Thriller proves game too far for West Ham as depleted Leeds earn vital win in relegation scrap

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

West Ham failed to pile pressure on top four rivals Arsenal and Tottenham in defeat to Leeds United in what proved to be a game too far.

A heavily depleted Leeds - who were surely one positive Covid test away from this game being called off - dragged the home defence all over the show as Marcelo Bielsa’s side condemned West Ham to a first defeat of 2022 in a superb see-sawing meeting which showed the merits of playing on while others bend the rules around postponements.

David Moyes, who was unhappy that West Ham saw a rearranged game against Norwich City crammed in this midweek, may have been hoping that this one was called off as the strains of a third game in eight days showed against their visitors who had not played since their FA Cup defeat here last weekend.

Manuel Lanzini, alongside Declan Rice in midfield again with Tomas Soucek still absent, struggled to keep up while the performances at the back, from Issa Diop especially, smacked of two central defenders running on near empty.

It was a credit to West Ham that they did not give up after Jack Harrison’s hat-trick. Andriy Yarmolenko saw a late effort saved after his headed goal had been ruled out for offside while Jarrod Bowen, who earlier scored a fourth goal in three games, moved to turn Michail Antonio’s cross in with his chest rather than a stooped header and sent the ball over the bar from yards out in the dying moments.

The damage had been done earlier, though, as tired and sloppy defending twice gave Harrison the freedom to add to his tally following his opener in the 10th minute.

Having equalised through Bowen’s header, the Hammers switched off at a corner allowing Harrison to sneak in unmarked at the far post and turn the ball in from Luke Ayling’s header.

After the break and following another leveller from Pablo Fornals, scoring his first since early November with a smart cut in from the left and near post finish, more sloppy play condemned West Ham.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Nikola Vlasic was robbed in his own half after collecting a soft ball out from Diop and Leeds pounded, the impressive Raphinha finding Harrison in acres of space down the left, allowing the former Manchester City man the time and space to lift the ball over Lukasz Fabianksi to seal his first Premier League hat-trick.

Another sloppy ball from Diop had West Ham in trouble again as Raphinha cut back for Matheusz Klich to finish, though the blushes were spared as the strike was ruled out after a VAR review.

With their top four rivals seeing a game called off for one Covid case in the Arsenal camp, Moyes will rightfully fume over why his side - who are yet to have a game called off for their own spike in cases - had to push through a packed schedule while others have gamed the system to see games pushed back to a more suitable date.

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