Sheffield United climbed to fifth in the Premier League table on Friday with a win against West Ham, who had an injury-time equaliser ruled out by VAR.
John Fleck took advantage of a big mistake by substitute goalkeeper David Martin, latching on to his wayward pass to tee up Oli McBurnie to finish from close range after 53 minutes.
Substitute Robert Snodgrass thought he had levelled for the visitors, but the goal was disallowed after the ball was judged to have hit Declan Rice’s arm in the build-up.
“VAR, VAR”, the home fans chanted as the final whistle sounded, with West Ham condemned to their eighth defeat in 11 Premier League games and their first under new manager David Moyes.
The result means the Hammers remain two points above the relegation zone and could drop into the bottom three if results go against them this weekend.
Wilder celebrates new deal with win
Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder signed a new four-and-a-half-year deal before the game and one media colleague said the photograph released by the club to announce the contract was the first time he had ever seen the lifelong Blades fan wear a tie.
Wilder is clearly at ease in a tracksuit on the touchline.
He may have spent most of the night with his hands in his pockets but he was a constant presence on the edge of his technical area and when there was a point to be made – to a player, one of his coaching staff or fourth official Simon Hooper – he was firm in making it.
Moyes has over 500 more Premier League games behind him than Wilder but he was 24 games without a win away at a top eight club prior to kick-off and until Felipe Anderson strode through just before the break, there was little to indicate his side were capable of breaking that run.
As it turned out, the Brazilian’s finish lacked composure. Manuel Lanzini did better with a couple of second-half efforts and Fabien Balbuena’s downward header bounced off the pitch and over the bar.
But even Wilder must have thought Dean Henderson’s goal had been breached when Snodgrass’ late effort crept in. The men in front of the screens at Stockley Park had other ideas.
West Ham’s goalkeeping nightmare
It was on the 13-minute mark when visiting keeper Lukasz Fabianski took a goal-kick and immediately signalled to the bench he had a problem.
The Poland international was only into his fourth game back after surgery to fix a torn hip muscle that had kept him out for three months.
That injury effectively cost Manuel Pellegrini his job given Fabianski’s deputy, Roberto, failed to keep a clean sheet in seven Premier League games, none of which the Hammers won.
Fabianski’s frustration was obvious as he beat the ground, then sat sadly in his penalty area, waiting for West Ham’s medical team to arrive.
The pushes and prods visible from the media seats suggested a repeat of his past problem. Either way, his game was over.
Martin was only meant to be a training keeper after his arrival from Millwall but the son of former Hammers legend Alvin was called off the bench. It really did not work out well.
He played a routine goal-kick straight to Fleck, who ran into the box to square to McBurnie for the only goal.
West Ham are aiming to sign another keeper, with Middlesbrough’s Darren Randolph lined up for a return to his former club. But the deal is on hold as he is also injured at present.
McBurnie’s decisive interventions
McBurnie has only scored four Premier League goals since his club record £20m move from Swansea last summer but he has managed some important ones within that total.
The Scotland striker’s injury-time equaliser against Manchester United in November will go down in Blades folklore.
His first-half effort at Brighton proved to be the match-winner and his latest effort broke the deadlock in one of those scruffy games the hosts need to win if they are to continue their present trajectory.
In truth, McBurnie, brought up in Leeds, did not have much to do and rolling the ball under Martin was too close to failure for comfort.
It was reward for an honest night’s work though. With his socks rolled down and slightly lumbering running style, McBurnie is old-school in the way he plays the game – which is why Sheffield United’s fans love having him around and gave him a standing ovation when he was substituted six minutes from time.
Man of the match – John Fleck (Sheffield United)
‘We’d have been devastated if we’d drawn’
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder speaking to BBC Sport: “I feel for David [Moyes] and the players. The same thing has happened to us a few times. But we would’ve been devastated if we’d have drawn that game.
“Soon as they scored, no one was looking at it but I felt for the opposition – it’s the same moans and groans as we’ve had in the past.
“We had to improve the performance because tonight wasn’t at our best. We’ve had to grind one out. We gave the ball away cheaply. We had two or three really good chances but didn’t take them.
“We made a poor decision late in the game but that’s what happens when you go backwards and they came on to us.”
West Ham boss David Moyes speaking to BBC Sport: “First of all I thought my players were terrific. We didn’t deserve to lose.
“It was a good goal. Anybody who has played football or been around the game knows it was a good goal. Declan Rice did really good to break through the middle.
“I’m just telling you it’s a really good goal. From my point of view and the people who watch football, the decision is not right.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a great fan [of VAR] but we have to come to terms with it. People who have played football know when it’s not right and tonight is one of those situations.”
The stats – Zabaleta reaches 300 mark
- West Ham’s defeat means London clubs have now lost their past eight Premier League games at Bramall Lane against Sheffield United, since Chelsea won 2-0 in October 2006.
- Sheffield United have won 14 points from the last 21 available at home in the Premier League (W4 D2 L1), with their only defeat in this run coming against Newcastle at the beginning of December (2-0).
- West Ham are the first team since Southampton in March 2016 to fail to score in four consecutive visits to newly-promoted clubs in the Premier League.
- Hammers boss David Moyes suffered his first defeat by Sheffield United in any competition in seven games (W4 D2), since a 3-2 loss as Preston manager in December 2000 in the second tier.
- David Martin and Roberto have made a combined three errors leading to a goal in 13 appearances for West Ham in the Premier League this season, whereas Lukasz Fabianski is yet to do so in 10 games this campaign.
- Sheffield United goalkeeper Dean Henderson has kept eight clean sheets in the Premier League this season – the joint-most in the competition in 2019-20 alongside Leicester’s Kasper Schmeichel.
- West Ham full-back Pablo Zabaleta made his 300th Premier League appearance (230 for Man City, 70 for West Ham), becoming just the third South American to reach this total after Nolberto Solano (302) and Antonio Valencia (325).
West Ham are next in action against Everton at the London Stadium on Saturday, 18 January (15:00 GMT). At the same time, Sheffield United play Arsenal at Emirates Stadium.
Source <a href="https://www.bbc.com" : BBC Sport – Football | NewsColony: Sports News