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Some positivity at last for West Ham United, who were able to forget about their various early-season troubles during this largely comfortable victory over Charlton Athletic.
An opening day defeat by Newcastle United, a failure to bring in any new faces, speculation over an American takeover and Mark Noble’s public complaints about the sale of Grady Diangana had made this a challenging few weeks for David Moyes, so here was a welcome night of low drama at the London Stadium.
The mood on the night was helped by the excellent performance of Sebastien Haller, whose two first-half goals made the difference against League One opposition. Lee Bowyer’s side were no pushovers, despite their own long list of off-field problems, but they were far from clinical at key moments in the second half.
Haller had scored just two goals in 2020 before this League Cup meeting, having struggled with injury and then lost his place in the lineup to Michail Antonio. It has not quite worked out as expected since his £45 million move from Eintracht Frankfurt but he remains an obvious handful with his physical strength in the penalty box.
There were also fleeting moments of promise from the lesser-spotted Manuel Lanzini and Felipe Anderson, who combined in stylish fashion as Anderson struck a late third to put the match beyond any doubt.
Haller was lively from the start and he should have given West Ham the lead in the opening moments. Young Ben Johnson had shown great speed and skill down the right flank, surging past the Charlton defence before cutting the ball back for Haller, whose finish was dragged wide of the far post.
It was a poor effort from a player of Haller’s pedigree but he made no mistake on his second clear opportunity of the night. Andriy Yarmolenko raced onto Josh Cullen’s long pass before firing across the six-yard box, where Haller was lurking for a simple tap-in.
For his second, he rose high to powerfully head in a curling cross from Robert Snodgrass. “I am pleased for Seb,” said Moyes. “It will give him confidence and it showed what we have got as competition. By the end of the game I was disappointed we had not won by a lot more.”
It has been a bruising few months for Charlton, who were relegated from the Championship at the end of last season and are awaiting some much-needed clarity on their ownership situation. Businessman Thomas Sandgaard hopes to complete a deal to buy the club, although a court hearing will take place this week as Paul Elliott appeals the EFL’s decision to reject his takeover.
On the pitch, Charlton responded well after half-time, with the introduction of former England youth player Chuks Aneke giving them a more physical presence in attack. Both he and Jonny Williams went close to scoring a goal that would have breathed some hope into Bowyer’s side.
“In the second half we looked the more dangerous side,” said Bowyer, who is unable to sign players at the moment because of the club’s transfer embargo. He said they have new arrivals lined up, “waiting to walk through the door”, and there is obvious frustration that nothing can be done. “The only thing we were lacking was that final pass, that final finish,” he added.
There were more glimpses of goal for the visitors but West Ham were always in control. They scored their third when Lanzini twisted his way into the box, going inside and then outside, before rolling the ball into the path of Anderson. The Brazilian simply passed his finish into the corner.
West Ham United (4-2-3-1)
Randolph 6; Johnson 6 (Ashby 84), Balbeuna 6, Diop 6, Masuaku 7; Cullen 7, Snodgrass 7 (Coventry 84); Yarmolenko 7, Lanzini 7, Anderson 7; Haller 8 Subs: Martin, Coventry, Alese, Fornals, Bowen, Silva Booked: Masuaku, Johnson
Charlton Athletic (4-2-3-1)
Amos 6; Lapslie 6, Barker 6, Oshilaja 5, Purrington 6; Levitt 6, Pratley 6 (Gilbey 77); Oztumer 5, Williams 6 (Washington 77), Doughty 5; Bonne 5 (Aneke 45) Subs: Maynard-Brewer, Forster-Caskey, Morgan, Vennings
90 mins+2 - West Ham 3 Charlton 0
There is still someone on the sidelines for one of these teams SCREAMING his head off at the players to get up, or go wide, or whatever he's shouting. Honestly, mate, the game's been done for 20 minutes and probably, realistically, since the first half. There's no way the players are listening to you yelling with 30 seconds left to play.
