Sheffield United 1-0 West Ham United
VAR was once again the centre of attention as a late Robert Snodgrass goal was ruled out, handing host’s Sheffield United all three points from what was an untidy encounter with West Ham United at Bramall Lane.
A ‘feeling better’, as opposed to a ‘feel-good’ factor, had embraced the Hammers of late. David Moyes had overseen a resounding Premier League victory, coupled with a tricky FA Cup hurdle overcome – the supporter’s spirits were lifted, but that nagging doubt remained.
Moyes realised this was another level for his charges: “This game is a notch up,” The manager explained.
“I think there are only two teams that have conceded less goals than Sheffield United and they’ve also shown that they have got an attacking purpose. For us, we want to see if our star players can step up and show what they’re capable of.
“It’s also for us to show we are rugged, committed, resilient – which we’ve shown a little bit – and all those things which may be at times haven’t always been noticeable. We have to, first and foremost, show we can do that at Sheffield, and then I think we have got talented individuals that can make a difference.”
Chris Wilder extended his contract at Bramall Lane until 2024. However, there were immediate concerns for the Blades boss as his side looked to bounce back from back-to-back league defeats – a run which had dented their quest for a Europa League berth come the end of the season.
John Egan’s glancing header from Ollie Norwood’s flag-kick flashed over as the Blades started brightly. Meanwhile, the Hammers were dealt a blow when goalkeeper, Lukasz Fabianski, pulled up sharply after kicking – his place instantly taken by David Martin.
John Ludstrum found his way to goal crowded as the Blades continued to press – West Ham restricted to sporadic counter-attacks which otherwise proved fruitless during the opening stages. Felipe Anderson should have done better, dragging wide of an upright after Egan’s attempted clearance landed invitingly for the Brazilian, while Arthur Masuaku was off target from distance after breaking swiftly down the left.
In truth, it had been a period devoid of worthy goalbound opportunities.
Ludstrum’s inviting centre eluded the lurking Oli McBurnie as the home side tried to gain the upper hand ahead of the interval.
On their return, John Fleck was a whisker away from breaking the deadlock for the Blades – his fierce effort whistling wide after his initial strike had been blocked by Pablo Zabaleta, while McBurnie spurned a decent chance, nodding over after a raid down the left.
But McBurnie’s luck was about to change. Martin’s woeful kick – intended for Fabian Balbuena – was intercepted by Fleck, who in turn played in the Blades frontman to open the scoring.
Sheffield tails were up. Aaron Cresswell’s timely intervention denied the marauding George Baldock a swift second. Meanwhile, Haller’s thought he’d restored parity, only for his neat volley to be chalked off by an assistants flag.
Blades Substitute, Lys Mousset, passed up a good chance to all but kill the contest – Martin redeeming himself, sticking a foot out to rebuff the lively Frenchmans attempt. West Ham then threatened – Manuel Lanzini’s fizzing dead-ball effort expertly dealt with by Sheffield stopper, Dean Henderson.
Henderson saved from Lanzini after the Argentine has seized on Egan’s slip, while Haller’s header bounced over as West Ham stepped up their quest for a point.
And then the dramatic finale where Moyes’s men thought they’d saved themselves. Declan Rice surged forward and picked out Snodgrass, who in turn squeezed the ball past Henderson, via an upright. But following a VAR check, the goal was ruled out and Hammers celebrations cut short – Rice adjudged to have handled in the build-up.
West Ham United return to Premier League action on Saturday, January 18 when Everton are the visitors to the London Stadium (3pm).
Sheffield United: Dean Henderson, Chris Basham, John Egan, Jack O’Connell, George Baldock, John Lundstram (Muhamed Besic 70’), Ollie Norwood (Capt), John Fleck, Enda Stevens, David McGoldrick (Lys Mousset 60’), Oli McBurnie (Billy Sharp 84’) Subs not used: Callum Robinson, Jake Eastwood (GK), Phil Jagielka, Ben Osborn, Muhamed Besic
Booked: Muhamed Besic (foul)
Goals: Oli McBurnie 53’
West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski (David Martin 15’), Pablo Zabaleta, Fabian Balbuena, Anglo Ogbonna, Aaron Creswell, Manuel Lanzini (Pablo Fornals 84’), Mark Noble (Capt), Declan Rice, Arthur Masuaku (Robert Snodgrass 69’), Felipe Anderson, Sebastien Haller Subs not used: Goncalo Cardoso, Issa Diop, Benardo Rosa, Jeremy Ngakai
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistants: Simon Bennett and Dan Cook
Fourth Official: Simon Hooper
Reaction to follow…