West Ham too sharp for Blades and rise into top four
West Ham United 3 Sheffield United 0
Moving on up.
A Declan Rice penalty, Issa Diop’s first goal of the season and a late third by substitute Ryan Fredericks eased West Ham into the coveted top four of the Premier League.
The Hammers’ surprise surge continues and, overall, there was little prospect of bottom side Sheffield United halting all this fine momentum.
Of course there is always a slight danger of self indulgence of all the current hype, but West Ham’s players were once again focused and determined to grab a crucial three points. There is simply no complacency under manager David Moyes.
While Chelsea could leapfrog the east London outfit by the end of the night when they host Newcastle United, it is, nevertheless, a bold declaration of intent that Moyes has his men on track for a consistent run of fine form between now and the end of the season. Who knows how it will all end?
With a more difficult task in the shape of Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham next up at the London Stadium on Sunday, West Ham are in a very good place indeed. As a bonus, the performance of new Hammer Jesse Lingard was again impressive. He is sure to have a big role to play in the coming months.
With London rivals Chelsea not playing until later, this was a great opportunity for the Hammers to demonstrate that their elevation to the upper reaches of the Premier League is no false dawn. A top four place the motivation – albeit perhaps temporarily – for a team eager to move on from their unfortunate FA Cup exit to Manchester United. Moyes’s line up was still minus injured talisman Michail Antonio, and Angelo Ogbonna was a fresh absence too, but new recruit Lingard was in place.
There was early controversy in just four minutes when West Ham were denied a penalty following a VAR deliberation. Craig Dawson was judged to have been fractionally offside after Declan Rice took a free kick which was scooped away by Blades’ keeper Aaron Ramsdale. Dawson was bundled over in the process by Enda Stevens but it was all to no avail in the end for the hosts.
The tempo was, unsurprisingly, mostly with the east Londoners against their Yorkshire visitors, marooned at the foot of the table and, even at this stage of the season, appearing destined for the drop. Meanwhile, Lingard – already with two goals in claret and blue since arriving on loan from Manchester United - drew decent saves from Ramsdale on two occasions with angled shots after making space for himself on the left.
Sheffield United striker David McGoldrick was the picture of frustration when he volleyed over from 18 yards with time to compose himself. Chris Wilder’s side, while committed and physical, could hardly afford to be this profligate.
West Ham duly punished the Blades when Rice put them ahead in 40 minutes from the spot. This time, it was a clear penalty when Chris Basham bundled Lingard over 12 yards out after Manuel Lanzini slipped the winger through on a breakaway. Not for missing the opportunity, Hammers’ captain Rice coolly despatched low into Ramsdale’s right hand corner for a deserved lead before the break.
The visitors eventually asserted themselves in the important moments following half time – and it took a fine stop by Hammers’ keeper Lukasz Fabianski to prevent an equaliser. Racing forward on the left, Billy Sharp floated in an inviting cross to the far post, where McGoldrick was waiting, unmarked. While the striker’s header from 6 yards was decent, Fabianski’s turn over the crossbar was better. It was certainly a warning sign that the Londoners could ill-afford to dismiss.
Fortunately for Moyes, he found his charges sufficiently switched on - and the lead was duly doubled in the 57th minute. Aaron Cresswell flighted in a corner from the left at pace, and Diop darted fractionally in front of Ethan Ampandu in a congested six yard area to head home, leaving Ramsdale with no chance.
This was just the element of breathing space that West Ham required and with Wilder dismayed on the touchline, effectively ended the contest. It wasn’t to be McGoldrick’s night, it must be said, as the Republic of Ireland international saw Fabianski deny him again with another aerial effort at close quarters. Such lack of ruthlessness has clearly contributed to the Blades’ struggles all season.
The vibrant Lingard tried his luck from distance which was met by Ramsdale as West Ham sought a third goal. Additionally, the busy Blades’ keeper did well to deny Vladimir Coufal on a raid forward with Sheffield United gradually wilting from their efforts.
This was illustrated when Fredericks - a late replacement for Ben Johnson - had all the time in the world inside the penalty area to compose himself and drill home a right footed effort past the despairing dive of Ramsdale.
A productive night, therefore, for West Ham who continue to drive forward. Very intriguing times ahead in east London.
West Ham United: Fabianski, Cresswell, Dawson, Diop, Johnson (Fredericks 90), Rice, Soucek, Coufal, Lingard (Benrahma 81), Lanzini (Noble 62), Bowen