Premier League
Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 West Ham United 0

Wednesday, 4th December 2019
by Chris Wilkerson

An insipid and weak West Ham United were punished at Molineux this evening as host Wolves walked away with a comfortable 2-0 win.

The Hammers trailed after 23 minutes as Leander Dendoncker poked home a corner, and then never really threatened to stop Wolves taking all three points. The game was secured by a late Patrick Cutrone goal to give the home side a well-deserved three points.


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It was an incident free game, where two fairly level teams were separated by their abilities in each penalty area. West Ham looked in both; Wolves were more than happy to punish them.

For West Ham, it was much the same story that has blighted their run since September, the Chelsea game looking more a false dawn than a recovery.

As has been the case in recent months, the side lacked any penetration going forward, whilst their weakness on set plays was once again too easily exploited.

Manuel Pellegrini was without Michail Antonio, whose return to fitness suffered a minor setback that made him unfit to play weekend and midweek matches. His movement, hardwork and endeavour had been crucial at the weekend, his loss here only further strengthening claims that this season may rest on his shoulders (or hamstrings).

His replacement, Sebastien Haller, was the only change from the weekend's heroics at Chelsea, but it was the one the Hammers could afford the least. It proved that way, with Haller ineffective and West Ham's attack one-paced once more.

The early exchanges were balanced, but Wolves carried the more obvious threat. As the half went on, it was the pace of Adama Traore out wide that predictably caused issues. To Aaron Cresswell's credit, he seemed to understand and master his task more and more as the game went on.

It was after a period of concerted Wolves pressure that eventually saw the opening goal. Joao Moutinho's inswinging corner was fast and powerful, but the defending inside the area was not.

It dropped wickedly onto the six yard box, where Leander Dendoncker had wrestled free from Ryan Fredericks and was left having to only stretch to meet the ball on the volley to prod it past a helpless David Martin.


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Fredericks had lost his man too easily, concerned more with the fight than the marking, and West Ham again had let simple football be their downfall. For another set-piece to cause such issues, one has to wonder whether it is an oversight or arrogance that has caused any lack of improvement in organisation.

The goal allowed Wolves to sit a little deeper, and they are one of the more effective teams in the Premier League when allowed to do so. West Ham had lost their last nine games in the league when conceding first, and are yet to take even a point this season when going behind to the opening goal.

The bright sparks were Fornals and Anderson, both who took it upon themselves to drift in and out of their positions, swapping freely and playing nice football between each other. They were offered very little in options elsewhere, with Noble withdrawn, Haller ineffective and Snodgrass consistently wasteful in possession.

They were the pair that gave West Ham their only real moment of hope going forward in the half, a neat little interchange on the left allowing Fornals to drift into the area and bend one dangerously to the far post. Patricio reacted very well to tip it over the bar.

It was one of the few moments, maybe the only one, where passing near the area was decisive and quick. Fornals at the very least is becoming more comfortable with English football, whilst Anderson's play is suited to his central berth.

With Wolves comfortable, the 1-0 half-time score still left West Ham with a glimmer of hope, if only they could conjure up something different in the second half.

Instead, Wolves were the side who came out with extra verve and ambition.

Dendoncker missed when unmarked in the penalty area, getting under a Jonny cross that had been allowed in under little pressure. Balbuena was close to him, but had been left with three men in the penalty area.


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Moments later, Martin conjured up heroics to smother a one-on-one situation with Jonny, who had been allowed in behind the West Ham defence that had been equally as exposed down the right flank in the build-up.

With Wolves growing in confidence, and West Ham making sparse advances forward, the best chance of the second half fell to the feet of Robert Snodgrass.

Fornals drifted off the left and floated a quite delightful, inch-perfect pass over the defence and onto the free run of Snodgrass. His first touch controlled perfectly, but his second was sloppy. Instead of the free effort at goal he should have had, he instead deflected the ball right into Patricio's path. His ignominy was only worsened as he was both subbed off directly after and injured stretching to recover his miscontrol. The pass deserved more.

It was the last time Wolves's stranglehold on the three points was threatened.

They nearly scored moments after that, another Moutinho corner causing all sorts of problems, although Roman Saiss knew little of the header that cannoned off him and went only inches wide.

Wolves looked the only team likely to score, West Ham dallying and delaying on every occasion they got near the goal. There was little movement and even less haste to do something about it.

Nathan Holland came on to make his Premier League debut, leading to the surprising sight of Felipe Anderson playing deep in midfield alongside Declan Rice. Whilst the Brazilian deserves credit for his passing and his defensive work in the opposition half, it was worth little with the options ahead of him so clearly out of sorts.

