The 2-2 draw ended West Ham’s turgid five-game losing streak against Leeds at Elland Road, where Rodrigo Moreno’s equalizer denied a three-point improvement from Hammers that could have really eased the pressure on David Moyes under fire.
With his team now down to just one goal outside the relegation zone, the result may not help Moyes’ predicament but, perhaps just as importantly, may make it worse. not be either.
His side showed a previously absent resilience as they fought back after a goal through the efforts of Lucas Paqueta and Gianluca Scamacca to lead the hosts, only to be caught by Rodrigo’s strike with 20 minutes remaining.
Ahead of kick-off, tributes were paid to Hammers co-chairman, co-owner and lifelong fan David Gold, who died aged 86 earlier today.
Moyes, in search by his own admission of an elusive magic spell, made four changes to the side that started the 2-0 loss to Brentford and moved to a four-man defence.
Thilo Kehrer, a surprising experience at left-back, has been subject to a howl in every game or two so far in his Hammers career and delivered it early, playing Rodrigo effectively on the visiting goal in two minutes, only to be bailed out by a superb last-ditch tackle from Nayef Aguerd, with the Moroccan finally making his first Premier League start some six months after signing from Rennes.
Kehrer endured a scorching evening, the only surprise coming when he reappeared for the second half, but hardly anyone in burgundy and blue could be excused for Leeds’ opener, which came in the 27th minute and with surprisingly easy.
West Ham, having twice conceded throw-ins against Brentford just days ago, saw the same weakness revealed as Brendan Aaronson came inside for Wilfried Gnonto, who was cleared to exchange passes with Crysencio Summerville before returning home. The simpler one-two had allowed the visitors to open up the middle of the field, with half a dozen redundant defenders on fire as Gnonto found space to score.
It had been an even match up until then, but West Ham have recently made a habit of conceding even when well on top. Looking the other way, they watched a team devoid of identity, their forward play devoid of any discernible structure and dependent on Paqueta’s odd moment of trickery or an opposition error. Indeed, the Irons’ best chance of the opening 40 minutes came from 50 yards out, when Vladimir Coufal curled onto the roof of the net after Islan Meslier ran to meet Jarrod Bowen and cleared straight to the Czech.
Pablo Fornals was then guilty of fending off a better one, somehow, with a side foot from ten yards out after Paqueta pushed the ball in his direction. Moyes was on the pitch, arms outstretched and screaming his frustrations but, ultimately, not with the Spaniard. Bowen had been too quick for Robin Koch earlier in the move and to Moyes’ delight – and Fornals’ relief – a VAR check gave Paqueta the chance to equalize just before the break.
The Brazilian, the fifth West Ham player to win already this season, had to wait an age to take it and then took that long to get to the ball, stuttering and shoving his way through what was a run-up in name only, before cleverly lifting past Meslier’s dive.
Scamacca, meanwhile, had again been a peripheral figure. Moyes had spoken before the game about the Italian needing to enter the box more regularly, but often when he did here he was alone, watching cut crosses sail overhead towards an area of rear position vacant.
But when his chance came – half of one, in fact – the striker took it with flying colors, holding back Marc Roca to allow Aaronson’s loose pass to roll over his body before folding back to the inside the post from the edge of the D .
The spirit that West Ham has been missing of late suddenly seemed to return, a late Summerville tackle on Coufal in front of the dugout clearing the outside bench in baseball style.
The home crowd had been briefly turned by the double concession either side of half-time, but the scuffle brought them to order and Leeds were soon back on their terms, substitute Jack Harrison feeding Rodrigo, who floated across the box and fired past Lukasz Fabianski with questions about closing Declan Rice.
The timing of the goal promised a chaotic final. Jesse Marsch was warned as the temperature rose. A captain, Rice, shot wide on the volley, then wider on the deck. The other, Liam Cooper, had his header blocked on the line by substitute Michail Antonio, then bumped on the rebound and skimmed it.
Deep into five minutes of stoppage time there were more chances at either end, Said Benrahma’s cross just beyond Antonio’s reach and then Rodrigo denied a winner by the sensational reaction of Fabiansky.