Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-3 West Ham United
West Ham United returned from the international break with victory in a five-goal thriller at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Just as against Arsenal in the last game before the Premier League’s March hiatus, the Hammers roared out of the blocks and flew into a 3-0 first half lead with a display of breathtaking, incisive, counter-attacking football.
Jesse Lingard was at the heart of their threat, scoring a superb solo opener with six minutes on the clock, before having a hand in both Pablo Fornals and Jarrod Bowen’s goals that followed.
Then, just as against Arsenal, the opposition came back into the contest, Leander Dendoncker and Fábio Silva notching either side of the break for Wolves to send Hammers nerves fluttering.
But this time they were able to solidify behind their shrinking lead and get over the line to claim three valuable points in their quest to maintain their challenge at the top end of the table.
The game was open and entertaining from the off, with Willian José and Michail Antonio exchanging chances even before Lingard fired the Hammers into a sixth minute lead.
The Brazilian was off target with his early sight of goal for the hosts, firing wide of the left-hand post after controlling neatly and swivelling to face Łukasz Fabiański after being fed by Daniel Podence.
Antonio went even closer immediately at the other end, brushing past Dendoncker in midfield and making his way towards the edge of the box. His fierce shot was curling away from Rui Patricio in the home goal, but he got enough of a touch to tip the ball onto the post.
It was hardly surprising, then, that the opening goal arrived so quickly. Wolves could do nothing to halt Lingard as he took off from halfway and carved a path to goal. Antonio’s decoy run gave him the space to speed away from Romain Saïss and dink over Patricio as he came off his line. It was a quite brilliant solo goal.
Eight minutes later it was 2-0. Lingard was involved again, beating Nelson Semedo to the punch by the left corner flag to keep the ball alive for Arthur Masuaku. He crossed low to Fornals, who opened his right foot perfectly to direct the ball into the far corner.
Wolves were looking a threat when they came forward themselves, and Podence clipped the top of the crossbar with a looping header as they tried to haul themselves back into the contest on 21 minutes.
Instead, it was West Ham who would go on to score the next goal. Antonio, who looked so threatening in the opening half-hour, was forced out of the action, but his replacement made an instant impact, scoring just two minutes after coming on.
The irrepressible Lingard was at the heart of the move once more, picking up possession inside his own half, and seeing off the attentions of a swarm of home players to thread a pass through to Bowen, who struck first time from 15 yards, firing past Patricio at his near-post with a pinpoint finish.
West Ham were tearing Wolves apart for a second time this season, but Nuno Espirito Santo’s side gave themselves hope a minute before the break thanks to Dendoncker’s header.
The goal owed much to Adama Traoré’s incisive run down the left-flank and he forged a path down to the by-line and stood up a perfect cross for the Belgium midfielder to attack with an unstoppable header.
The Hammers thought for a moment that Tomáš Souček had restored the three-goal cushion on 59 minutes when he bundled home after Patricio parried Bowen’s low drive, but Semedo’s touch bounced up off Souček’s arm before he knocked into the net.
Nine minutes later, their position of relative comfort had become distinctly more edgy. Half-time sub Silva was the man who got his side right back into the contest, finishing with precision across Łukasz Fabiański after Pedro Neto’s clipped pass over the top had given him the chance to get in behind in the right-hand channel.
On came Ben Johnson and Saïd Benrahma from the bench as the visitors looked to see it through, and to their credit they did a decent job of drawing the home team’s sting in the closing stages, making sure there would not be a repeat of the 3-3 draw with Arsenal two weeks previously.
After seeing out four minutes of added time, they were able to celebrate a vital three points, which took them back into the division’s top four with eight games to go.
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Patricio, Semedo, Coady, Saïss, Aït-Nouri (Hoever 90), Dendoncker, Neves, Neto, Podence (Silva 46), Traoré, Willian José (Vitinha 72)
Subs: Ruddy (GK), Gibbs-White, Kilman, Otasowie, Marques, Richards
Goals: Dendoncker 44, Silva 68
West Ham United: Fabiański, Coufal, Diop, Dawson, Cresswell, Noble, Souček, Fornals (Benrahma 78), Lingard, Masuaku (Johnson 67), Antonio (Bowen 36)
Subs: Martin (GK), Trott (GK), Fredericks, Balbuena, Alves, Odubeko
Goals: Lingard 6, Fornals 14, Bowen 38
Booked: Dawson, Diop, Souček, Lingard
Referee: Michael Oliver