West Ham won 2-0 against Wolves with Gianluca Scamacca and Jarrod Bowen both finding the net as Bruno Lage admitted his team are “under pressure”.
Scamacca scored his first Premier League goal courtesy of a rifled volley from 20 yards to give the hosts the lead after a nervy start.
Bowen hadn’t fired in his last eight Premier League appearances but reminded onlookers of his ability with a smart finish to take the game away from Wolves.
This was just the third Premier League win for the Hammers in their last 14 games.
Despite a promising display from Diego Costa from the bench, it was the same old problems in attack for Wolves as their tally of just three goals this season is the lowest in the top four divisions of English football. Chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” rang from the away end when Bruno Lage made some late substitutions at 2-0 down as his team rarely looked like scoring from their 15 shots on goal.
Lage told Sky Sports: “I can say we are a different team when we have a striker. We don’t have luck with Sasa Kalajdzic and we need to solve it now with Diego. He can play 35 minutes today. I think he can play at a good level.
“We’re under pressure.”
West Ham: Fabianksi (7), Dawson (7), Kehrer (7), Cresswell (7), Zouma (7), Soucek (7), Rice (7), Bowen (8), Paqueta (7), Cornet (6), Scamacca (8)
Subs: Antonio (7), Fornals (7)
Wolves: Sa (6), Jonny (6), Semedo (6), Kilman (7), Ait-Nouri (6), Moutinho (6), Nunes (6), Neves (6), Neto (6), Guedes (6), Podence (6)
Subs: Costa (7), A.Traore (7), B.Traore (6), Campbell (7)
Man of the match: Scamacca
How Bowen hit the bullseye…
The atmosphere felt a little nervy at the London Stadium in the opening exchanges with Moyes’ side winless at home in the last six matches. Wolves sensed this and started quite brightly with Daniel Podence and Jonny testing Lukasz Fabianski from range inside the opening 10 minutes.
- Gianluca Scamacca, Lucas Paquetá, and Maxwel Cornet – all big money buys over the summer – played across David Moyes’ forward line. Craig Dawson returned to partner Kurt Zouma at the heart of West Ham’s defence.
- Diego Costa was only fit enough for the bench for Wolves as Bruno Lage revamped his back line without the suspended Nathan Collins by playing Ruben Neves as part of his back three.
However, despite all their pretty possession, Wolves rarely had the required guile or ruthless streak around the box to seriously put West Ham under significant pressure. That wasn’t the case for the hosts, who attacked with great power, gusto and quality through Bowen’s pace and Scamacca’s clever movement.
When the goal came on 29 minutes it wasn’t a surprise it involved both of those two players. Bowen tricked his way into the box before being ushered away by the impressive Max Kilman but the loose ball was seized upon by Scamacca and he buried a deadly finish into the top corner from 20 yards. The £35.5m signing is off and running in the Premier League.
Wolves continued to lack any real intent in their play, perhaps not helped by Lage’s decision to play midfield maestro Ruben Neves as a makeshift centre-back in the absence of the suspended Nathan Collins. West Ham always looked a threat when breaking up the visitors’ possession game and Bowen came to the party for the first time this season on 54 minutes.
There was a stroke of fortune to it after some nice build-up, with Kilman’s interception dropping Bowen’s way but his finish was explosive, finding the corner of the net and taking Jose Sa by surprise with a snappy low strike.
FPL stats: West Ham vs Wolves
Lage called for Costa on 60 minutes. But having been without a club since January, when he left Brazilian club Atletico Mineiro by mutual consent, Costa did look a little rusty but his influence certainly helped Wolves cause more of a threat with Adama Traore finding more space.
Wolves’ best moment came from a Traore cross and a Costa header but the finish was sent inches wide of the post to deny the former Chelsea star a debut goal. It was a rare moment of worry for a West Ham backline that hardly broke a sweat.
