|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
Adama Traoré adds sprinkling of magic as Wolves leave West Ham deep in mire
Barney Ronay at the London Stadium
Date Published Sat 20 Jun 2020 20.57 BST
It took Adama Traoré seven minutes to flick the switch on this half-speed game, to create the incisions that set up a 2-0 victory for Wolves, and to confirm that West Ham face a relegation-haunted mid-summer.
Football’s return has been fraught with oddities and new protocols. But here some certainties returned. West Ham looked like a team short of speed and devil. The London Stadium felt like a vast empty plastic flying saucer upended in the middle of a dystopian urban park. And Traoré appeared to be playing a different game at a different shutter speed to everyone else.
Wolves’ prized right-winger entered the pitch as a substitute on 64 minutes, with the score 0-0 and the game to that point a mess of trapped energy and sideways passing, football played through a blurry lens.
A fresh Traoré looked an understandably daunting prospect for a leg-weary West Ham left flank, and so it proved to be. Traoré’s first touch saw him slalom away from two defenders, a man completely in control of his movements and the space around him. His second saw him pick out Raúl Jiménez with a perfect right footed cross, released at high speed with a lovely dip and curl. Jiménez buried the header, his 23rd goal of the season.
Ten minutes later Traoré was involved again, producing a lovely little shift of feet and feeding Matt Doherty on the right. His cross was spanked with fearsome power past Lukasz Fabianski by Pedro Neto on the volley. West Ham had tried to raise their tempo between the goals, but only looked more vulnerable as space opened up behind the thin claret lines.
Victory for Wolves shunts them up the table to fifth spot. They are now level with Manchester United on points, and look formidably placed, with a lean squad well-rested after the break. An eighth home defeat left West Ham looking anxiously at Bournemouth’s evening kick-off to see if they would end the day in the bottom three after a sequence of one win in their last 10 games. There is a well-worn name for this kind of run; and it’s not “staying up form”.
David Moyes’s team missed the attacking presence of Sébastien Haller, a scorer in both lockdown friendlies, but injured here. They missed Declan Rice in midfield as he covered the vacancy left by Angelo Ogbonna at the back. But this is a team lacking speed, mobility and any real edge.
At least the London Stadium handled its own return to action with commendable efficiency. The endless walkways and hangar-like interior seem well suited to social distancing. The match-day staff were impressively drilled. There were flags in the Billy Bonds stand and the usual musical treats. But at kick-off the London Stadium was still an eerie place, its huge empty spaces echoing with shouts and yelps, the entire occasion weirdly plasticised and synthetic: some sense of normality there, at least, for the home players.
Mark Noble led the West Ham midfield’s attempts to shut down Wolves’ counterattacking game, that “express train” style that looked ominously well-suited to an evening stroll in those wide open spaces.
In the event this wasn’t an issue in the opening minutes as West Ham barely had a kick, instead dropping deep as João Moutinho and Rúben Neves dominated the midfield and Wolves forced a series of corners.
West Ham began to play a little, too. Michail Antonio made some fine runs down the right flank and it was Pablo Fornals who had the first real chance on 13 minutes, running on to Noble’s cute long pass and punting the bouncing ball on to the plastic tarpaulins behind the goal.
Otherwise it was a lukewarm first half, with plenty of effort but an absence of any kind of edge. A slow-burn game in a deserted Olympic bowl, played out in an empty concrete park just along from a semi-deserted shopping labyrinth: at times it was hard to imagine a more definitely lockdown-football spectacle.
Daily Mail: MATCH FACTS AND LEAGUE TABLE
West Ham: Fabianski , Ngakia (Fredericks 82), Rice, Diop, Cresswell, Noble, Soucek, Antonio, Fornals (Yarmolenko 81), Anderson (Lanzini 66), Bowen
Subs Not Used: Alderweireld, Balbuena, Wilshere, Ajeti, Silva, Randolph, Johnson.
Wolves de Gea 4.5, Patricio, Saiss, Coady, Boly, Doherty, Dendoncker (Traore 64) , Neves, Moutinho, Castro, Jimenez (Gibbs-White 90), Jota (Neto 64)
Subs Not Used: Jordao, Podence, Ruddy, Vinagre, Kilman, Buuur
Goals: Raul Jimenez 73, Neto 84.
Ref: Anthony Taylor