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West Ham United finally got off the mark in the Premier League for the season, as they defeated newbies Huddersfield Town 2-0 at the London Stadium, on Monday night.
After having endured a disappointing start to the new campaign, in which Slaven Bilic’s side had lost all their three previous league games of the season, this was always going to be a high-pressure match.
However, the Hammers turned up with grit and gumption in their first home game of the season and two second half goals from Pedro Obiang and Andre Ayew handed Bilic the perfect gift on his 49th birthday, in what was a tightly contested encounter.
West Ham started the game with an unusual setup, playing three centre-halves and having Andy Carroll, Javier Hernandez and Michail Antonio lined up in the attack. And as early as the second minute, they had a glorious chance to go ahead, after Carroll had done well to chest down a cross and hit a pacey ball across the goal-mouth, only for it to just evade past the sliding Cheikhou Kouyate.
It was the home team that were doing all the running in the opening exchanges, with the Terriers struggling to get going. The next big chance fell to Chicharito, when Antonio burst past left-back Chris Lowe and cut the ball back to the Mexican, only for him to hit the crossbar from a range where one would expect him to score nine times out of ten. Five minutes away from half-time, Kouyate was presented with another great opportunity, but the midfielder messed up his shot.
After having done nothing meaningful in the attack for the first-half, David Wagner’s Huddersfield burst into life post the break, with midfielder Phillip Billing forcing Joe Hart into his first save, with a driving effort nine minutes into the second period. In the meanwhile, West Ham weren’t enjoying the best of times at the top, with Hernandez struggling to get into the game. Seeing this, Bilic switched things up, throwing in Andre Ayew in the place of Chicharito in the 65th minute.
That substitution turned out to be the spark they needed, as the former Swansea City man found Pedro Obiang outside the penalty box, with the Spaniard unleashing a left-footed drive that took a deflection off Huddersfield centre-back Mathias Jorgensen before ending into the back of the net in the 72nd minute. Five minutes later, Ayew himself found the back of the net, forcing in an Aaron Cresswell corner from close range, to seal the game.
Tom Ince did strike the crossbar late in the game, but the Hammers held on to earn their first points of the season and by doing so, releasing some pressure off their manager. After the match, Bilic said:
“Top performance from us, not in the sense we played beautiful football, but a top performance in being on the front foot in determination in executing the game plan.
“We provoked the luck that goal bought us back in a zone of extra energy and happiness. The boys showed everything that we asked of them.
“This was a good [birthday] present to be fair.”
Bilic showed his got big balls tonight by taking Hernandez of but it paid off so well done to him. COYI
— gary lee (@Gary29565) September 11, 2017
— ΔNDY (@BTECIbra) September 11, 2017
— Alan Austen (@alanausten) September 11, 2017
Massive points, poor set up though, full squad next game, players in the right position, even if three at the back two up front!
— Wizz (@Wizz197677) September 11, 2017
Ropey in places but well deserved 3 points. I do want to see Hernandez played as a striker though. He's a 6 yd poacher
— Trevor Bishop (@trevorbishop11) September 11, 2017
Andy Carroll is less a lone striker, more like a piece of medieval siege equipment being wheeled about like a ponytailed trebuchet #WHUHUD
— Danny Jamieson (@DannyJamieson14) September 11, 2017
Imagine being Chicharito and signing for a team desperate for a striker, playing out on the wing and being subbed off after 60 mins #WHUHUD
— Green St. Hammers (@GreenStHammers) September 11, 2017