VAR Wins the Day for Blades
By Tom Dowsett
Saturday 11 Jan 2020 12:29:00
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West Ham United thought they would be taking a point away from Bramall Lane on Friday night, only to see it snatched away by a VAR decision meaning it is a first defeat for David Moyes since being back at the club, as they were beaten 1-0 by newly-promoted Sheffield United.

Mark Noble and Aaron Cresswell returned to the side after missing the trip to Gillingham in the FA Cup, while Pablo Fornals and Issa Diop dropped to the bench. With the news having been confirmed on Monday that Ryan Fredericks will be out of action for up to six weeks with a hamstring injury, Pablo Zabaleta replaced him in defence.

Moyes was short of experienced options for the bench so, having watched the Development Squad's match against Manchester United on Monday night, he promoted youngsters Gonçalo Cardoso, as well as Bernardo Rosa and Jeremy Ngakia.

Results have definitely been better on the road for the Hammers this season than at home but they knew they were in for a difficult match, given that the hosts were keen to atone for their recent defeats to both Manchester City and Liverpool.

The visitors had started the game on top but they were dealt a major blow with only fifteen minutes gone when goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski suffered a re-occurrence of the hip injury that has kept him out for large parts of the campaign. After only returning to action in the club's 2-1 home defeat to Leicester City on 28 December, he was forced off once again and David Martin was on in his place.

The Blades went close to going in front through John Lundstram's effort from close range but thankfully for the travelling support, it was blocked by Fabián Balbuena.

The blow of losing Fabianski early on clearly affected the East Londoners, as they were never really able to re-establish their rhythm but having said that, Chris Wilder's team weren't at their best either.

West Ham had a great chance to grab the advantage before the break when John Egan missed the chance to head clear from Martin's goal-kick, meaning the ball dropped to Felipe Anderson. The Brazilian has shown real signs of improvement since Moyes replaced Manuel Pellegrini and the creative midfielder ran into the box but unfortunately, he was unable to keep his composure and beat goalkeeper Dean Henderson.

With the scores remaining level at half-time, Moyes would have been the happier of the two managers, as Wilder sent his team out early for the restart.

Whatever the former Oxford United and Northampton Town boss said to his team during the break must have worked because the home side re-emerged from the dressing rooms looking more like they were up for the fight. John Fleck registered the first shot on target in the game from either side but he saw his second attempt go inches wide after the initial effort was blocked by a combination of Balbuena and Zabaleta.

The Irons had kept two clean sheets coming into this one but, after a terrible mistake from Balbuena, that run had come to an end. The Paraguayan defender was completely caught out by Martin's short ball and Fleck seized upon the error to set up Oliver McBurnie to beat the goalkeeper, despite his despairing dive.

After that stroke of luck, the hosts went close to doubling their advantage on sixty four minutes. Fortunately, Cresswell rescued his side as he slid in on George Baldock.

Moyes made his second substitution five minutes later, as Robert Snodgrass came on for Arthur Masuaku.

That change almost paid off as Snodgrass got straight into the action as he won a free-kick. The Scotsman took responsibility himself and found Sébastien Haller who knocked the ball past Henderson but the striker went early and was ultimately flagged offside.

Wilder threw on Lys Mousset to replace David McGoldrick with an hour played and the substitute nearly found a second goal but luckily for the travelling support, Martin denied him with a great save.

After the former Millwall stopper had performed heroics to keep his side in the game up one end, Henderson was soon doing exactly the same thing at the other to deny Manuel Lanzini an equaliser from a free-kick.

The Argentine went for the near post as he tried to get the better of Henderson but the Manchester United loanee wasn't to be beaten.

Moyes made his final alteration on eighty minutes with Fornals taking the place of Lanzini.

Snodgrass was proving a threat with his free-kicks but unfortunately, Haller sent the latest attempt over the bar.

Having been second best for the majority of the contest, the visitors finally levelled the scores. Snodgrass had made a real impact since coming off the bench and the away end went ballistic as he finally broke the home side's resistance but, as there often is these days, there was a long wait.

New Year's Day proved to be a rarity for the Hammers, in that every VAR decision seemed to be going in their favour. However, normal service was to be resumed here, as referee Michael Oliver's opinion was overruled after a debatable handball by Declan Rice.

Moyes will hope his side are able to recover from that late heartbreak and can get back to winning ways against one of his former clubs next Saturday, as Everton make the trip to East London.

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