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Huge Benny boost

Said Benrahma could potentially be returning to Hammers action much earlier than expected!

The winger has been away on international duty with Algeria at the African Cup of Nations and the tournament holders were clearly expected to go deep into the competition.

However, they have endured a nightmare start to life in the 2022 competition and were beaten 1-0 by Equatorial Guinea on Sunday night.

Guinea are 114th in the FIFA world rankings, while Algeria are 29th, and Benny’s side hadn’t lost in 35 games prior to the encounter.

However, they also failed to win their opening game of the tournament, drawing 0-0 with Sierra Leone, and will now have to beat Ivory Coast in their final game of the group stages to have any chance of qualifying for the knockout stages.

Benrahma was actually an unused substitute against Guinea, although he did come off the bench against Sierra Leone, and it remains to be seen if he is restored to the side for the clash with their fellow African giants.

The game between Algeria and Ivory Coast will take place on Thursday.

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Moyes admits Mikey concern

David Moyes admits that Mikey Antonio was essentially dead on his feet in the final stages of the Hammers’ defeat to Leeds on Sunday.

The Hammers were beaten 3-2 at the London Stadium in a game that may have put a dent in the club’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.

Jack Harrison’s hat-trick was the deciding factor, despite goals from both Jarrod Bowen and Pablo Fornals.

Bowen could have scored a last-minute equaliser but somehow managed to chest the ball over the bar after Antonio’s cross was deflected into his path at the back post.

Mikey did lay on an assist earlier in the game but Moyes felt that he was knackered come the end of the 90 minutes.

However, due to a lack of general depth within the striking department, the boss admitted that there was simply no option to substitute him.

Speaking to reporters after the game, as per Football.London, he was asked if Mikey was tired and replied: “We noticed that as well. But it is difficult when you have to play. He is one of our key goalscorers. We were chasing the game from 15 minutes in and it was really difficult to change him. He was out on his legs after the game but again what can we do?”

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Moyes admits Norwich mistake

David Moyes has admitted that he and the Hammers should have pushed for the game against Norwich in midweek to be postponed after seeing Arsenal successfully appeal to have the north London derby called off.

Spurs were left fuming after the Gunners were granted a postponement despite reportedly having just one COVID case in their camp.

A combination of injuries and international call-ups from the Africa Cup of Nations saw their numbers heavily depleted and Moyes has now confirmed that he could have made more of an effort to have the Hammers’ clash with the Canaries called off.

West Ham won the game 2-0 on Wednesday but were beaten 3-2 by Leeds on Sunday after Marcelo Bielsa’s side had a full week’s rest following the FA Cup tie between them and the Irons.

Speaking after Jack Harrison’s hat-trick put a major dent in the Irons’ Champions League hopes, as per Football.London, he said: “I don’t really care about that because maybe we are not being tough enough, maybe I am not being tough enough in saying we could have done with the game against Norwich being off and we could have fought harder for it.

“Maybe I will have to do that in the future because it put us under pressure to play today, Leeds had a full week to prepare but still have two games to play and us only one so I cannot see why they did that. But it is done and I can’t put the result solely down to that. It is down to us not playing well, making mistakes, missing chances. The opening 15/20 minutes showed enough of what we were carrying over from midweek.”

Moyes says that West Ham DID try to get the Norwich game moved, as they did not feel it was fair to play in midweek while Leeds had time to rest, but that the request was denied.

He added: “With we had available vs Norwich we had Covid and injuries and a player at the Africa Nations as well but I wanted us to keep going, I did not see any reason [why not].

“Today was really tough for us to get back out so we did not feel the Norwich game should have been put in but they refused our request. We played at it had an effect today.”

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Boss: ‘It was easier to score!’

David Moyes couldn’t believe Jarrod Bowen’s late miss against Leeds.

The Hammers winger has been in sensational form this season and added another goal to his tally on Sunday afternoon, heading home a corner in a pulsating game that ebbed and flowed throughout the 90 minutes.

Leeds eventually recorded a 3-2 win thanks to Jack Harrison’s hat-trick, but Bowen had a golden chance to make it 3-3 in the final minute of injury time.

A Mikey Antonio cross was deflected into Bowen’s path and he was just four yards out when he attempted to chest it over the line.

He arguably made too much contact with the ball but there was some question over why he didn’t try to head it as opposed to chesting it.

