David Moyes’ West Ham knew that they would return to the top of the Premier League with a win over Luton Town at Kenilworth Road, though Mohammed Kudus would have to wait for his first league start after being named on the Hammers’ bench.
LUT: Kaminski; Giles, Bell, Andersen, Burke, Doughty; Barkley, Nakamba, Chong; Morris, Adebayo.
WHU: Areola; Emerson, Aguerd, Zouma, Coufal; Benrahma, Ward-Prowse, Paqueta, Alvarez, Bowen; Antonio.
Luton Town came into this fixture against West Ham with a form guide that was almost perfectly inverted – Luton had lost to both Brighton and Chelsea, while West Ham had beat both of those sides. With that said, the opening exchanges barely reflected this in front of boisterous crowd.
The Hatters’ chances mainly came from directness and Rob Edwards’ side saw missed half-chances from a number of corners. West Ham’s rear guard stood firm, even when Alphonse Areola dropped the ball on 14 minutes. Pressure continued as Carlton Morris, and then Mads Andersen, caused trouble for the Irons with respective headers. Yet, guided by the likes of Said Benrahma, Jarrod Bowen and Lucas Paqueta, Moyes’ attack slowly spluttered into life.
On 26 minutes, Bowen presented a first serious warning for Luton. He brought the ball down on the edge of Town’s area but his low volley whizzed wide of the right post. West Ham furthered their momentum with an Edson Alvarez effort ten minutes later. The bodies flew and it was blocked, but here the away side reset with lethal effect. Lucas Paqueta had too much space and in a split second was able to float in a perfect early cross for an onrushing Bowen. The winger darted in to head past Thomas Kaminski, who could’ve debatably done better.
The second period nearly saw West Ham run away with things. Just six minutes it, Emerson Palmieri looked to have scored. Following a ball from the left, Michail Antonio played it back out. Emerson drove past Kaminski – yet as the away fans erupted, Antonio was ruled offside.
After this, it was to be West Ham hearts racing as Luton came close. A hopeful Marvelous Nakamba cross confused both Nayef Aguerd and Areola with Elijah Adebayo was lingering at the back post – yet amidst a crowded scuffle, he fluffed his lines.
Up at the other end, Michail Antonio was physical in holding off two defenders. He passed off for Bowen, yet his attempt to square the ball was smothered by Reece Burke. Both sides brought the changes on the 70 minute mark and sparked the start of a tensely even ten minutes. It was very much a battle that saw the Hammers in the ascendency, yet one where another goal would’ve been a much needed comfort.
On 85 minutes, that comfort would ultimately arrive. James Ward-Prowse lasered in a delightful corner delivery from the right and Kurt Zouma rose highest to dispatch his header coolly to all but cement West Ham’s place at the top of the Premier League.
Stop, there’s more. In typical script-defying fashion, Luton got one back. It was the essence of route one football, with a ball from the back finding Carlton Morris. He provided a cushioned header which Mads Andersen latched on to, finding the left corner two minutes into stoppage time. They couldn’t get another could they?
Well, with officials standing firm in the face of a James Ward-Prowse handball, the answer was to be no. West Ham held out, regardless of contentious moments. For Luton, it’s back to the drawing board before a trip to Fulham, while West Ham look forward to the visit of Manchester City.