Gallant 10-man West Ham can’t hold Manchester United
PUBLISHED: 19:20 02 January 2017
The Hammers had to play for the majority of the game with 10-men and it proved to be too big a task against United
West Ham United 0 Manchester United 2
This was no Happy New Year for the Hammers, who kicked off 2017 with a cruel defeat at the London Stadium.
Having just been left out of Algeria’s African Cup of Nations squad, Sofiane Feghouli’s week got worse, when he was controversially dismissed on the quarter-hour mark following a 50/50 challenge with the theatrical Phil Jones.
And although the ten-man Hammers bravely battled on and created some defiant chances of their own, they paid the price for failing to finish, when substitute Juan Mata fired United in front on the hour, before Zlatan Ibrahimović followed up his half-century of goals in 2016, with his first of the new calendar year to cement victory.
Following their hearty hat-trick of wins, the Hammers had blown a fuse at the King Power Stadium on New Year’s Eve and Slaven Bilić made a trio of changes in response to his side’s single-goal defeat at Leicester City as Feghouli, Pedro Obiang and Manuel Lanzini each came in for substitutes Mark Noble, Andre Ayew and Andy Carroll.
That saw Michail Antonio asked to go it along up front with support coming from an attack-minded midfield and, indeed, after Dimitri Payet scuffed an early effort wide, the Frenchman then cleverly squared to Lanzini, whose low 18-yarder was pawed away from the base of his left-hand post by the diving David De Gea.
United’s late, late win over Middlesbrough on Saturday had made it six victories in a row for José Mourinho, who made five changes as ex-Hammer Michael Carrick returned alongside Jones, Jesse Lingard, Matteo Darmian and Marcus Rojo in place of Eric Bailly, Danny Blind and the benched trio of Marouane Fellaini, Anthony Martial and Chris Smalling.
Kicking off in sixth-spot, six places and 14 points ahead of the Hammers, the Red Devils already had the psychological advantage over Bilić’s boys having followed up their 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in the Premier League in late-November with a formidable 4-1 thumping in the EFL Cup quarter-finals just three days later.
And within a quarter-of-an-hour of the opening whistle, they again found themselves with the mental edge, when Feghouli lost control as he raced towards the visitors penalty area, before instinctively launching into the lunging Jones.
Certainly, the Algerian international had both feet off the ground as he scissored low into his equally committed opponent but the level of contact definitely did not justify the dramatic roly-polying of the six-foot, 11-stone, England defender that undoubtedly influenced referee Mike Dean to harshly choose his red card over yellow.
Despite their one-man advantage, United still found themselves contained by the ten-man Hammers, who also saw Payet booked for venting his frustration at yet another dubious Dean decision.
Ten minutes before the break, though, Mourinho’s men should have taken the lead when Henrikh Mkhitaryan drilled a low shot across the face of goal, where Antonio Valencia prodded at Darren Randolph, who miraculously beat out the point-blank shot into the path of Lingard, who could only stab the rebound on to the right-hand post.
The hitherto anonymous Ibrahimović somehow managed to fire high into the Stratford sky from all of six yards and, after Darmian was booked for tugging back Antonio, Lanzini almost gave the Hammers an interval lead with an exquisite, curling 18-yarder that the diving De Gea athletically palmed over his left-hand angle to keep it goalless at the break.
Perhaps conscious that Darmian’s yellow card might lead to a second-half levelling of the numbers, Mourinho replaced his left-back with Mata for the restart but, once again, it was West Ham who almost broke the deadlock, when Payet’s free-kick only needed an eyebrow from the leaping Antonio, six yards out.
As the hour-mark approached, Marcus Rashford entered the fray in place of Lingard but still it was Bilić’s battlers who were creating the chances and, when Lanzini slipped Antonio in behind Valencia, the breaking Hammers striker was left with his head in his hands after expensively firing straight at the lone figure of De Gea.
It was to prove a costly miss for, on 63 minutes, those two recently-introduced United substitutes combined to finally make that extra man count. Carving in from the left flank, Rashford out-witted both Harvard Nordtveit and Obiang before cutting back to Mata, who ghosted in front of Winston Reid to clip the ball past Randolph from 10 yards.
Paul Pogba then almost doubled the lead with a low 20-yarder that curled beyond both Randolph’s right glove and the left post before Carroll stepped from the bench to replace Payet.
With a quarter-hour remaining, Pogba sent another effort inches wide and ,with West Ham still pressing, Rashford also drilled an angled effort into the keeper’s clutches.
But on 77 minutes, the subdued Ibrahimović suddenly sprung to life, when Obiang’s sloppy defensive clearance allowed Herrera to prod the ball into the path of the suspiciously offside-looking Swede, who instinctively opened his 2017 account with a stinging 12-yarder that ripped past Randolph to completely end the depleted Hammers brave resistance.
HAMMERS: Randall, Nordtveit, Cresswell, Reid, Ogbonna, Kouyaté (Fernandes 82), Obiang, Payet (Carroll 69), Feghouli, Lanzini (Ayew 89), Antonio. Unused subs: Adrián, Noble, Fletcher, Quina.
RED DEVILS: De Gea, Valencia, Darmian (Mata h/t), Jones, Rojo, Pogba, Carrick, Lingard (Rashford 58), Herrera, Mkhitaryan (Smalling 65), Ibrahimović. Unused subs: Romero, Martial, Young, Fellaini.
Bookings: Payet (29), Darmian (42), Valencia (75), Nordtveit (90+1).
Sent-Off: Feghouli (15)
Referee: Mike Dean
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