West Ham boss David Moyes said the video assistant referee is making “terrible decisions” in the Premier League, despite seeing his side fight back to beat Leeds and move up to fifth.
Leeds had gone in front when Mateusz Klich converted a twice-taken sixth-minute penalty, with VAR ordering the retake after ruling keeper Lukasz Fabianski had stepped off his goalline.
However, the visitors – who had won just once on the previous 26 occasions when they had conceded first in a Premier League game – levelled when Illan Meslier failed to stop Tomas Soucek’s soft header and won it with 10 minutes to go through Angelo Ogbonna’s header.
“There are some terrible decisions that are happening at the moment,” Moyes said.
“Whoever saw it must have had [Fabianski’s foot] X-rayed. The decision was rubbish.
“It was a definite penalty. I was angry. I am still angry. This is the way football has gone.
“I think his heel is on the line. You need to have a microscope to see it. Surely the benefit should go to the goalkeeper, he has made the save. The game continued for 15 seconds and carried on. I am disappointed and angry with it.”
In an entertaining game where both sides created numerous chances, Meslier atoned for his error in the equaliser when he superbly kept out a second-half header from Fabian Balbuena an saved Sebastien Haller’s overhead kick.
After Ogbonna rose at the far post to power home Aaron Creswell’s inviting free-kick for what proved the winner, Leeds wasted their best chance to level when Rodrigo headed straight at Lukasz Fabianski from six yards.
While the Hammers – who registered their first victory at Elland Road in 20 years – have now won four games out of five and seem destined for a good season under manager David Moyes, Leeds continue to flatter to deceive, having now collected eight points from the past nine games and just one from their past four on home soil.
Although their adventurous approach is admirable, they keep getting caught out by wise opposition and have conceded seven goals from set-pieces this season, the joint highest in the league with Leicester City.
“No mysteries to the things we have to do,” said Bielsa.
“The set-pieces can be perfected by continuously training, to reproduce what happens in the game in training sessions. We will continue insisting on this until we solve the problem.”
VAR makes its mark again
It seems a long time ago now when debate raged over the introduction of video technology into football and one of the arguments against it was that there would be nothing left to talk about.
Fabianski and Hammers skipper Declan Rice had plenty to talk about with referee Michael Oliver as they railed against the decision to let Klich have a second go at beating his Poland team-mate.
In fairness, goalkeepers on their line at penalties is one of those matter-of-fact calls at which the video assistant referee should excel. Fabianski was – marginally – off his line when Klich stepped up the first time and never went back.
In that sense, VAR Jarred Gillett got it right.
The issue here was how long it took. From the initial spot-kick being awarded to the second one being despatched, four minutes elapsed. Yet the total stoppage-time at the end of that opening period was only two minutes.
Little did they know it at the time but it was to mark the high point of Leeds’ night.
While the table still shows a fairly sizeable gap to the group of four teams in the thick of the relegation fight, Christmas games against Burnley and West Brom need to be won if Leeds are not to end up in trouble.
Rice edges England battle
Even though Elland Road is his local Premier League ground, England boss Gareth Southgate gave this game a miss.
It was a shame really because he would have seen two of his less heralded potential Euro 2020 candidates facing each other.
Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips were rarely in the same area so it could not be termed a head-to-head battle but it was interesting to see how both went about the defensive screening role they were asked to fulfil.
As the West Ham formation was less fluid and Phillips’ role in the Leeds side was clear, it was easier to watch the Yorkshireman go about his work as he tried to shut down Said Benrahma on his first start for the Hammers.
Given the amount of time he had the ball and the fact Phillips got tighter to him after half-time, the assumption would be that Marcelo Bielsa wasn’t entirely happy with the opening period.
He did rob Haller in the centre of the pitch to launch one attack and embarked on a 30-yard dash to pressurise Ogbonna close to the Hammers box. But it wasn’t until the midway point of the second half, when he got forward far enough to send a shot at the Hammers goal which was probably going wide before Fabianski pushed it away for a corner, that Phillips was anything like an offensive threat.
At one West Ham throw-in, Phillips was the deepest defender, almost like a quarterback lining up a pass – but without having the ball.