And Moyes admitted after the gam that he was astonished by the ex-Hull man’s miss, telling reporters, as per BBC Sport: “He [Jarrod Bowen] should have scored with his head but he has been playing really well. It was probably easier to score than miss.”

The Irons are now fourth in the table with 37 points, but fifth-placed Arsenal are two points behind with two games in hand, while Spurs are four points behind with four games in hand.

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Moyes hits out at PL

David Moyes has hit out at the Premier League for the way they have scheduled West Ham’s games after the Irons lost 3-2 to Leeds on Sunday.

The Hammers lost valuable ground in the race to qualify for the Champions League at the London Stadium.

Jack Harrison was exceptional for Leeds and scored a hat-trick, with Pablo Fornals and Jarrod Bowen both on the scoresheet for the Irons. 

Bowen could have scored a late equaliser but somehow chested the ball over the bar from close-range.

The Irons came into the game after a busy week that saw the Hammers face the same opposition in the FA Cup and then play Norwich in midweek.

Leeds actually have two games in hand on West Ham but they were not asked to play in midweek, instead getting a full week of rest, and Moyes was left fuming with the scheduling after seeing his Irons side beaten in east London.

Speaking after the game, as per BBC Sport, he said: “We had no games rearranged. The only game rearranged was Norwich because they had Covid. I can’t understand the Premier League squeezing a game in. Leeds had two games to fit in. Why did they squeeze ours in but not theirs?”

He added: “Don’t expect me to feel good about it, do you? I have to give credit to the players to play Leeds last week and then a game in midweek. An excuse? Maybe but a bit of a fair one.

“People who play against Leeds will know the intensity you need to play. We knew we had them in the league after the FA Cup but then the Premier League stuck the game in midweek.

“We found it difficult to get prepared quickly. We made mistakes, no-one else’s fault but there were other reasons for it as well.”

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Declan left gutted

Declan Rice was left gutted by the defeat to Leeds on Sunday.

The Hammers were roundly outplayed for 90 minutes against Marcelo Bielsa’s side and a hat-trick from Jack Harrison proved decisive for the Elland Road side.

Goals from Jarrod Bowen and Pablo Fornals had twice brought the Hammers back into the game but Bowen missed a sitter in the last minute of injury time that would have earned the Irons a point.

Rice was excellent throughout the game, surging forward from midfield and making every effort to stick the ball in the back of the net.

But he couldn’t quite make it happen and he was left utterly dejected after the game, as he rued the Irons’ inability to seize a huge chance in the top four race, especially as Spurs’ clash with Arsenal was postponed.

Speaking after the game, as per BBC Sport, he said: “Very frustrating. Not like our usual selves. We started the game poorly. They were right on the front foot. Their goal was a wake up call.

“We have got this far and doing really well. We are still in the top four at the minute. This was a big chance to close the gap on Chelsea in second, but that is football. It is about how you bounce back.”

Declan has already set his sights on next weekend’s clash with Manchester United, which could be huge in their bid to qualify for the Champions League.

United are five points behind the Irons with two games in hand.

He added: “We always take it one game at a time. We knew today was massive chance, it is a chance missed. Massive. It will be tough but one we are ready for and it is always an unbelievable chance to play at Old Trafford and try and get a result there.

“There were silly mistakes. Just down to mistakes today.”

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How we rated the Irons against Leeds

Hughie hands out his marks

Fabianski: No chance with the goals and an afternoon he will want to forget given the pressure Leeds piled on his goal 6

Coufal: Not at his best either back or front 6

Diop: He demonstrated how much we will welcome Zouma back – all at sea at times 4

Dawson: Did well on a really difficult afternoon and went close at the other end from a corner 7

Cresswell: Probably at fault for the second goal and was not at his best when the first went in – still rusty 4

Rice: Excellent contribution as ever. Whether defending, creating or pushing forward this is a player to die for 8

Lanzini: Typified his game with a beautiful pass the captain put into the side netting. Worked his socks off as his form continued to impress 7

Fornals: Some very neat stuff and a great goal 7+

Vlasic: There’s clearly more to come. Seems he is the regular option to be taken off. Why? 7

Bowen: Fine goal and on his game throughout until a terrible miss at the end 7+

Antonio: Saw plenty of the ball but couldn’t make a serious impact 6

Subs:

Masuaku: Nothing spectacular and spent much of his time passing sideways and backwards 4

Yarmolenko: Saw a header ruled our for offside and appeared more interested than previously 4

Perkins: Late arrival for the 17 year old – little to report No rating

 

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Hammers stunned by plucky Leeds

West Ham were stunned by an injury-hit Leeds side on Sunday as Marcelo Bielsa’s side managed to win 3-2 at the London Stadium.

