Raul Jimenez (58)
West Ham United F.C
West Ham have bubble burst by Wolves thanks to Raul Jimenez
- Credit: PA
All good things must come to an end as West Ham United discovered to their cost on a disappointing afternoon at Molineux, where Raúl Jiménez struck on the hour-mark to halt the Hammers fantastic early season charge.
The Mexican striker’s third goal of the campaign prevented David Moyes’ men from making it five Premier League wins out of five and the Scot now heads back to the East End having seen his side lose for the first time on the road since they were defeated at Newcastle United in mid-April – ending a run of eleven unbeaten awaydays.
Returning from the international break having themselves ended Liverpool’s 25-match unbeaten run last time out, the Hammers made just one enforced change as Craig Dawson came in for Angelo Ogbonna, whose season was all but ended by a knee cruciate injury sustained against the Reds.
Kicking-off seven points and five places above eighth-placed Wolves, West Ham certainly started in lively fashion with Jarrod Bowen letting fly with an early 20-yarder that deflected into José Sá’s clutches.
Indeed, Bowen looked hungry on a mild Midlands, November afternoon, firstly cutting back for the inrushing Pablo Fornals, who was agonisingly a mere stud away from making contact before then threatening for a second time with a powerful eight-yard header that flew just inches wide.
But all of that early East End energy and enthusiasm gradually diminished as Wolves started to show their teeth with the half-hour mark approaching.
Apart from fielding a tame Ruben Neves’ effort, Łukasz Fabianski had barely been troubled but suddenly the Polish stopper found his goal under threat as Nelson Semedo drilled wide at the far post, before Hee-chan Hwang saw his attempted cross hit Ben Johnson’s outstretched wrist.
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In a remarkable escape for everyone in Claret & Blue, referee Mike Dean merely waved play on and, having just seen his penalty appeal turned aside, the South Korean curled over before then crossing to Semedo whose angled shot was bravely charged down at point-blank range by Dawson.
Next up, the escaping Jiménez found himself with just Fabianski to beat but his over-elaborate chip bobbled wide of the target and, seconds later, the Hammers ‘keeper again found himself in the firing line, tipping over João Moutinho’s rising 25-yarder for the first corner of the afternoon.
Wolves had made just one change from the side that had lost at Crystal Palace a fortnight ago – Daniel Podence coming in for substitute Francisco Trincão – and the escaping Portuguese replacement forced Kurt Zouma into a last-ditch tackle as the Hammers now found themselves firmly on the back foot.
With the interval approaching, though, that man Bowen did force a moment of respite to win West Ham’s first corner of the game and, although Zouma climbed highest to nod home, the effort was quickly ruled out for his foul on Saïss combined with Michail Antonio’s barge on Sá.
It may have somehow been goalless at the break but the Hammers again found themselves under pressure as the second half began with the prodding and probing Podence forcing Fabiański to divert a low 20-yarder around the base of his left-hand upright and it was then all hands to the pump as Moyes’ boys repelled the consequent corner.
Neves also sent one over the top from range before being booked for felling the fleeing Bowen but that bright early West Ham start was becoming a dim and distant memory for the visitors, who then saw Fabiański brilliantly claw another Podence range-finder out from underneath his right-hand angle.
In reply, Declan Rice curled into Sá’s clutches but, in truth, it was token resistance and, on 59 minutes, Semedo’s surge down the right-wing climaxed with the supporting Podence cleverly picking out Jiménez on the edge of the Hammers area and Fabiański was given no chance with the Mexican’s low, first-time 20-yarder.
Manuel Lanzini instantly replaced Fornals in an effort to stimulate some attacking impetus at the other end of the pitch but neither Bowen nor Michail Antonio could capitalise on a rare foray forward and Sá was not troubled by the seemingly jet-lagged Jamaican international’s long-range shot.
Bowen then sent an angled effort sailing beyond the far post before curiously being withdrawn alongside the more anonymous Saïd Benrahma as Nikola Vlasić and Andriy Yarmolenko stepped from the dug-out for a final 20 minutes during which Rice was booked for tripping Semedo.
Despite a nervy finale that had the home fans screaming for the final whistle, the Hammers just could not muster the equaliser they so desperately sought and Wolves held out to secure all three points, while West Ham departed contemplating Thursday’s behind closed doors Europa League encounter with Rapid Vienna in COVID-19 ravaged Austria, ahead of next weekend’s testing trip to Manchester City.
WOLVES: Sá, Kilman, Saïss, Coady, Neves, Moutinho, Ait-Nouri, Semedo, Podence (Traoré 76), Hwang (Dendoncker 87), Jiménez.
Unused subs: Ruddy, Hoever, Marçal, Trincao, Boly, Silva, Cundle.
HAMMERS: Fabiański, Johnson, Cresswell, Zouma, Dawson, Rice, Souček, Fornals (Lanzini 60), Bowen (Yarmolenko 71), Benrahma (Vlasić 71), Antonio.
Unused subs: Areola, Coufal, Noble, Diop, Masuaku, Král.
Booked: Neves (54), Rice (86)
Referee: Mike Dean