West Ham denied unlikely point by awful VAR decision
PUBLISHED: 22:26 10 January 2020 | UPDATED: 22:26 10 January 2020
PA Wire/PA Images
Fabianski injured again as Martin mistake costs the Hammers dear
Sheffield United 1 West Ham United 0
Forget Sheffield steel. This was the Sheffield steal after West Ham United were denied a stoppage-time equaliser by VAR on a miserable night at Bramall Lane, where David Moyes suffered his first defeat in his second stint as Hammers boss.
After Oli McBurnie had capitalised on a calamitous defensive mix-up to give the Blades a 53rd-minute lead with his fourth goal of the season, substitute Robert Snodgrass looked to have secured a dramatic late leveller to salvage a point for Moyes' boys.
But Declan Rice was harshly adjudged to have handled in the build-up, leaving the relieved home fans chanting 'VAR' at the final whistle, while the Hammers manager was left to rue a recurrence of Lukasz Fabianski's hip injury and an awful mix-up between stand-in keeper David Martin and Fabián Balbuena.
Having won his opening two fixtures in his second reign with the club, Moyes made three changes from the side that had successfully negotiated Sunday evening's FA Cup third round tie at Gillingham as skipper Mark Noble, Pablo Zabaleta and Aaron Cresswell came in for Ryan Fredericks (hamstring) plus substitutes Robert Snodgrass and Issa Diop, who joined youngsters Jeremy Ngakia, Bernardo Rosa and Gonçalo Cardoso on the bench.
That saw Cresswell join Angelo Ogbonna and Balbuena in a back three flanked by Zabaleta and Arthur Masuaku but with less than a quarter-hour on the clock, the Hammers defensive plans were thrown into turmoil, when an innocuous goal-kick saw Fabianski go to ground holding the troublesome hip that had kept him out of action for the three months leading up to Christmas.
Martin gathered his gloves and stepped from the bench to encouraging cheers from the travelling, massed ranks of the Claret & Blue Army, who disappointed by the loss of the talismanic Fabianski took some comfort from the arrival of the 33-year-old, who had earned cult-hero status by keeping clean sheets in the away wins at Chelsea at Southampton.
Having been welcomed by the 3,000 East Enders packed behind his goal, there was certainly no time for Martin to settle as John Fleck flung over a couple of awkward corners, while Balbuena also blocked John Lundstram's point-blank shot.
Pre-match, Chris Wilder had signed a new contract keeping him at Bramall Lane until 2024 and having fully-rotated his side for the FA Cup victory over AFC Fylde last weekend, the Blades boss had made another clean sweep by making no less than 11 changes to a team kicking off in eighth spot, eight places and seven points above the Hammers.
Sebastién Haller looked like posing West Ham's first threat of the night with an angled 15-yarder, but that flew both high and wide and, on the half-hour mark, Martin's huge upfield kick skimmed off John Egan's scalp into the path of Felipe Anderson who skewed past the left post from 15 yards as Dean Henderson sped from his line to close down the Brazilian's options.
Shortly afterwards, Anderson attempted to turn provider, but the supporting Masuaku drilled wide from 20 yards, while at the other end Lundstram's right-wing cross into the six-yard box only needed a stud from the stretching McBurnie but he failed to make contact and the first-half ended goalless.
Just after the restart, Balbuena and Zabaleta combined to charge down Fleck's sizzling 18-yarder and when the ball ricocheted back to the Scottish international his low drive whistled inches wide.
Moments later Fleck was in the thick of it again as his left-wing cross found McBurnie, who headed over the top from just a couple of yards.
But within seconds, those two bludgeoning Blades combined once more after the Hammers needlessly pressed the self-destruct button.
There appeared to be absolutely no danger when Martin passed the consequent 53rd-minute goal-kick out to Balbuena but with the Paraguayan wrong-footed, Fleck raced on to the loose ball and, after brushing off the defender's attempted tug, he squared to McBurnie, whose low 10-yard shot flew through Martin's dive and into the net.
Having been barely troubled, the visitors now found themselves trailing in inexplicable fashion and with Lys Mousset replacing David McGoldrick, Chris Basham headed narrowly wide after Cresswell had brilliantly blocked George Baldock in the act of shooting.
Snodgrass replaced Masuaku for the final 20 minutes and almost conjured up a leveller with his first act of the evening, but having floated a 40-yard free-kick into the penalty area, where Haller spectacularly volleyed home, a raised offside flag quickly cut silenced the West Ham cheers.
At the other end, Martin denied Mousset with his outstretched right ankle before second substitute Mo Bešić - on for Lundstram - also saw his low 18-yarder saved on the line by the Hammers 'keeper.
With a quarter-hour remaining, a foul on Anderson saw Manuel Lanzini line up the free-kick which curled over the Sheffield wall but Henderson, at full stretch, clawed the ball away from his right-hand post before gratefully smothering at the second attempt.
As the clock ticked down, Egan's slip on the Bramall Lane turf allowed Lanzini to sneak in on goal but, once again, the Blades' keeper got his angles correct to deny the Argentinian from eight yards.
That looked like being the Hammers last chance but in additional time, Noble nodded on to Rice whose bulldozing run into the heart of the home defence climaxed with an inch-perfect pass to Snodgrass, whose low angled shot found the net via the far post.
But ecstatic East End celebrations were cruelly curtailed by a VAR review concluding that the ball had struck the hand of the England midfielder in the build-up to leave the Blades holding on to a victory that sends them into fifth-spot, while West Ham go into the weekend just two points clear of safety.
BLADES: Henderson, Basham, Egan, O'Connell, Baldock, Stevens, Norwood, Lundstram (Bešić 70), Fleck, McGoldrick (Mousset 59), McBurnie (Sharp 83). Unused subs: Eastwood, Robinson, Jagielka, Osborn.
HAMMERS: Fabianski (Martin 14), Ogbonna, Balbuena, Cresswell, Zabaleta, Masuaku (Snodgrass 68), Rice Noble, Lanzini (Fornals 83) Anderson, Haller. Unused subs: Cardoso, Diop, Rosa, Ngakia.
Booked: Bešić (86)
Referee: Michael Oliver
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the East London Advertiser. Click the link in the orange box above for details.