86 mins - West Ham 3 Charlton 0
Coventry's first touch isn't great, his second is a tackle, and his third is a decent pass to send Anderson on his way. West Ham attack, Ashby comes steaming in up the right wing on the overlap, gets to the line and fizzes a pass into the area. It's a great cross and I'm not sure why nobody is there to convert it!
83 mins - West Ham 3 Charlton 0
Haller goes for the hat-trick with what the old Championship Manager commentary would describe as a 'speculative effort', volleying over from outside the box.
Coventry comes on for Snodgrass, Ashby comes on for Johnson. I've never seen these lads play before, youth given a chance by Moyes.
72 mins - West Ham 2 Charlton 0
Yarmolenko has realised it's fun to go through right stick trick moves against lesser players than he and a few little flicks of the legs later he has opened up a chance for West Ham to score. They do their very best to not score, firing a low ball across the penalty area - again - with nobody in position to convert.
I've just learned that Barker is 17 years old. He already looks like he's survived a bar fight with chairs and tables in a Spanish Wetherspoons, shaved head, strong, determined face. I am in my mid-30s and still look 17, but not as 17 as this guy.
He's quite a decent wee player as well, Charlie Barker. REMEMBER THE NAME
69 mins - West Ham 2 Charlton 0
Williams should not be playing at League One level, he's clearly better than it and should be somewhere in mid-table of the Championship, the sort of player who is heavily involved in getting an unlikely team promoted but who only gets to make three appearances off the bench in the Premier League. I like him a whole lot more after watching that Sunderland documentary on Netflix. Maybe West Ham should do one of those.
63 mins - West Ham 2 Charlton 0
Charlton have been better in this half but still don't seem to have enough in their XI to really put the pressure on West Ham. Aneke is causing problems and batters a shot wide of the far post from a narrow angle, but it's all quick little bursts and I get the feeling West Ham could easily lock this game down if they needed to. The game absolutely feels like a pre-season friendly.
60 mins - West Ham 2 Charlton 0
Brilliant from Lanzini. He faces Barker up one v one inside the area, tricks his way to the line and fires a low ball into the penalty area, to the penalty spot and YARMOLENKO IS THERE... wide. He takes a whack to the ankle too and needs some time to recover. Should be 3-0.
57 mins - West Ham 2 Charlton 0
Williams is getting more of the ball now and that means Charlton can actually attack with purpose. A cross from the left forces Balbuena into a header... but he nearly loops it into his own goal! The defender gets away with it this time. West Ham have gone down a gear or two, Charlton have gone up one. At least one.
54 mins - West Ham 2 Charlton 0
Aneke has made a big difference. He heads on a high ball to Williams, who controls, runs at speed towards the box and then thumps a low volley at goal from 25 yards! Randolph does really well to turn it behind, then gets up and applauds. I can't tell if he's clapping himself, Williams, or his teammates for allowing the shot. None of these things make sense.
Fairly routine stuff from West Ham, who haven't been particularly great but are just clearly much better man to man than their opponents. I'm not sure how Charlton find a way back into this one but they need to stop West Ham getting so many crosses in. I wonder if a change of system might be needed.
31 mins - West Ham 2 Charlton 0
Charlton come forward after finally stringing some passes together and Randolph has to be switched on as a shot is fired at his near post from 25 yards by Williams. Corner... which is over hit and kept alive by Pratley. West Ham soon win the ball back. Moyes can be heard shouting 'Pass out. Pass out'. As in pass the ball out from the back, not fall over.
And that's 2-0! It's eeeeeasy. Charlton just aren't good enough for this match and West Ham are finding it easy to get the ball wide then into the box. Snodgrass curls a beautiful cross to Haller inside the area, and he pushes a header into the top corner. Great finish.
21 mins - West Ham 0 Charlton 0
OOOOHHHHH WHAT A TRICK BY JOHNSON! Another English right-back star in the making, Johnson chases a pass towards the line, it looks like it's going out for a goal kick or that if he reaches and tries to cross it's a certain corner, but instead he heel chops it round the other side of the defender and then plays a low ball into the box. I think it's Haller who attacks it at the near post, sending the ball wide of the far post. Would have been a great little goal.
