West Ham United 0-1 West Bromwich Albion
WEST HAM UNITED’S troubled season went from bad to worse as Championship outfit, West Bromwich Albion – managed by former Hammers boss, Slaven Bilic – set the east Londoners spinning out of the Emirates FA Cup at the London Stadium.
Despite priorities perhaps lying elsewhere, David Moyes insisted that the cup held particular significance and would be treated accordingly.
“We don’t have loads of changes to make, which is the first thing to say, but we do have the toughest of runs coming up. We’re more than ready for the challenge,” the Scotsman explained.
“It’s part of football and, sometimes in the big games, you raise your standards and your performances. That’s what I’ll be looking for. The next game is always the most important, and that’s West Brom.
“I think we’ve not had lots of fixtures like other clubs. We’re not in Europe and we’re not in the Champions League, although I wish we were, so I don’t see why we feel we’re too hard pushed.”
Meanwhile, Bilic’s West Brom have their ambitions firmly set on a return to the Premier League. The Croat made nine changes to the side beaten by Stoke City last time out. Nevertheless, it was the Black County side who created the first opportunity when Darren Randolph was forced to shovel behind a speculative strike from Kyle Edwards.
West Ham – still defensively dozing – hadn’t learned their lesson, and when Conor Townsend found himself in a similar position, he made no mistake – rattling left-footed beyond Randolph and sending the vocal travelling contingent into raptures.
West Ham – much to the anguish of their own crowd – were already on the ropes as the visitors probed vigorously for a second. Randolph was relieved to see a glancing header from Filip Krovinovic drift the wrong side of an upright. In the meantime, Declan Rice drilled wide as the home side finally offered a threat – albeit minor – of their own.
Charlie Austin passed up a glorious opportunity to double the Baggies advantage – arriving unmarked to meet Matt Phillips’ pinpoint centre but heading wide. The home side continued to flounder desperately – needlessly giving the ball away and finding themselves outmuscled by the confident Championship pacesetters.
Rice was again off-target from distance as the dismal Hammers searched for a foothold. The London Stadium faithful certainly let their feeling be known – booing their charges off on the half-time whistle.
Unsurprisingly, Moyes shuffled the pack – throwing on Michail Antonio, Mark Noble, and Angelo Ogbonna in place of the out of sorts trio of Pablo Fornals, Carlos Sanchez and Fabian Balbuena. Nevertheless, Krovinovic fizzed wide as West Brom continued to look the more likely to progress.
Randolph clung to Austin’s goalbound header, while Albian Ajeti’s first touch let him down and Sebastien Haller dragged horribly wide as the sides exchanged reasonable openings.
It was difficult to see West Ham retrieving the situation. Ajeti glanced wide as the home side lifted the tempo but continued to lack quality and confidence.
A possible lifeline was thrown the way of the hosts when Semi Ajayi was shown a second yellow card following a cynical foul on Ajeti.
But a further West Ham threat was minimal. Lanzini drilled wide, while Jonathan Bond saved from Rice and then looked on as Noble blasted over – otherwise, the Baggies comfortably negotiated the final stages with minimal of fuss.
These are worrying times for Moyes and his team. And with Liverpool and Brighton due in town during the next eight days, things could get a whole lot worse before they get better!
West Ham United return to Premier League action on Wednesday, January 29 when Liverpool are the visitors to the London Stadium (7:45pm). Then the Hammers entertain Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday, February 1 (3pm).
West Ham United: Darren Randolph, Aaron Cresswell, Fabian Balbuena (Angleo Ogbonna 46′), Pablo Zabaleta (Capt), Manuel Lanzini, Carlos Sanchez (Mark Noble 46′), Pablo Fornals (Michail Antonio 46′), Sebastien Haller, Issa Diop, Albian Ajeti, Declan Rice Subs not used: David Martin (GK), Goncalo Cardoso, Daniel Kemp, Jeremy Ngakia
Booked: Issa Diop (foul)
West Bromwich Albion: Jonathan Bond, Semi Ajayi, Filip Krovinovic (Kyle Bartley 74’), Matt Phillips (Rayhaan Tulloch 62’), Chris Brunt (Capt), Conor Townsend, Charlie Austin (Kenneth Zohore 70’), Gareth Barry, Kyle Edwards, Ahmed Hegazi, Dara O’Shea Subs not used: Ali Al-Habsi (GK), Jake Livermore, Rekeem Harper, Chris Willock
Booked: Gareth Barry (foul), Semi Ajayi (foul)
Sent-off: Semi Ajayi (foul – second booking)
Goals: Kyle Edwards 9’
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Assistants: Marc Perry and Timothy Wood
Fourth Official: James Linington
Reaction to follow…