Martin again saved well but Jimenez struck at goal inside the area, but in the end it was for little.


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With time ticking away, Yarmolenko, who had replaced Snodgrass, lost the ball on halfway with Fredericks a long way ahead of him.

Wolves pounced, springing down the line and then flicking it around Balbuena, the defender flying helplessly at the two attackers in his path and being rounded with ease.

Rice delayed the attack, but the ball fell to young Cutrone on the edge of the area. With Ogbonna the last line of defence, and already pulled out of position to cover other runners, Cutrone turned one way and then rolled the ball in the other direction, just inside the post. Martin was beaten, West Ham were beaten and any hope of a resurgence seemed long battered.

It ended there, Wolves having quite comfortably eased West Ham aside and Manuel Pellegrini's men looking at one win in nine games and a two point gap from the bottom three, now filled by Everton in 18th.

It may well be that Marco Silva's sacking saves Pellegrini the scrutiny he deserves this week.

The side had been mostly poor, with a few bright sparks immediately put out by the horrors around them. It became a one man midfield for Declan Rice, the organisation in defence was again comical and that Sebastien Haller was withdrawn with ten minutes remaining as his side chased a goal is an indictment on him and the recruitment.

It's a Monday night hosting Arsenal next.


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Player Ratings

David Martin
Made some important saves and had no chance on the goals. Quite a calming presence.


Ryan Fredericks
One important tackle but at fault for the first goal and his use of the ball in attack was poor. Between him and Yarmolenko, there is not a fast decision in them.


Aaron Cresswell
Started off worried by Traore but seemed to work him out, or at least outlast his stamina, as the game went on.


Fabian Balbuena
Wildly over-committed for the second goal, but generally solid and was left exposed by the counter for it. Passing forward was woeful, but he made a lot of blocks and clearances.


Angelo Ogbonna
Defended ably and kept Jimenez quiet. Helped Cresswell with Traore. Left stretched for the second, exposed by the gung ho approach for an equaliser.


Declan Rice
A couple wayward passes early, but played as a one-man midfield. Did the forward running, progressive passing and defensive work. Looks to have regained some confidence.


Mark Noble
Slow on the ball and lost it in dangerous areas again. Is sitting in a more disciplined role but not having a good influence on the ball.


Robert Snodgrass
His passing was poor all game, his set pieces well below his usual standard, then missed West Ham's big chance with inexcusably poor control.


Pablo Fornals
Looks more settled, working hard and starting to find his rhythm on the ball. Had the best West Ham shot of the game and produced a perfect pass for Snodgrass's chance.


Felipe Anderson
West Ham's best player on the ball, and also did a lot of good work defensively on the front foot. Arguably the best defensive and best attacking contributions. Looked good centrally again, even when played deeper in the desperate goal search.


Sebastien Haller
Again, starved of meaningful service. But creators could argue that he's giving them nothing to use. If he doesn't have close runners, he isn't going to play well. He's playing poorly, but he's let down by the system.



Substitutes

Andriy Yarmolenko
(Replaced Snodgrass) Poor on the ball, static movement, ineffective. A quite horrid cameo.


Nathan Holland
(Replaced Noble) Tried to dribble with it, not that he seemed to worry the defence. Looked forward but immediately passed slowly around the box, like a disease that inflicts any West Ham forward.


Albian Ajeti
(Replaced Haller) Last 10 mins, he had nothing to play with against a very deep Wolves defence.


Roberto Jimenez Gago
Did not play.


Pablo Zabaleta
Did not play.


Arthur Masuaku
Did not play.


Carlos Sanchez
Did not play.



Match Facts

West Ham United: David Martin, Ryan Fredericks, Aaron Cresswell, Fabian Balbuena, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Mark Noble, Robert Snodgrass, Pablo Fornals, Felipe Anderson, Sebastien Haller.

Goals: None.

Booked: Declan Rice 67 Aaron Cresswell 78        .

Sent off: None.

Wolverhampton Wanderers: Patricio, Doherty, Dendoncker, Coady Saiss, Jonny, Neves, Moutinho, Traore, Jota, Jimenez (Cutrone 84).

Subs not used: Ruddy, Kilman, Bennett, Vinagre, Ashley-Seal.

Goals: Dendoncker (23), Cutrone (86).

Booked: Jota.

Sent off: None.

Referee: Andre Marriner.

Attendance: 31,217.

Man of the Match: David Martin.