In contrast, Rice had more opportunity to get forward as he had the insurance of Soucek alongside him. There was also more cover in defence, which meant Rice had greater opportunity to use his excellent passing range.
It is clear Rice’s unfussy approach is well suited to life at the top end of the Premier League but Moyes must hope his captain hangs around for a bit because the Scot has built a very effective team, very much in the mould of the one he created at Everton.
Jose Mourinho has already likened Soucek to Marouane Fellaini. If so, then Cresswell’s set-piece delivery is akin to that of another stalwart of Moyes’ Goodison Park era, Leighton Baines.
His free-kick to the far post screamed for someone to get on the end of it. Ogbonna obliged with his first Premier League goal away from London Stadium in three years.
Leeds’ next game is also at Elland Road, against Newcastle on Wednesday (18:00 GMT). West Ham entertain Crystal Palace in a London derby on the same night (20:00).
Home discomforts for Leeds – the stats
- Leeds have lost both of their past two league games despite scoring the first goal in each; it’s the first time they have lost despite opening the scoring in back-to-back Premier League games.
- West Ham have earned 20 points from their 12 league games this season (W6 D2 L4); only in 2015-16 have they hit the 20-point mark sooner in a Premier League campaign (10 games).
- Leeds suffered their third defeat in six home Premier League games this season (W1 D2), as many as they suffered in 23 Championship matches at Elland Road in the entirety of 2019-20 (W15 D5 L3).
- No side has scored more set-piece goals (excluding penalties) than West Ham United (eight, level with Chelsea) in this season’s Premier League, while no side has conceded more from such situations than Leeds United (seven, level with Leicester City).
- West Ham boss David Moyes has won four of his five Premier League matches against Leeds (D1); he has faced the Whites more without suffering defeat than any other opponent in the competition, while his 80% win ratio against them is his highest of all sides he has faced at least four times in the division.
- Mateusz Klich has scored Leeds’ past three league penalties; the Whites had only scored three of their previous eight such penalties before this.
- Since his Premier League debut in February, only Harry Kane and Dominic Calvert-Lewin (both four) have more headed goals in the competition than West Ham’s Tomas Soucek (three). Four of his six goals in the division have come from corners.
- All six of Angelo Ogbonna’s Premier League goals for West Ham have been from set-plays (five corners, one free-kick).
West Ham United
- 10AlioskiBooked at 33minsSubstituted forShackletonat 45′minutes
- 18Dias Belloli
- 22HarrisonSubstituted forHélder Costaat 45′minutes
- 9BamfordSubstituted forRobertsat 74′minutes
- 17Hélder Costa
- 1FabianskiBooked at 3mins
- 20BowenSubstituted forJohnsonat 85′minutes
- 9BenrahmaSubstituted forNobleat 84′minutesBooked at 90mins
- 18FornalsSubstituted forSnodgrassat 90+5′minutes
- Michael Oliver
Match ends, Leeds United 1, West Ham United 2.
Second Half ends, Leeds United 1, West Ham United 2.
Substitution, West Ham United. Robert Snodgrass replaces Pablo Fornals.
Foul by Raphinha (Leeds United).
Tomas Soucek (West Ham United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Leeds United. Conceded by Tomas Soucek.
Mark Noble (West Ham United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Tyler Roberts (Leeds United) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Mark Noble (West Ham United).
Attempt saved. Rodrigo (Leeds United) header from very close range is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Luke Ayling with a cross.
Corner, Leeds United. Conceded by Vladimir Coufal.
Fabián Balbuena (West Ham United) hits the left post with a header from the right side of the box. Assisted by Angelo Ogbonna with a cross.
Corner, West Ham United. Conceded by Illan Meslier.
Attempt saved. Sébastien Haller (West Ham United) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Substitution, West Ham United. Ben Johnson replaces Jarrod Bowen.
Offside, Leeds United. Liam Cooper tries a through ball, but Tyler Roberts is caught offside.
Substitution, West Ham United. Mark Noble replaces Saïd Benrahma.
Luke Ayling (Leeds United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Sébastien Haller (West Ham United).
Foul by Liam Cooper (Leeds United).