Jack Harrison's hat-trick sees injury-hit Leeds edge past West Ham in enthralling encounter - Telegraph 16/1/22
As Leeds United tweeted at the final whistle, in a cheeky reference to West Ham, this result was indeed “massive”. It was massive at both ends of the Premier League and while the previous appropriation of the adjective by the London club had come with a certain irony this was a massive, hurtful defeat for them.
Leeds’ Jack Harrison claimed the headlines as the 25-year-old struck the first hat-trick of his career but almost as great a talking point was a horrendous injury-time miss from Jarrod Bowen who had the chance to salvage a precious point but somehow contrived to chest the ball over the cross-bar from just a couple of yards out.
Quite why Bowen did not head it left West Ham manager David Moyes with his head in his hands and it was a moment that will have also taken the ‘Bowen for England’ bandwagon a little off track. “It was probably easier to score than miss,” Moyes lamented before also complaining about West Ham being forced to squeeze in a midweek fixture last Wednesday while Leeds – who have more games to play – were not. Fatigue, he said, was therefore a factor.
Last season Harrison had his own backers for an international call-up and while that has quietened this was a remarkable, crucial contribution from the winger and especially with Leeds injury-ravaged and suffering two further losses, with both Adam Forshaw and Junior Firpo being replaced in the first-half after muscle problems.
It meant that with 18-year-old Leo Hjelde coming on for Firpo that Leeds have now given eight teenagers their Premier League debuts this season; the most by any club since the top flight was reformatted in 1992. They only had one senior player fit enough to make the substitute bench but, admirably, head coach Marcelo Bielsa did not ask for a postponement. He got his reward.
"Typical Premier League game,” he said. “It was good that it went in our favour but the margin was very close. It is a triumph for the players because of the effort they put in. The desire to win was very, very big.”
It was massive. For Leeds this was a win that took them nine points clear of 18th placed Norwich City, who have played a game more and while West Ham remain in the Champions League places, defeat in a wonderfully entertaining, end-to-end endeavour means that Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United all have games in hand in which they can go ahead of them.
"Don't expect me to feel good about it, do you?” Moyes said of the result before complaining that Leeds had a full week to prepare following the FA Cup tie between these two sides last Sunday. “I can't understand the Premier League squeezing a game in. Leeds had two (postponed) games to fit in. Why did they squeeze ours in but not their's?” he said.
Asked about the postponement of the north London derby, after Arsenal’s request, Moyes added: “I don’t really care about other clubs but maybe we don’t fight hard enough and I will have to be tougher.”
Injuries have also hit West Ham and, specifically, in central defence where they were vulnerable throughout. Issa Diop was substituted late on to a huge cheer from the home fans, summing up a wretched performance from him as he was tormented by Raphinha.
Leeds tore into West Ham from the start. They went after them; they harried and harassed and deservedly went in front when Raphinha cut the ball back to Mateusz Klich whose first-time shot was parried by Lukasz Fabianski and with Forshaw retrieving it. He teed up Harrison who swept his shot beyond Fabianski’s grasp.
It set the full-throttle tone as the teams went toe-to-toe. After Craig Dawson should have drawn West Ham level, only to head wide from close-range, they struck from another corner. This time it was by Bowen who was left unmarked to steer his header past Illan Meslier for his fourth goal in three games.
Remarkably, though, Leeds quickly regained the lead just as it appeared they might fold. They earned a corner of their own and Luke Ayling flicked on Raphinha’s delivery to head across goal. West Ham were slow to react, Vladimir Coufal played Harrison onside and the winger chested the ball home from almost on the goal-line.
Could West Ham respond? There were more chances, for both sides, but they drew level again in the second-half and it was superbly taken by Fornals who collected Michail Antonio’s lay-off, following yet another driving run from the relentless Declan Rice, cut inside and beyond Pascal Struijk before shooting low back across Meslier.
Surely it would be West Ham who now went on to win it? Instead, once more, Leeds responded with Nikola Vlasic, who had been anonymous, carelessly losing possession and allowing Stuart Dallas to stride forward and find Raphinha who smartly cut through the home defence with a precise pass that picked out Harrison. Fabianski had to rush out but Harrison coolly lifted the ball over him to complete his hat-trick. Vlasic was immediately substituted. Soon after and Leeds went close with Raphinha’s free-kick cannoning back off the cross-bar.
It continued to be incredibly open with both sides having ‘goals’ ruled out for offside and West Ham’s desperation growing. In injury time there was that one last opportunity but somehow Bowen spurned it. “We knew today was a massive chance, it is a chance missed,” Rice later said. “Massive.” It was.