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Bowen can ease Antonio burden for West Ham as Benrahma makes his mark

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est Ham had to ride their luck at times on Monday evening, but after a couple of seasons during which it did not feel like they had the rub of the green too often, few will be complaining.

The 2-1 win over Aston Villa moves the Hammers up to fifth in the Premier League table after 10 games and will invariably spark questions over whether they can hold sincere hopes of playing European football next season.

Villa missed out on what would have been a deserved point as Ollie Watkins struck the crossbar with a penalty before seeing an injury-time leveller chalked off because his shoulder had strayed centimetres offside.

It was far from West Ham’s finest performance, but there won’t be too much concern in their camp after chalking up a third consecutive victory, all over sides against whom they have traditionally struggled.

There are ample positives to take beyond the result, too. The performances from Jarrod Bowen, Said Benrahma and Sebastien Haller will make Moyes smile, and while he was not at his sharpest, Michail Antonio is at least now back.

It was in withdrawing the returning forward that Moyes will have taken further confidence. So much of West Ham’s success this season has been built on their solidity thanks to a switch to three at the back.

It served them so well in games against Wolves, Leicester, Tottenham and more, but was perhaps too conservative against those sides further down the table. The half-time change to a back four, with Benrahma and Haller introduced to drag the hosts further forward, worked a treat and showed there is more than one dimension to this West Ham side now.

Haller – unfortunate to lose his spot in the starting XI after scoring at Sheffield United last time out – looked a different man leading theline. The striker tussled with Tyrone Mings, dropped deep to link play and found team-mates with superb vision at times.

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Record signing Sebastien Haller (R) looks like a different player for West Ham now

/ Getty Images )

Things did get nervy at the end with Villa pushing their hosts ever deeper and only missing out by fine margins. But Dean Smith’s side are a different beast from the one that claimed a point here to stay up on the final day of last season.

Three wins, one goal conceded and fifth place in the League will more than help Moyes assuage any concerns about the luck which helped them on Monday.

Benrahma has had to be very patient in waiting for his chances in the Premier League. Just as he did with Bowen, Moyes has eased the Algerian in since his arrival from Brentford on deadline day. Short appearances here and there have not given him much time to make his mark, but against Villa he needed only 28 seconds.

Introduced off the bench at the break, the 25-year-old received the ball from Bowen down the left, checked inside and lifted a wonderful ball back into his team-mate’s path for what proved to be West Ham’s winner.

Benrahma – who has also been kept waiting by the fine form of Bowen and Pablo Fornals – continued to give Matty Cash something to think about before doing his fair share of defensive work as Villa pushed for an equaliser.

Bowen becoming more clinical

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Bowen heads home what proved to be the winning goal for West Ham against Aston Villa

/ POOL/AFP via Getty Images )

With Antonio struggling to make his presence known as he returned from injury, Bowen stepped up to play the role of main man.

Since making his debut after joining the Hammers from Hull City in January, only Antonio has been involved in more West Ham goals than Bowen – but sometimes it feels like he could do even more. There are occasions where there is an odd touch too many, or a decision made too late – but that was far from the case here.

Bowen showed a wonderful touch from the corner to find Ogbonna at the far post, before driving at the heart of the Villa defence to cause trouble for his own goal. Bowen laid the ball off to Benrahma before charging into a pocket of space and managing to meet the return ball and turn it home.

With Antonio having shouldered so much going forward for West Ham in recent years, Moyes now has another man to rely on.


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