were well wide, crosses went without attack, and possession was battled for in the midfield.
Just rewards came from a Jarrod Bowen corner kick delivery after some strong counterattacking play and pressing. The looping delivery would find Tomas Soucek at the back post and at the 25-minute mark the score was levelled by a superb header.
Chances would be traded but West Ham would look the more dangerous team for the remainder of the match. Multiple missed chances from Sebastien Haller, Jarrod Bowen, Said Benrahma, and Pablo Fornals added a ton of pressure to their on defence who could have used a few insurance goals to cool down the match.
A poor foul from Helder Costa on Aaron Cresswell late in the match would see an 80th-minute goal from Ogbonna, sending a bullet header into the top corner of Illan Meslier’s goal. The Frenchman had been playing unbelievably well up to this point, but Ogbonna’s perfectly located bullet would sail in without a dive from the keeper.
A few points should be made from this match. First and foremost, the issues this West Ham attacking unit had with their finishing against Manchester United are not yet exercised. All of the aforementioned forwards had multiple chances that were missed, deflected, or saved when the expectation to score them wasn’t outlandish.
Despite his contribution to missed chances, Said Benrahma looked a threat to score or create a goal whenever he had the ball. His intelligent passing opened up scoring opportunities and once his range finder sets in his shooting from distance will be a problem for Premier League keepers.
The three points were well earned in this match despite West Ham not making this match an easy one. Missed chances and poor defending created problems where they didn’t need to be, however resiliency and strong pressing made up for those mistakes and ultimately constructed a performance worthy of the three points.