Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United recorded their first victory in any competition of the 2017/2018 season and first of the Chilean’s reign away at Neal Ardley’s AFC Wimbledon in the Carabao Cup Second Round yesterday evening, today, we analyse five Massive Moments from the Cherry Red Records Stadium.
Wimbledon’s Early Goal
It was a shock to everyone in South West London and the millions of viewers watching at home live on Sky Sports, the hosts, two divisions below the visitors, taking the lead in under two minutes.
No one could see the early strike coming and more importantly, West Ham’s defence couldn’t anticipate it either, laying down another example of the deep cracks that can be found within the backline.
The Dons were able to win a corner off a long free-kick and Mitchell Pinnock delivered, firing the set-piece into a dangerous area, where it was met by a striker who plied his trade at Maidstone United last season in Joe Pigott.
The hungry forward got away from his marker Angelo Ogbonna to get a powerful header off at goal which Adrian San-Miguel, making his first start under Pellegrini, couldn’t save despite getting a fingertip to it.
The terrific header raised the roof on Kingsmeadow in the Wombles’ final campaign before moving back to Plough Lane, giving the home side an immediate confidence boost against higher-quality opposition, an early turning point that couldn’t be ignored in this list of Massive Moments.
McDonald Sees Red
If our first Massive Moment massively swayed the cup tie in the favour of Wimbledon, our second Massive Moment did the very opposite and it arrived 16 minutes later, in the 18th-minute.
By this stage, the Hammers were beginning to fight back and dominate the play, searching for a swift leveller, but it would actually be from a counter-attack where the game-changing scenario occurred.
Having already been booked for a dangerous challenge on Robert Snodgrass earlier in the evening, home centre-back Rod McDonald was trying to keep up with Javier Hernandez as he made a run, vying to get on the end of Snodgrass’ low cross.
Mexico’s all-time leading goalscorer got ahead of him and the defender stuck an arm out, Chicharito going down in a heap and after some deliberation, referee Tim Robinson having no option but to show him a second yellow card.
While home boss Ardley had some choice words after the match for the referee, the decision had been made and if the Irons weren’t already on top, they certainly would be now and suddenly, it was going to be a very, very long night for AFC.
Anderson’s Half-Time Introduction
A long evening, it would pan out to be for both teams and despite a first half of pressing and supremacy in all areas of the pitch, West Ham still hadn’t conjured up the leveller, it was time for plan b.
Massive Moment number three involves a genius substitution by Pellegrini as he brought on a player at the break who would transform the Hammers’ performance and ultimately, lead them to victory.
Off the back of his impressive display in the 3-1 loss to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday afternoon, club-record signing Felipe Anderson had been rested from the start and called upon when he was needed, replacing Pedro Obiang.
To the surprise of many, Anderson operated as a left-wing-back of sorts, dropping very deep at times to receive the ball, however, also appearing at the by-line and on the left side of the opposition box.
This role suited him down to the ground and he was energetic, silky and fluent in his movements and passing, assisting Issa Diop for West Ham’s leveller and floating many a dangerous delivery into the area, cometh the hour, cometh the man for the visitors.
Diop Smashes The Hammers Level
It had been on the cards from the moment the Dons broke the deadlock so early, the inevitable was bound to happen at some stage and it did, our fourth Massive Moment bestowed itself upon Kingsmeadow mid-way through the second period.
The story had been the same after the break, more tried and failed attacks from the East Londoners in the London derby, until they struck gold in the 63rd-minute, from a very unlikely source.
Diop was the man with it, scaring his first goal in Claret & Blue, following a £22 million move from Toulouse in the summer, in just his second competitive start for the club.
While he was a rock at the back all evening, he and partner Ogbonna sat in the midfield for most of the Hammers forward play and this is where he would net from, receiving an Anderson pass and smashing low past Tom King between the sticks.
Diop, the centre-back, had beaten the ‘keeper at his near post with a sumptuous low effort and he hopes it will be the first of many for him on his next adventure, it was the first of the night for his team, one that provided a much-needed springboard to the triumph.
Ogbonna Finds The Game’s Decisive Goal
Whilst the away side had finally drawn level, there was still the small matter of finding the goal that would book their spot in Round Three of the 2018/2019 Carabao Cup.
On a chilly night where the Irons had to learn to be patient and wait for their Massive Moments, 20 minutes was the amount of time it would take them to convert being level into being ahead against the ten-man Dons.
The theme of unlikely scorers was not subsiding for Pellegrini’s men as Diop’s partner at the back, Italy International Ogbonna got in on the act, to find his fifth goal in England, three of which have come in the League Cup.
Snodgrass’ corner delivery avoided everyone in the box but the former Juventus man and when it fell to him, he used his experience and calmly converted a low volley past the on-watching King to deny the travelling Claret & Blue Army into delirium.
However, the Hammers weren’t done there as they would secure the one last hurray that their efforts had deserved, substitute Arthur Masuaku setting up Javier Hernandez to run clean-though, round King and finish into the empty net via a deflection, job done.
So, now that we have well and truly covered all the massive Moments from an exciting evening of cup action in Kingston-on-Thames, all that is left is for Pellegrini and his players to wait for Thursday night’s Round Three draw. Will we have yet more positive Massive Moments to look back on come early next week, when Nuno Santo’s Wolverhampton Wanderers have been the Premier League visitors to London Stadium? Join us once again after that one, to find out.