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Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 West Ham United
TOOTHLESS WEST HAM UNITED were quickly brought back down to earth as a lively Wolverhampton Wanderers side earned a routine Premier League victory at a chilly Molineux.
There was an altogether more buoyant mood amongst the Hammers contingent that had healthily travelled to the Black Country. Despite facing a Wolves side unbeaten in nine league outings, Saturday’s surprise defeat of Chelsea had not only lifted spirits but handed West Ham genuine belief that they could follow that up with another notable display.
Boss, Manuel Pellegrini, certainly thought he had found a suitable formula: “Starting quickly is the first thing that I always say to the players you must do, especially when you are away,” the Chilean explained at his pre-match press conference.
“If you allow the home team to just play and you just defend, it will be more difficult to maintain your result, so you must be an aggressive team. I think that you must feel that you are coming for the three points. That’s what we did against Chelsea and we are going to do it tomorrow also.”
However, in a stretched, but scruffy opening, genuine opportunities came at a premium, Adama Traore appeared to be Wolves best option during those early moments, while West Ham – a little less direct in their approach – looked to Felipe Anderson and Robert Snodgrass to provide creativity.
Indeed, it was a good twenty-minutes before either goalkeeper was troubled – David Martin taking no chances, turning over after Raul Jimenez had nodded goalward. But from the resulting flag-kick, Wolves took the lead. Leander Dendoncker sticking out a leg to divert past Martin – the Hammers stopper left flat-footed and helpless.
Rui Patricio clung to a goalbound header from Declan Rice, then brilliantly turned aside Pablo Fornals’ angled effort as West Ham probed menacingly for an immediate response. Meanwhile, Martin was forced to palm away after Diogo Jota had burst through and fired goalwards.
Dendoncker nodded Jonny’s cross high over, while Martin blocked from Jimenez as Wolves attempted to double their advantage after the interval. Rice sending a speculative effort the wrong side of an upright and Patricio thwarted Snodgrass as West Ham – albeit tentatively – responded.
Romain Saïss and Jimenez weren’t far away from stretching the Wolves lead, while Sebastien Haller was unable to profit after Anderson had provided a half-chance for the Hammers.
It was the home side who continued to look the more likely. Martin expertly dealt with another attempt from the bust Jimenez, then s Saiss header flashed wide. But four minutes from time, Wolves sealed the deal. Patrick Cutrone – who had only been on the field for two minutes – diverted low beyond the stranded Martin – sending the home crowd into raptures and the visitors heading for the exits.
West Ham United return to Premier League action on Monday, December 9 when Arsenal are the visitors to the London Stadium (8pm).
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Rui Patricio, Matt Doherty, Ruben Neves, Raul Jimenez (Patrick Cutrone 84’), Conor Coady (Capt), Diogo Jota (Pedro Neto 72’), Jonny, Romain Saiss, Joao Moutinho, Leander Dendoncker, Adama Traore (Ryan Bennett 89’) Subs not used: John Ruddy (GK), Ruben Vinagre, Maximilian Kilman, Benny Ashley-Seal
Booked: Diogo Jota (foul)
Goals: Leander Dendoncker 23’, Patrick Cutrone 86′
West Ham United: David Martin, Ryan Fredericks, Fabian Balbuena, Angelo Ogbonna, Aaron Cresswell, Robert Snodgrass (Andriy Yarmolenko 61’), Mark Noble (Capt) (Nathan Holland 72’), Declan Rice, Pablo Fornals, Felipe Anderson, Sebastien Haller (Albian Ajeti 80’) Subs not used: Pablo Zabaleta, Roberto (GK), Carlos Sánchez, Arthur Masuaku
Booked: Declan Rice (foul), Aaron Cresswell (foul)
Referee: Andre Marriner
Assistants: Scott Ledger and Simon Long
Fourth Official: John Brooks
Reaction to follow….