West Ham left out in the cold as Wolves sweep them aside
PUBLISHED: 22:09 29 January 2019 | UPDATED: 22:09 29 January 2019
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It’s three and easy for Wolves as limp Hammers surrender in second half
Wolverhampton Wanderers 3 West Ham United 0
The week just got worse for wobbling West Ham United, who were thrown to the Wolves at freezing Molineux.
Following their FA Cup humiliation at AFC Wimbledon on Saturday evening, Manuel Pelligrini’s side found themselves at ice-cold zero again, as waltzing Wanderers left them out in the cold with three post-interval strikes.
While the harmless Hammers - who worryingly saw Marko Arnautović hobble off with a quarter-hour remaining - failed to muster a single shot on target in the entire 90 minutes, Romain Saïss broke the deadlock midway through the second period before Raúl Jiménez struck twice in the closing minutes.
Humbled and Wombled West Ham had made a quintet of changes as they returned to Premier League action in tenth spot, two places and one point below Wanderers.
Having signed a contract extension and pledged his future to West Ham United for now, at least, Arnautović returned alongside Lukasz Fabianski, Declan Rice, Pablo Zabaleta and Felipe Anderson as Andy Carroll, Adrián, Pedro Obiang, Grady Diangana and Javier Hernández each returned to the bench.
Wolves had also come within just seconds of being giant-killed themselves at the weekend but Matt Doherty’s last-gasp leveller at Shrewsbury Town earned them a replay and, three days on, Nino Espírito Santo also made five changes as Jiménez, Diogo Jota, Jonny, Rui Patrício and João Moutinho were all recalled.
FA Cup match-saver Doherty was soon in the thick of the action as the hosts prodded and probed down the left side of the Hammers defence to create early chances for both Jota and Jimenéz, before Arthur Masuaku was fortunate to escape a vociferous penalty shout after the Wolves right-winger tumbled under his challenge.
While Mark Noble had forced an early corner and Robert Snodgrass almost tackled the out-rushing Patrício, Wolves were showing all of their swift, incisive counter-attacking intent that had brought them victory at London Stadium back in September.
Indeed, midway through the opening period, Leander Dendoncker back-heeled to the alert Fabianski after Doherty had sent in another tricky low cross and then Jiménez also floated one over from the left, which the diving Jonny headed just inches past the far post.
Anderson fired a low 20-yarder inches wide in a token show of resistance, while escaping Argentinian, Zabaleta - who had seen both sides observe a respectful minute’s silence for compatriot Emiliano Sala before kick-off - was sent tumbling by the consequently-cautioned Saïss.
With Wolves taking their shot count into double-figures, the Hammers were bravely blocking with any part of their freezing bodies and, when the hosts finally got the ball into the net, Dendoncker’s header was ruled out after the marginally offside Jiménez had flicked onto the crossbar.
Snodgrass was also booked for jostling Jota, who then forced Fabianski to palm his low 20-yarder around the base of his left-hand upright, before the defiant Hammers’ keeper beat Doherty’s angled screamer aside to keep it goalless at the break.
There was no respite after the restart either as Jonny hooked over at the far post and then Jota’s low 15-yarder was scrambled behind by Fabianski after it steamed through the chilly Molineux night.
Next, it was the turn of Saïss to see the defiant Hammers ‘keeper beat away his blistering shot as Manuel’s men struggled to get the ball out of their own half and, midway through the half, Fabianski brilliantly tipped Jonny’s angled shot over the top.
But that was only momentary respite for the visitors, for when Moutinho whipped over the subsequent left-wing corner Saïss escaped the attentions of Snodgrass and ghosted in front of Angelo Ogbonna to send his six-yard header crashing into the net.
Pellegrini responded with a double-switch that saw Carroll and Obiang step from the bench as Snodgrass and Noble retired and, after Zabaleta escaped another penalty cry following his no-nonsense, man-plus-ball tackle on Jota, Arnautović was helped away to unsympathetic, mocking home cries of ‘You should’ve cleared off to China!’
Just as the Hammers were about to pitch their third and final substitute Hernández into action, though, the brave Fabianski needed lengthy treatment after gallantly diving into the sliding Doherty’s studs, as goalkeeper and wing-back went in pursuit of Jiménez’s low ball into the six-yard box.
The keeper was still feeling the effects of that challenge, when Zabaleta upended Moutinho on 80 minutes out on the right flank and, after dusting himself down, the Portuguese playmaker delivered an inch-perfect free-kick into the Hammers area, where Jiménez got in front of Rice to prod home from 10 yards.
Five minutes later, the Mexican hit-man helped himself to his second goal of the night, when Jota broke behind the pushed up West Ham defence and with just the lone figure of Issa Diop providing Fabianski with any protection, he unselfishly squared to Jiménez, who cemented a comfortable victory with his tenth goal of the season.
WOLVES: Patrício, Bennett, Coady, Saïss, Dendoncker, Moutinho (Gibbs-White 87), Neves, Doherty, Jonny (Vinagre 90+1), Jota (Caaleiro 87), Jiménez. Unused subs: Ruddy, Costa, Traoré, Kilman.
HAMMERS: Fabianski, Zabaleta, Masuaku, Diop, Ogbonna, Rice, Noble (Carroll 68), Snodgrass (Obiang 68), Antonio, Anderson, Arnautović (Hernández 77). Unused subs: Adrián, Fredericks, Diangana, Coventry.
Booked: Saïss (32), Snodgrass (37), Bennett (71)
Referee: David Coote.