15 mins - West Ham 0 Charlton 0
Lanzini is treated to a League One tackle after doing some bits of skill, nutmegging one player and moving away from another. Robert Snodgrass has taken exception to it and has shouted at the referee that it's a "f***** shocker!" and plying there should be a yellow card. There isn't. The free-kick is put into the area... and Amos manages to catch it as the ball drops at Lanzini's feet inside six yards.
12 mins - West Ham 0 Charlton 0
GOOOOAAAALALL except it's not a goal but the referee has given a foul. The corner is curled in, bounces around bodies in the box, and is forced in to the net with kicks while the goalkeeper is trying to control it with his hands on the ground. Pretty sensible decision.
10 mins - West Ham 0 Charlton 0
This commentator is only able to speak in broken sentences, which must be a real pain for his pals when in the pub. What I mean by that is he's 'doing the voice' of a commentator, copying the intonation, inflections, melody and rhythm of what you hear on the TV, so it sounds like what we're used to and therefore not very real. I don't like it. West Ham have a corner.
If I were the commentator I'd write that like 'West Ham......... have a corner'
8 mins - West Ham 0 Charlton 0
Charlton win a corner by pressing West Ham from a throw-in near the box... but it's headed away by the first defender. OH NO there's a commentator on my stream now, I was enjoying the quiet. Could hear absolutely everything everyone was saying, which as it turns out, was a mixture of screams and various Sunday League commands. GET OUT! GET UP! Various names.
5 mins - West Ham 0 Charlton 0
So much screaming from the benches. "GET UP! GET UUUUUUUUP!" is all I can hear from member of the West Ham coaching staff, and it's not Moyes, who is stood calmly on the sidelines just watching Charlton pass around their own defensive third. A mistake gives West Ham the chance to attack but Yarmolenko's cross is easily blocked.
2 mins - West Ham 0 Charlton 0
This iFollow thing is brilliant by the way. You pay something like a tenner to watch the match and then you can just watch it, without commentary, as though you were sat in the stands. The camera is still just the traditional camera angle but it's cool. Without it we wouldn't be able to watch games like this.
Anyway, lots of shouting from both sets of players as the match gets going.
Where's Jack Wilshere?
It's not all going so well for ol' Jackie Wilshere, who is usually injured and now missing from the entire matchday squad. The ex-Arsenal midfielder was supposed to be on his way to fitness and ready to revive his career this season but there are strong suggestions on the rumour mill that he might be off to Genoa. Does his exclusion from the game today mean that move is close? I have no idea. It would be great to see him playing though.
No messing about from Moyes tonight. He knows his side need to start winning games.
Charlton's XI look a little like this:
From the little I know about Charlton from my pre-blog research, that is their first choice team. They usually line up in a 4-3-3 / 4-1-4-1 but we may see a slightly more defensive approach tonight.
The League Cup returns
The summer break is done, the Premier League has started, the first round of pointless internationals are done and now we're already in the League Cup second round?! This year is nuts. West Ham are also nuts. A bad defeat to Newcastle was not the way they wanted to start this season and it will have put pressure on David Moyes to field something approaching a strong team tonight just to secure the win and get some confidence in his players.
Charlton are second in League One after winning their first game of the season, which obviously tells us absolutely nothing about how well prepared they'll be for tonight's match against a club in a weird situation. West Ham have some great players but none of them seem to work together - the way the squad has been assembled over the past few years is pretty awful.
Depending on who Moyes names in his starting XI tonight, you'd imagine an easy West Ham win against lower league opposition. If it's the big money big names like Fornals, Rice and Anderson then surely they'll not have to be at their very best to come through a tricky London derby, but that kind of thinking is exactly what losing Premier League teams approach these games with. Charlton will be right up for it, even though it's the League Cup and doesn't matter.
As ever there will be no crowd members present tonight, something which might even help the players avoid feeling the pressure that an unhappy support might bring. Imagine West Ham having to be worried about losing to Charlton? That's the world we live in.
Team news should be with us very soon. Kick off at 7:30pm.