Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard ensures Hammers pay penalty
West Ham United 1, Manchester United 2
Just when it seemed the drama would all be about Jesse Lingard scoring against the club where he was on loan last season and Cristiano Ronaldo striking again, but being left furious after two penalty appeals were turned down, West Ham topped all that. And they did so as only West Ham can.
“Fortune’s always hiding”, or so the song goes, but although they could curse their luck at missing out on signing Lingard – whose fine late goal after coming on as a substitute won this tight encounter – they were the architects of their own downfall with what was a self-inflicted penalty farce.
Normal time was up and we were deep into injury-time when Andriy Yarmolenko’s cross struck the outstretched arm of Luke Shaw. Referee Martin Atkinson initially did not react but was advised by the VAR to check his pitch-side screen and the spot kick was rightly given.
So far, dramatic enough, but then West Ham manager David Moyes took the fateful decision to send on club captain Mark Noble.
Declan Rice had the ball in his hands, but he had missed his last penalty – in fact, West Ham had missed four of their previous five – so the penalty duties were handed to Noble. It was the 95th minute.
And so Noble’s first touch was to drive the ball to David De Gea’s left but the goalkeeper dived to push it away – the first penalty Noble had missed in five years – and the first that De Gea had saved in that time.
He was mobbed at the end by relieved team-mates, joined by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
In fact, it was seven years – 22 penalties – since De Gea had saved a spot kick in the Premier League and he looked as stunned as Noble (right).
The West Ham player dropped to his knees even if the responsibility rested with Moyes, who seemed swayed by the notion of bringing on a spot-kick specialist.
With that, United stretched their run of away league games without a defeat to a record 29.
Was Moyes trying to be too clever? Did he simply not trust any of his other players? It just looked wrong as Noble ran on. He may have scored 38 of his previous 42 penalties, Moyes may have asked him if was up for it (what else would he reply but yes?) but Noble rushed it and he did not touch the ball again before the final whistle.
The Premier League really is the gift that keeps on giving. There were so many storylines in this match but, as ever, the focus was on Ronaldo, who five minutes after West Ham had taken the lead drew United level. It is four goals in three games for him since his homecoming and there is a magnetic quality that endures.
He attracts attention, he attracts the ball, he is always a threat.
On the day that Jimmy Greaves, who ended his top-flight career at West Ham, passed away, which was marked by a minute’s applause and black armbands being worn, one of only two players who had scored more goals than him in Europe’s top five leagues struck again.
Only Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have scored more than Greaves’s 366 league goals and Greaves retired when he was 31.
For Ronaldo’s goal, Bruno Fernandes turned provider with an inswinging cross from the left that was met by his fellow Portuguese, who guided a volley with the outside of his right foot. Lukasz Fabianski parried only for Ronaldo to side-foot home the rebound. It looked simple but owed everything to Ronaldo’s athleticism and clever movement as he held his position, letting the retreating defenders come to him, before darting forward to meet the ball.
If United were unfortunate in the way they conceded, they had already been served warning.
Despite United dominating possession, the best two chances had fallen to West Ham before they took the third. Vladimir Coufal’s back-heel was collected by Jarrod Bowen, playing as a central striker in the absence of the suspended Michail Antonio, who picked out Said Benrahma on the edge of the ‘D’.
He attempted to bend an effort around Raphael Varane, but the ball hit the defender, leaving De Gea wrong footed.
Before that, Fabianski had superbly touched a Fernandes volley on to a post. Solskjaer understandably argued that his team continued to take the game to their opponents, even if West Ham were always in it.
But, boy, does Solskjaer have options. He brought on £73 million (€85.5m) winger Jadon Sancho in addition to Lingard, who was given a standing ovation by some West Ham fans who must have taken their seats with some trepidation and that concern was proved right.
Inside the area, Lingard collected possession, pushed the ball on to his right foot and curled a wonderful shot high beyond Fabianski.
That came after earlier penalty drama. Three times United claimed a spot kick, with the most compelling coming as Ronaldo went over Coufal’s outstretched leg, but the referee remained unmoved.
When he reacted at the other end, West Ham failed to capitalise.