Moyes: Scamacca gives us different option
David Moyes speaking to Sky Sports:
“I thought he done really well. Folk have been saying ‘why aren’t you playing him’ but we’ve wanted to. He’s just needed to get a level of fitness for the Premier League. He led the line well and his goal was well struck. He’s different to what we’ve had before. We’re really pleased with him.
“I believe we’ve signed some really good players and I believe they’ll come good. We felt like we ran out of gas in about January and February last year. We needed better quality and we now need to give that quality the chance to come through.”
Lage admits Wolves are under pressure
Bruno Lage speaking to Sky Sports:
“In the first 30 minutes we controlled the game. We controlled the game with the ball. In the first 30 minutes we had three good chances.
“In the second half we tried to bring more energy and be more aggressive in the final third. I don’t have doubts we are a different team with a striker in front of us. We had good chances. Diego Costa had good chances.
“For the chances we had and West Ham had, we don’t deserve that [to lose]. But it happened and we need to move on.
“Lukasz Fabianski did a fantastic job today. Good saves. We’re doing that. We need to work. I can say we are a different team when we have a striker. We don’t have luck with Sasa Kalajdzic and we need to solve it now with Diego. He can play 35 minutes today. I think he can play at a good level.
“We’re under pressure.”
Analysis: Bruno Lage – brave or stupid?
Sky Sports’ Lewis Jones:
In times when the pressure is on, it takes a brave manager to make a radical change to the structure of a team.
Bruno Lage’s decision to play midfield maestro Ruben Neves – a player who is arguably the best in his position outside the ‘big six’ clubs – as a centre-back in the 2-0 defeat to West Ham certainly was a brave one. Lage probably dreamt of Neves spraying passes from deep, setting up devastating attacks in an away win where he’d be heralded as a tactical genius.
In the end, playing your best player out of position was rather stupid.
Wolves are a tedious watch at the best of times but without Neves pulling the strings this was a new low of boredom.
Of course, Neves had the class and natural ability not to look out of place in the heart of the Wolves defence but an early booking – his fifth of the season – for a late challenge on Jarrod Bowen didn’t help his cause – he now misses the next game against Chelsea. This means the Wolves midfield will be without his ability to dictate a game yet again. It was sorely missed in east London. And that was the fault of a manager, who now is under massive pressure.
England squad watch
This was a timely performance from Bowen, who caught the eye and looked like a player with a point to prove. Gareth Southgate selected him for the latest England squad but Bowen failed to feature and wasn’t even in the matchday squad for the 3-3 draw with Germany. He is fighting it out with the likes of Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho to claim a spot in Southgate’s 26-man squad in Qatar and more performances like this will help his cause.
Declan Rice picked up a booking for a lunge on Joao Moutinho but apart from that he was his usual solid and thrusting self in the heart of the West Ham midfield. And, although it’s probably too late for Max Kilman to make a late surge for the squad, the Wolves defender impressed playing down the left of a back three up against a dangerous attack. He will surely be an England international at some point over the next year.
Opta stats – Winless Wolves
- Wolves are winless in eight Premier League away games (D2 L6), last having a longer run without a win on the road in the top-flight since a run of 10 between August 2011 and January 2012.
- Wolves have scored just three goals after eight Premier League games this season, their joint-worst return at this stage of a top-flight campaign (also three in 2003-04, when they were relegated).
- 18 of Jarrod Bowen’s 22 Premier League goals for West Ham have come in home games (82%) – of all players to have scored at least 20 times in the competition, only Georginio Wijnaldum (85%) and Michael Carrick (83%) have scored a higher share in home games than Bowen.
- Wolves had eight different Portuguese players in their starting lineup – it’s the most different starters from a specific nation outside of England any team has had in a Premier League match.
West Ham travel to Anderlecht in the Europa Conference League on Thursday at 5.45pm. Wolves travel to Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday at 3pm before West Ham’s next Premier League game is at home to Fulham on Sunday at 2pm.