Soucek wins it late for Hammers against Forest
West Ham United 3 (Paqueta 3, Bowen 65, Soucek 88)
Nottingham Forest 2 (Awoniyi 44, Elanga 63)
Tomas Soucek’s 88th minute header ensured West Ham claimed all three points in a five-goal thriller against Nottingham Forest at the London Stadium this afternoon.
Lucas Paqueta had given the Hammers the lead after just three minutes thanks to an almighty gaffe in the Forest backline.
But the visitors turned the game on its head - first levelling just before the break through Taiwo Awoniyi, then taking the lead midway through the second half thanks to Anthony Elanga’s strike.
West Ham talisman Jarrod Bowen’s free header from a corner just 90 seconds later made it 2-2, before Soucek won it for the home side.
If the visitors’ wish was to keep things tight in the opening stages, their plan went up in smoke in less than three minutes, in bizarre fashion.
Nicolas Dominguez looked to pass infield but the ball cannoned off the heels of his closest team-mate, Ibrahim Sangare, and fell invitingly into the path of Paqueta, who stroked it past Odysseas Vlachodimos in the Forest goal.
Forest responded well and could have been level shortly afterwards. A cross from the left by Harry Toffolo was headed towards the corner of the goal by Taiwo Awoniyi, but somehow Alphonse Areola sprung to his left and clawed the ball away from the goal line when it was almost behind him. It was a magnificent save.
The Hammers sprung to life once again and Paqueta could have doubled his tally, but his effort from the centre of the box was weak, and was easily saved by Vlachodimos.
But there was little action in the rest of the half, with the game adopting a strange almost end-of-season feeling at that stage, neither side willing to take a risk.
Until that was Awoniyi levelled a minute before the break. Morgan Gibbs-White’s shot was saved by Areola, but the goalkeeper only succeeded in parrying the ball into the path of Awoniyi, who had the simplest of tasks in tapping the ball into the empty net from four yards out.
The goal brought the game to life. In the second half first Awoniyi dragged an effort wide of the Hammers’ goal then, within a minute, Emerson did the same at the other end, before Gibbs-White’s shot from outside the box flew over Areola’s crossbar.
And on 63 minutes Forest were ahead. Ola Aina’s low cut-back from the right was swept into the bottom right corner of the net by Elanga.
However, within 90 seconds West Ham were level. James Ward-Prowse’s corner from the left was headed home by Hammers’ talisman Jarrod Bowen, unchallenged in the centre of the box.
And they should have been ahead just a couple of minutes later, Aina’s suicidal header back only found the onrushing Vladimir Coufal whose outstretched right leg met the ball on the half-volley but it bounced back off the Forest crossbar, with Vlachodimos stranded.
Soucek saw a header well saved by Vlachodimos with five minutes left, but was not to be denied, rising highest from a corner to head home and send the Hammers home happy.
Teams: West Ham: Areola, Zouma, Coufal, Ward-Prowse, Paqueta (Cresswell 90+8), Kudus (Ogbonna 90+4), Alvarez (Antonio 79), Bowen, Aguerd, Soucek, Emerson
Forest: Vlachodimos, Mangala, Sangare (Origi 90), Awoniyi (Wood 76), Gibbs-White, Toffolo, Dominguez (Danilo 45), Niakhate, Elanga, Murillo (Boly 76), Aina (Aurier 76)
Referee: Michael Salisbury