Jarrod Bowen fires double as West Ham sweep Wolves aside

There was no need for David Moyes to hide behind the sofa. Forced to self-isolate after testing positive for Covid-19 last week, West Ham’s manager settled down and watched his players lift their troubled club’s mood, crushing Wolves with a performance built on tactical nous and no little skill.

It was typical West Ham to stir just when storm clouds were gathering. Ever perverse, they earned their first points of the season with their manager and two players, Issa Diop and Josh Cullen, in quarantine. Against all expectations it was Wolves who were made to look meek and shambolic, folding as West Ham triumphed at the end of a week in which their co-owner, David Sullivan, managed to steal the limelight by going on radio to warn that there might be no signings before the transfer window shuts next Monday.

The signs were ominous before the game. Sullivan had complained that he was “getting more depressed” every day. Supporters are restless and civil war is brewing. Alan Irvine was deputising for Moyes on the touchline and Fabian Balbuena, who has been out of form for a long time, had to be drafted into defence because Diop was unavailable.

Yet West Ham were outstanding against opponents who usually dismiss them with ease and although the unrest off the pitch is unlikely to subside any time soon, they hardly played like a team destined for the drop. They were aggressive on and off the ball, just as they were in last weekend’s unfortunate defeat to Arsenal, and gave Wolves countless problems at the back.

“Fantastic performance” Irvine, West Ham’s assistant manager, said. “We could have scored more against a very good team. The manager was in communication with Stuart Pearce through the game and that information got passed down.”

The opening 45 minutes served as proof that West Ham are far from a lost cause under Moyes. Angelo Ogbonna dominated in central defence, keeping Raúl Jiménez quiet. Arthur Masuaku worked with Aaron Cresswell to quell Adama Traoré’s threat on the right. Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice overpowered Ruben Neves and Joâo Moutinho in midfield and West Ham were dangerous in the final third, with Pablo Fornals and Jarrod Bowen eager to support Michail Antonio.

West Ham went ahead thanks to alert thinking from Fornals in the 17th minute. While everyone else was distracted after Willy Boly’s foul on Antonio near the halfway line, Fornals took a quick free-kick and released Bowen on the right. Wolves were exposed and although Romain Saïss’s teammates urged him to stop Bowen from cutting inside, the defender was powerless as the winger shifted the ball on to his left foot and shaped a beautiful shot into the far corner.

It was West Ham’s first goal against Wolves in five games and they had chances to extend their lead before the break. Antonio, leading the line with typical unselfishness, went close and Soucek forced the visiting goalkeeper, Rui Patrício, to make two pointblank saves after incisive wide play from the hosts.

Part of the challenge for Moyes, who should stay away more often on this evidence, has been finding a way to cover up weaknesses in the full-back positions. The switch to a back three gives West Ham balance and they should have doubled their lead when Patrício pushed out another shot from Antonio, only for Fornals to spoon the rebound over.

Wolves, who gave a debut to Nélson Semedo at right wing-back, have rarely looked so vulnerable at the back. They were ponderous in possession – the absence of Daniel Podence in attack hurt them – and only threatened when Neves tested Lukasz Fabianski from 18 yards.”It was a very bad performance,” Nuno Espírito Santo, the Wolves manager, said. “Defensively we were not good. Offensively we didn’t create.”

There was a reminder of West Ham’s fragility when Ryan Fredericks limped off at the start of the second half, with Ben Johnson coming on at right wing-back. As Irvine said before the game, the squad remains light in certain areas.

Yet West Ham kept the focus on the positives, scoring again in the 57th minute. Antonio reached a long ball and found Fornals. The Spaniard’s shot struck a post and fell to Bowen, who scored the rebound.

It was a measure of West Ham’s excellence that Wolves hooked Traoré in the 62nd minute. They pulled clear when Soucek’s glance from Cresswell’s corner flicked in off Jiménez and finished the rout in stoppage time, Sebastien Haller heading in Masuaku’s cross after coming off the bench.

The post Jarrod Bowen fires double as West Ham sweep Wolves aside appeared first on The Guardian.

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