Hammers Make Happy Return To Stratford
By Tom Dowsett
Tuesday 12 Sep 2017 15:45:00
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West Ham United are up and running in the Premier League after a 2-0 victory over newly-promoted Huddersfield Town on Monday night in the first game since their home was transformed back to football mode after the World Athletics Championships.

Slaven Bilic made five changes to the side that lost a third straight Premier League encounter at Newcastle United before the international break, as Winston Reid made a timely recovery from a calf strain to replace Angelo Ogbonna and take the captaincy from Mark Noble, who had picked up a minor injury in training. José Fonte was preferred to Declan Rice who dropped to the bench.

Edimilson Fernandes sustained an ankle injury while on international duty with Switzerland and was replaced with Cheikhou Kouyaté.

Andy Carroll also returned to the squad after a long-term calf injury sustained in the draw away at Sunderland back in April and partnered summer signing Javier Hernandez upfront. Joe Hart and Pablo Zabaleta also made their home debuts, while Pedro Obiang also came in as Bilic went with three at the back.

It was reported prior to the game that André Ayew would miss out but luckily for the Irons, he was fit enough to make the bench.

West Ham kicked off their first campaign in their new home with a win and after three league defeats on the road already this season, they were desperate to repeat the feat.

They almost made the perfect start with just a minute gone and the "big man" showed the home faithful how vital he can be. His tantalising ball into the danger zone just eluded a stretching Kouyaté who was unable to finish the move off.

The club wanted to add quality to the squad in the summer and with the signing of Hernandez, they clearly made a statement of intent. He had scored the only two goals in West Ham's season and was desperate to grab another on his home debut.

He was inches away from making that happen but instead, his effort hit the crossbar from close range after he'd latched onto a superb ball.

They kept up the pressure as minutes later, James Collins almost broke the deadlock as he was on the end of a well worked set-piece.

There was just no stopping the hosts as their domination continued. First, Aaron Cresswell saw his freekick go narrowly wide. Then Michail Antonio had an attempt well blocked by the Terriers defence as the Hammers continued to pile forward.

Considering Huddersfield's great start to the season, West Ham made them look extremely ordinary, as their one great chance to grab the advantage was well dealt with by Collins.

At half-time, the home faithful were able to reflect on what was a dominant performance and they wanted more of the same when the action recommenced.

The team clearly wanted that too, as they continued to orchestrate matters in the second-half.

They were awarded a freekick in the opening seconds but unfortunately, it wasn't going to trouble Jonas Lössl, as it went well over.

On 65 minutes, Bilic decided to rest Hernandez and bring on Ayew as his first change.

The home side's superiority clearly deserved a goal and just seven minutes later, David Wagner's side, who had not yet conceded a goal, did so in comical fashion.

Ayew played the ball into Obiang's path and the East Londoners benefited from a huge slice of luck, as his effort took a big deflection on its way past Lössl, bringing both joy and relief to an expectant home crowd.

They were even more relieved just five minutes later, as Ayew stabbed in the second after Creswell's corner wasn't properly cleared by the visiting defence.

With the points seemingly safe, the Irons' boss made another change, replacing Carroll with Diafra Sakho. A minority of home supporters booed the Frenchman's entrance, as they were appalled by the fact that the striker was allegedly arranging a move back to France on deadline day, as reports had emerged that he passed a medical with Rennes without West Ham's permission.

Time was running out for the visitors and it was clear that it was not going to be their day when Tom Ince's effort hit the bar in the closing stages.

Four minutes of stoppage time were added and deep into that a final change was made as Obiang was replaced by Rice.

The final whistle blew and Bilic could celebrate a much-needed three points on his 49th birthday.

Now he will be hoping they build on that by making it six points from six when they make the trip to The Hawthorns to face West Bromwich Albion on Saturday afternoon.

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