It was an absolutely enthralling game of football that ebbed and flowed with both sides looking to attack what appeared to be weak defences.

The Hammers fell behind twice and twice fought back but it was a hat-trick from Jack Harrison that proved decisive in the game.

Harrison scored his first after nine minutes, as Aaron Cresswell failed to deal with a ball down the right flank and Raphinha put in a cross for Mateusz Klich, whose shot was saved. The ball fell to Adam Forshaw, and he played it back to Harrison, who finished coolly.

Leeds were then rocked by a double injury blow as both Forshaw and Junior Firpo were forced off and replaced by inexperienced teenagers from the academy.

It was inevitable that Jarrod Bowen would get on the scoresheet and he equalised on 33 minutes, heading home a corner after some intense Hammers pressure.

Parity lasted less than five minutes, as Harrison scored a second from a Leeds corner, ghosting in at the back post after giving Cresswell the slip and pushing the ball over the line.

In the second half, the game continued to flow and Pablo Fornals equalised with a slick finish after some exceptional dribbling on the edge of the box.

But Harrison would not be denied and scored again, as Nikola Vlasic gave the ball away after a hospital pass from Issa Diop, and Raphinha found the winger, who finished superbly.

Klich then thought he had added a fourth when he finished another Raphinha pass but his goal was ruled out after it struck the offside Rodrigo.

Leeds could not keep the ball in the latter stages and the Hammers did build up some real pressure, leading to one last opportunity.

In the very last minute, Bowen had a golden chance to equalise again, but somehow he chested the ball over the bar from three yards out.

It was an absolute sitter; how important could that miss be come the end of the season?!

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Zouma call made as Moyes names side

David Moyes has left Kurt Zouma out of the matchday squad for the clash with Leeds in the Premier League.

The France international was hoping to be fit for the encounter but he has been left out of the squad, with Moyes clearly keen not to rush him back.

It’s an unchanged side from the team that beat Norwich 2-0 in midweek, otherwise.

It means that Lukasz Fabianski plays in goal, and the defence is made up of Vlad Coufal, Craig Dawson, Issa Diop and Aaron Cresswell.

Declan Rice plays with a deeper-lying Manuel Lanzini in midfield; Pablo Fornals, Nikola Vlasic, and Jarrod Bowen provide support to Mikey Antonio up top.

A number of youngsters make the bench, including Armstrong Okoflex, Sonny Perkins, and Aji Alese.

Leeds, by comparison, have not selected Patrick Bamford in the squad so Daniel James leads the line for them, although defender Pascal Struijk has returned and Raphinha plays on the right wing.

Full West Ham XI: Fabianski; Coufal, Dawson, Diop, Cresswell; Rice, Lanzini; Fornals, Vlasic, Bowen; Antonio. Subs: Areola, Fredericks, Masuaku, Johnson, Alese, Kral, Perkins, Okoflex, Yarmolenko. 

Full Leeds XI: Meslier; Ayling, Koch, Struijk, Firpo; Dallas, Forshaw; Raphinha, Klich, Harrison; James. Subs: Klaesson, Hjelde, Moore, Kenneh, Jenkins, Bate, Gray, McKinstry, Rodrigo. 

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Bamford mystery

Patrick Bamford may well end up being involved for Leeds against the Hammers today if rumours are to be believed.

There has been plenty of talk on Twitter about his availability and there remains some confusion over whether he will play.

We reported earlier today that Bamford was not seen boarding the plane that whisked the players down to London.

But Phil Hay, the Athletic’s Leeds correspondent, reported earlier this week that Bamford is set to be available for selection.

In a further twist, though, there have been rumours that Bamford’s partner has gone into labour, again suggesting that he will not be playing for Leeds against the Irons.

Bamford has not been available for Leeds since the clash with Brentford at the start of December, and he has only made six appearances in the Premier League due to his injury woes, although he has scored two goals in the top-flight.

One big question is whether, should he be available, whether manager Marcelo Bielsa will choose to bring him back for the match at home to Newcastle next weekend which may make more sense from his point of view than risking him today.