Injury-hit West Ham grab deserved late victory over Bournemouth
PUBLISHED: 18:12 21 August 2016 | UPDATED: 18:12 21 August 2016
The Hammers christened their new stadium in the Premier League with a deserved win
West Ham United 1 Bournemouth 0
It looked like it was never going to come but, with just five minutes remaining, Michail Antonio headed the Hammers to victory over ten-man Bournemouth at London Stadium in front of a record, sell-out crowd of 56,977.
And after their Europa League victory over NK Domžale and an official opening, friendly defeat against Juventus, that meant West Ham United kicked-off Premier League life with a welcome win in their new home after Harry Arter had been sent off for two bookable offences.
It has not been a great start to the season for Antonio, whose efforts at right-back have brought him all the wrong headlines in recent days and, after conceding a costly penalty, getting booked and substituted all in the space of five frantic minutes at Stamford Bridge on Monday night, this was the perfect reply from the West Ham wide boy.
Both teams had started their campaigns with defeats as the Hammers lost late in controversial circumstances at Chelsea, while the Cherries had gone down at home to Manchester United on the opening weekend.
West Ham had, however, also had to endure a gruelling midweek trip to Romania and, following their Europa League play-off draw against Astra Giurgiu, only Antonio, Sam Byram, Enner Valencia, Gokhan Tore and skipper Mark Noble made the cut as Slaven Bilić brought half-a-dozen changes to his side.
With no Dimitri Payet on the bench, there was even worse news for the Hammers, when the overnight bulletins declared that a knee injury would keep Andy Carroll out for several weeks – and with £20.5million Andre Ayew (thigh) sidelined, too – that meant that Valencia had no choice but to go it alone in a 4-5-1 formation.
Despite their acute lack of firepower, though, the Hammers looked the most threatening in the early exchanges as Artur Boruc raced from goal to deny Antonio, while Tore curled an angled 20-yarder over the left-hand angle and the Bournemouth defence made a series of defensive blocks to keep their goal intact.
The barn-storming Byram also burst forward at will, while Arthur Masuaku tried his luck from range and Cheikhou Kouyate cleverly juggled before volleying over from 30 yards.
Eddie Howe had made just one change following his side’s 3-1 reverse against José Mourinho’s marauding United last Sunday as Ryan Fraser came in for Lewis Cook but despite looking lively on the break, the visitors rarely threatened Adrian in the West Ham United goal.
Arter was expensively booked on the half-hour for over-protesting despite clearly hand-balling and then Cook saw yellow for taking out Valencia as Tore broke free, while Byram was also cautioned for chopping Callum Wilson.
As the interval approached, Valencia finally forced the first save of the day, when he let fly from 15-yards but Boruc repelled the angled scorcher with a full-length save and, as an uninspiring, uneventful first-half drew to a close, it was left to Nordtveit to concede the first corner of the game with a wild clearance that came to nothing, while Winston Reid ensured that referee Craig Pawson had been the busiest man of the opening half with a stoppage time booking.
Just after the restart, Adam Smith’s low 20-yarder was fielded by Adrian, while Jordan Ibe was thwarted by the outstretched leg of James Collins and Joshua King saw the Hammers keeper fantastically fingertip his rising 25-yarder over the crossbar and into the Bournemouth fans packed into the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand.
On 59 minutes, the deadlock looked all set to be broken, when Noble played in the overlapping Antonio, whose deep cross was met by Tore but instead of claiming the first-ever Premier League goal at London Stadium his spectacular volley ripped into the side-netting.
Shortly afterwards, the disappointed Valencia trudged off as Jonathan Calleri stepped from the bench in an effort to maintain some home momentum given the men from the south coast now looked a different side to the one that had departed at the break.
Ibe let fly with another low shot that Adrian did well to hold, while at the other end Calleri chipped an exquisite ball to the far post but Antonio failed to execute the finish.
With 13 minutes remaining, however, West Ham were given a glimmer of hope when Arter tripped Kouyate at the expense of a second yellow card and while Howe was forced to replace the lively Ibe with Nathan Ake to compensate, Bilić upped the stakes with the introduction of Ashley Fletcher at the expense of Nordtveit.
That extra man was to have a significant impact for, with just five minutes remaining, the tricky Tore crossed from the left flank and Antonio outjumped Charlie Daniels at the far post to head home and get the Hammers off to that winning start.
HAMMERS: Adrian, Byram, Masuaku, Reid, Collins, Kouyate, Noble, Nordtveit (Fletcher 80), Tore (Obiang 88), Antonio, Valencia (Calleri 63). Unused subs: Randolph, Ogbonna, Burke, Oxford.
CHERRIES: Boruc, Smith, Daniels, Francis, S. Cook, Surman, Arter, King, Fraser (Gosling 86), Wilson (Grabban 74), Ibe (Ake 77). Unused subs: Federici, Afobe, Gradel, Smith, Grabban.
Booked: Arter (33), Cook (37), Byram (38), Reid (45+2), Obiang (89).
Sent Off: Arter (77)
Referee: Craig Pawson