Slaven Bilic hailed the ‘perfect’ 49th birthday present after West Ham United secured their first Premier League win of 2017/18 with a 2-0 victory over Huddersfield Town.
The Hammers celebrated their return to London Stadium with a committed and largely dominant performance against the previously unbeaten Terriers, securing three points through second half goals from Pedro Obiang’s deflected effort and Andre Ayew’s close-range finish.
Having climbed off the bottom of the table, Bilic’s squad will now head to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday seeking to build on a deserved Monday night triumph.
“It is the perfect birthday present,” he said. “I am very pleased with the way we dealt with the difficult situation that was created. After three defeats your confidence is a bit down and all that, but the lads did everything we asked from them.
“We had a gameplan and from the first moment we were on the front foot and we were really closing them down. We were really dominant and we created a couple of big chances and, more than that, we stopped them from creating anything.
“There were a lot of things happening in their box, so it gave us a boost for the second half to continue like this and we got the reward. We were a little bit lucky for the first goal but overall we deserved the three points.”
After three defeats your confidence is a bit down and all that, but the lads did everything we asked from them
Bilic rightly hailed what was by far his team’s most complete display of a hitherto difficult campaign, which was highlighted by a high-tempo pressing game that restricted Huddersfield for long periods
“Even if we didn’t win this game, I would have been very pleased with the performance because we did everything,” the manager observed.
“To be fair, when we played really good and were dominant in the first half, we didn’t score. Then, when we did score it was at a time when we had lost the momentum a little bit. That goal was at a crucial time for us and gave us a boost and brought us back into a confident zone.
“We scored the second one and after that we never really stopped and we thoroughly deserved it.”
While Bilic was rightly proud of his team, some home fans were unhappy with his decision to replace Chicharito with around 25 minutes to go. However, the manager revealed that the Mexican was tiring after his recent international exertions and rightly felt Ayew would make an impact off the bench.
“Sometimes you have to take a chance as a manager. Chicharito had a good game, he had a chance and he was running and doing everything for the team but also, on the bench, we had a few players like Ayew and Sakho who are really capable.
“It was after 65 or 70 minutes when I noticed that Chicharito was a little bit getting tired making those longer runs after he had been away in Mexico, so it was a perfect time for Andre to come on.
“It wasn’t because Chicharito didn’t have a good game, but simply because it was a good time to get fresh legs on the pitch, and we are talking about Ayew, who can always scores goals and he scored again tonight.”
The last word was saved for the returning Andy Carroll, who produced a typically all-action performance up front.
The No9 kept the Huddersfield back four occupied throughout his 82 minutes on the pitch and won 13 aerial duels – more than any Premier League player in a single game so far this season.
“Andy was excellent,” Bilic confirmed. “You know what he will bring on the pitch, not only winning balls in the air or playing some good football or being a threat in the box, but he is also setting that level of tempo, he’s giving the team intensity on the pitch and leading and calling everyone to join him.
“He’s always an option and especially when you have players like Antonio and Chicharito who can run in behind, it’s great to have him in the team.
“He has come back and played after a long break. He is fit now and now hopefully he will stay fit for the whole season.”