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West Ham United 1-3 Manchester United
After 281 days, supporters enthusiastically returned to the London Stadium but their West Ham United side were unable to seal the perfect return as Manchester United came from behind to end their recent three-match winning sequence.
Turnstiles clicking around the country was almost more important than the eventual outcome, such was the anticipation of those lucky enough to hold a golden ticket.
“The biggest thing I’d like to say is that we’ve been waiting for them for months, Hammers boss, David Moyes enthused.”
“We’ve been so pleased with our results, but we didn’t have them at our games during this period and them not being able to see it happen is disappointing.
“But it’s a start now, we’ve got a great stadium and hopefully it won’t be too long until we can fill it with them all.”
Although swamped by their huge surroundings, a passionate rendition of ‘Bubble’ – the first belted out here in nine months – echoed passionately and somewhat emotionally around the Hammers home. The lucky few were clearly determined to make up for lost time – early celebrations were cut short by an assistants’ flag after Jarrod Bowen drove past Dean Henderson from an angle.
Pablo Fornals headed into the side netting after Bowen had picked him out form the left – then, the lively former Hull City man fired over as excitement amongst the crowd intensified.
They were collectively cursing their luck when Fornals prodded past Henderson, only to look on as the United stopper collected the ball after it had rebounded off the foot of an upright. This was followed by ironic cheering when Paul Pogba drove directly at Lukasz Fabianski as the visitors finally offered a threat of their own.
But the home side was providing much the better football. Bowen’s flag-kick was glanced on by Declan Rice – Tomas Suceck arrived to knock home from close range, handing the East Londoners a deserved advantage.
Sebastien Haller slipped just as he seemed set to add a swift second, while Aaron Wan-Bissaka produced a terrific last-ditch challenge to thwart the marauding Manuel Lanzini as the home side continued to ask all the questions.
Relieved his side only trailed by a goal, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer threw on Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford after the break in a bid to breathe life into his stagnant charges. Nevertheless, it was the home side who initially continued to impress – Bowen perhaps should have done better after Soucek picked him out. But United had begun to impose themselves a little more with Scott McTominay almost profiting after Rashford had fashioned an opening.
And United was to restore parity in spectacular, but controversial fashion. Pogba sent a curling effort beyond Fabianski after Bruno Fernandes had teed him up. It was a classy finish from a player who should surely be offering so much more to the Old Trafford outfit. VAR took centre stage with the Hammers – seemingly with a case – claiming the ball had gone out of play in the build-up – Footballs ‘broken toy’ ruling the goal good, much to Moyes’ disgust.
Within three minutes, United had turned the game on its head. Mason Greenwood fired low beyond Fabianski after a swift raid down the right. West Ham ruthlessly exposed – the crowd earlier ecstatic, now distinctly agitated.
United were now calling all the shots. Rashford’s arrival had made a significant difference and when the England man found himself clean through on goal, he beat Fabianski with an exquisite chip to all but end the contest.
Henderson dived to his left to turn aside Aaron Cresswell’s fizzing dead-ball attempt, then easily fielded a speculative attempt from skipper Rice, but the Hammers race was run. The novelty of watching football from inside the stadium had concluded in disappointment for the Hammers fans. However, from delight to despair – This is what football supporters do. I’d wager every single one of them will happily do it all again as soon as it is safely possible for their collective return.
West Ham United return to Premier League action on Friday, December 11 when they face Leeds United at Elland Road (8pm).
West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Fabian Balbuena, Angelo Ogbonna, Aaron Creswell, Vladimir Coufal (Ben Johnson 85’), Declan Rice (Capt), Tomas Soucek, Arthur Masuaku, Jarrod Bowen (Manuel Lanzini 76’), Pablo Fornals (Said Benrahma 76’), Sebastien Haller Subs not used: Robert Snodgrass, Mark Noble, Issa Diop, Darren Randolph (GK)
Goals: Tomas Soucek 38’
Manchester United: Dean Henderson, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelöf, Harry Maguire (Capt), Alex Telles, Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba, Mason Greenwood, Donny van de Beek (Bruno Fernandes 46’), Anthony Martial (Juan Mata 62’), Edinson Cavani (Marcus Rashford 46’) Subs not used: Marcus Rashford, Lee Grant (GK), Nemanja Matic, Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe
Goals: Paul Pogba 65’, Mason Greenwood 68’, Marcus Rashford 78’
Referee: Andre Marriner
Assistants: Simon Long and Eddie Smart
Fourth Official: Andy Madley
VAR: Lee Mason
Assistant VAR: Adrian Holmes