West Ham and David Moyes deliver masterclass vs Liverpool that must embarrass Manchester United

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Simple is beautiful. The real joy of watching David Moyes’ West Ham United, three points off the top and with Liverpool the latest visitors to realise that the London Stadium suddenly resembles a fortress, rests in how straightforward and effective the gameplan is. There are no frills, complication is anathema, and for now it is a system that is working seamlessly.

In front of Daniel Kretinsky, the Czech billionaire in advanced talks over a £190m deal to buy a 27% stake in the club, this was their biggest statement yet. They had little more than three tenths of the ball and less than half Liverpool’s attempts on goal but the result was entirely deserved against a team that has made mincemeat of several opponents in recent weeks. The manner in which the points were earned was the most impressive aspect of all; a masterclass in how to beat possession football and, yes, a timely lesson for Manchester United.

It can seem like West Ham are only capable of scoring two types of goal – a counterattack or set piece – and while that does a disservice to a team more than capable of producing intricate passing moves there is nothing wrong with playing to your strengths. They maximised them on another raucous afternoon in East London, largely nullifying their vaunted visitors’ attacking threat and bullying them at the other end.

There are no weaknesses in Moyes’ best XI, though the depth at his disposal remains a concern the longer the campaign progresses, and here he could count on Pablo Fornals and Jarrod Bowen to lead the attacking charge in front of a defence that reduced Mo Salah to supporting role with his only notable contribution the earning of a soft free kick for the Reds’ equaliser.

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The opening goal was bizarre, with Alisson punching Fornals’ inswinging corner into his own net, but it was both a mood-setter and an indicator that opponents are fraying when dealing with such a brutally effective set-piece machine.

After taking the lead, any attempt at building momentum was checked by a pair of VAR consultations, the second for an Aaron Cresswell challenge on Jordan Henderson in which the left back clearly won the ball before even more clearly clattering the visiting captain, and Angelo Ogbonna receiving two lengthy bouts of treatment.

The stop-start pattern benefitted West Ham, who seemed happy to rely on their counterattacking and set piece strengths, but when Moyes tweaked the shape of his midfield not long after Craig Dawson’s introduction for Ogbonna the visitors began to gather steam. Said Benrahma moved to the left flank and Fornals dropped into a midfield three in which Rice formed the base.

West Ham’s approach was clear: trust in their defence and seek to make the most of their opportunities to break, with balls over the top for Michail Antonio to chase plan A at every juncture. Yet it was far too early to defend so deeply and while the free kick awarded to Mo Salah was, at the very least, contentious the invitation of such pressure was never going to be sustainable.

It was almost admirable the manner in which Salah dangled the bait for referee Craig Pawson; the way he sought the mildest bit of contact from Declan Rice’s foot before gracefully hitting the deck. Few players have assembled such a deep back catalogue of winning free kicks and penalties, enough for a Twitter account dedicated to his pursuit of set pieces, and it was hard to come up with a player as accomplished in the dark skill of drawing fouls.

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Regardless it enabled Alexander-Arnold, otherwise ineffective, to curl around the wall and in, with Lukasz Fabianski stranded.

West Ham were justifiably unhappy but instead of their heads dropping, the sense of injustice was used as motivation for a second half in which they were indisputably the better team. Fornals’ finish to make it 2-1 was clinical but the real standout was how Bowen drove forward on the break with four opponents in his wake. It was simple and effective but, again, a thing of beauty.

Similar could be said for Kurt Zouma’s first goal for the club, the team’s sixth scored from a set piece this season and 23rd (from 85) since the beginning of last season, arriving from a second Bowen assist.

And while Divock Origi made it 3-2 with a lovely turn and finish, Liverpool never looked like equalising. That was a testament to how resilient West Ham defended, how confident they were in closing the result out. At full time, with Kretinsky clapping along to Twist and Shout , it was hard not to fleetingly get wrapped up in the feeling that something special is potentially brewing.

Moyes will do what he can to temper expectations but many more days like this and he may soon be powerless.

Source by Football London

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