Brilliant Bowen guides West Ham to comfortable victory against Sheffield United
West Ham United (2) 2 Bowen 24, Soucek 37
Sheffield United (0) 0
Given Sheffield United travelled to the London Stadium having conceded as many goals as any team in Premier League history after six matches, allowing more shots on target than any side since records began in the process, they always seemed a likely candidate to suffer at the hands of Jarrod Bowen and West Ham United.
West Ham’s talisman and Europa Conference League hero from last term notched his fifth goal of this nascent season against the Blades; only Erling Haaland currently has more. His calm finish proved to be the blow that shattered the growing confidence of the side that props up the league table, prompting a collapse that showed why they remain winless on their topflight return.
The opening goal showcased several elements of what makes Bowen so effective, and he remained the game’s most influential presence in a victory that broke a run of consecutive league defeats as it meandered towards a conclusion.
The early stages proved of this one proved to be less straightforward. Tomas Soucek, the only West Ham starter who began the midweek League Cup win at Lincoln, leant back and ballooned a Bowed cutback over the bar after five minutes, allowing the anxious visitors to settle.
Having survived a spattering of wicked corners delivered by the ever-reliable right boot of James Ward-Prowse, Sheffield United began to venture forward. Kurt Zouma made a pair of important interventions before centre-back partner Nayef Aguerd blocked superbly to deny Cameron Archer.
But as confidence shattered by their 8-0 defeat to Newcastle last weekend began to build, Paul Heckingbottom’s side created problems for themselves. Luke Thomas wandered out of defence to follow Bowen, leaving space for Vladimir Coufal to advance down the right. The full back had ample time and space to then pick out Bowen – who Thomas had failed to track – in the penalty area to sweep home.
As much as the on-loan Leicester defender had presented the opportunity to the four-cap England international, he still capitalised with the sharpness of mind and cold-blooded ruthlessness that currently marks him out as one of the Premier League’s most deadly attackers.
Falling behind with such ease visibly rocked Sheffield United, and a second goal soon became inevitable. Michail Antonio curled against a stanchion after the Blades had given the ball away in their own half, but they were not so lucky when a lazy Gustavo Hamer pass was picked off by Emerson.
The ball was quickly moved towards the penalty area in typical West Ham style, and a deft touch from Antonio set up Soucek to stab home his second goal of the week having also netted the winner at Sincil Bank.
The visitors survived without further punishment until half-time and from there it were as though they struck an unwritten agreement with their opponents to not allow a repeat of the Newcastle debacle to take place. West Ham relaxed ahead of next week’s Europa League trip to Freiburg and Sheffield United were content for them to keep the ball as long as it was not near Wes Foderingham’s goal.
The home crowd were less willing to participate, letting out a groan of frustration as Bowen failed to pick out Antonio after rounding the Sheffield United ‘keeper. A Ward-Prowse corner – now a regular source of excitement in east London – found the head of Aguerd not long after only to be directed wide.
Alphonse Areola competently made his one save of the afternoon from Anel Ahmedhodzic at a Sheffield United set-piece, and the substitution of Edson Alvarez was perhaps a sign that David Moyes felt he was fortunate to still be on the field; the Mexican escaped a second yellow card for a challenge that was eerily similar to one that earned him a first half booking.
Midway through a run of seven matches in just 22 days, the West Ham boss will be well aware that tougher tests await both his side and the brilliant Bowen.
West Ham: (4-3-3) Areola – Coufal, Zouma, Aguerd, Emerson – Soucek, Alvarez (Benrahma 72), Ward-Prowse – Bowen (Fornals 90+2), Antonio (Kudus 72), Paqueta (Mavropanos 90+2). Subs not used: Fabianski, Cornet, Ings, Ogbonna, Kehrer
Shefffield United: (5-3-2) Foderingham – Bogle (Trusty 79), Ahmedhodzic, Egan (Basham 55), Robinson, Thomas – Hamer (Ben Slimane 79), Souza, McAtee (T Davies 70) – McBurnie, Archer (Brewster 79). Subs not used: A Davies, Traore, Norwood, Larouci