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West Ham: Michail Antonio miss means David Moyes now knows who his best striker is

[object Object] (REUTERS)
[object Object] (REUTERS)

If it was creating chances that proved such a problem for West Ham during last weekend’s home loss to Everton, here it was taking them. Or rather, taking one in particular.

Having come from behind to lead Brentford 2-1 thanks to goals from Mohammed Kudus and Jarrod Bowen, the Hammers ought to have gone into half-time in west London with a two-goal cushion, the same players combining to forge the most glaring of openings.

Kudus’s control on the chest under pressure was magnificent, his ball into Bowen of just the right weight. Bowen, cropping up on his more familiar right-wing having started up-front, steered perfectly across the box, on the kind of line that has defenders and goalkeeper instantly praying the other might take charge. Neither did, though, two players in West Ham blue instead queuing up on arrival at the back-post to surely guide into a vacant net.

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The chance, probably was Said Benrahma’s, but Michail Antonio’s acquired striker’s instinct kicked in, the Jamaican stretching to attempt a more awkward, but still hardly impossible finish. Two reactions of disbelief fused with fury - Benrahma’s and, on the touchline, that of David Moyes - told you where the ball had ended up.

The miss that may well have changed the game. (AP)
The miss that may well have changed the game. (AP)

From what looked certain to be a 3-1 lead approaching half-time, West Ham were fortunate to go into the interval still ahead at all, the outstanding Bryan Mbuemo thrice going close to an equaliser in seven minutes of stoppage time.

After the break, though, Moyes’s side were made to pay, first Konstantinos Mavropanos heading Mbeumo’s cross into his own net, then Nathan Collins powering home from Mathias Jensen’s delivery from the same flank to grab a thrilling 3-2 win for the home side in a topsy-turvy game.

There will be much for Moyes to ponder about his side’s defensive vulnerability, West Ham now seven matches without a clean sheet. As well as those worryingly similar second-half goals, there was also a comedy of errors leading to Neal Maupay’s opener, the Frenchman scoring for the first time in 35 matches, his previous goal having also come against West Ham, almost 14 months ago. For all he has not been a rock-solid presence this season, the absence of captain Kurt Zouma with a knee problem certainly told.

But still, it will be hard for Moyes to look beyond Antonio’s miss as the moment this game got away. He and Benrahma might have gotten in one another’s way to some degree, but once committing and getting to the ball first, Antonio simply had to score.

In fairness, the forward had made Kudus’s equaliser, albeit in the loosest sense, a hopeful cross to the edge of the box despatched in outrageous fashion by the Ghanaian’s bicycle kick. In front of goal, though, he is having a rotten time of late, without one now in eight league starts since August.

Bowen, by contrast, now has seven in just 11 league games this season and in scoring here became the first player ever to find the net in six consecutive away matches at the start of a Premier League campaign.

On Friday, Moyes had given the clearest indication yet that Bowen is becoming his first choice No9 and when Lucas Paqueta returns from suspension to boost the Irons’s attacking options, Antonio, surely, will be on borrowed time.