Sheffield United inflicted the first defeat of David Moyes’ second spell at West Ham as they ran out 1-0 winners at Bramall Lane – albeit with a helping hand from VAR. Spirits were on a high going into the game at Bramall Lane tonight as the Blades fans celebrated the news that Chris Wilder has signed a new contract which will keep him at the Yorkshire club until 2024.
Chances were at something of a premium in the first half to be honest, as neither side managed to get any sort of control of the game for more than a few minutes. The opening ten minutes saw Sheffield United having most of the possession, but struggling to really do much with it.
Perhaps the most significant moment of the half came in the 13th minute when goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski went down injured. He missed 11 games earlier in the season with a hip injury, and was starting just his third game since his return. But following a goal-kick, something was clearly wrong and he signaled to the bench that he needed to come off immediately – it looked like he re-aggravated the injury. Not really what the Hammers needed and they’ll be looking to finalise the deal for Darren Randolph as soon as possible.
In terms of chances in the first period, the best of a rather small bunch fell to Felipe Anderson. Sub goalkeeper David Martin launched the ball up towards the striker, John Egan rose to meet it but mistimed is jump and set Anderson through on goal. The defender managed to force Anderson to take the ball slightly wide of centre and the Brazilian dragged his shot wide of the mark – but should have done a lot better.
The second half started a slight bit more frantically than the first did, and saw a chance for the home side just a few minutes in. Some nice play down the wing allowed Oliver Norwood to whip a cross into the area. It gets cleared as far as John Fleck (how many Johns do Sheffield United need?), who has two efforts blocked, the second of which caused Martin to dive across his goal, leaving an empty net for Fleck to hit with his third effort – but he pulled it wide.
Just minutes later, Sheffield United took the lead, thanks to a comedy of errors from David Martin and Fabian Balbuena. The Paraguayan defender dropped in to receive the ball short from a goal kick, but the keeper misplaced the pass and Balbuena seemed to freeze, allowing Fleck to nick it and race in on goal. With McBurnie in support, the midfielder squared the ball to the Scottish striker and he just about managed to squeeze it underneath the keeper to give the hosts the lead.
The introduction of Lys Mousset off gave the hosts even more firepower – the Frenchman made a nuisance of himself all throughout his time on the field. With around 15 minutes to go in the game, he found himself through on goal courtesy of a lovely dummy by McBurnie, but his low effort was saved well by Martin. Moments later, the visitors nearly made him pay for the miss as Manuel Lanzini fired a free-kick at goal from 30 yards, only to see Dean Henderson scramble across his line and make a fine save.
Late in the half, John Egan was once again nearly punished for a mistake as he slipped over near his own area, allowing Lanzini to steal the ball and run in at goal. Fortunately for the defender, Henderson was once again equal to it to spare his blushes – but that’s a couple of mistakes from Egan tonight. Meanwhile, the failure to make the hosts pay for those errors will be slightly concerning for David Moyes and his side.
Then, in the 92nd minute, the moment of controversy that will no doubt cause fury not just in East London, but across the country. West Ham launched the ball forward, Declan Rice came powering through and slipped the ball into sub Robert Snodgrass who slides it past the keeper – cue pandemonium. Then, VAR announcements came across the screens and replays showed the ball had hit the arm of Rice as he ran through. Despite the fact Rice could do nothing about it, the rule states it should be disallowed and VAR duly obliges – cue more pandemonium.
The hosts march on and celebrate Chris Wilder’s new contract in style, while West Ham are left licking their wounds as David Moyes suffers the first defeat of his second spell.