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West Ham overcome early penalty, VAR drama to beat Leeds

Aaron Cresswell's pinpoint free kick finds Angelo Ogbonna, who powers home his header to give West Ham a late edge at Elland Road.

West Ham United erased an early deficit created by not one, but two, very early penalty kick attempts to beat Leeds Untied at Elland Road and continue their fine start to the 2020-21 season on Friday.

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Mateusz Klich opened the scoring from the penalty spot — in somewhat controversial fashion involving video review, of course — before Tomas Soucek and Angelo Ogbonna punished Leeds on set pieces either side of halftime.

The result sends David Moyes’ men fifth in the Premier League table, while Leeds are stuck down in 14th.

3 things we learned: Leeds - West Ham

1. VAR nitpicking at the tiniest of margins: Sure, Lukasz Fabianski was a millimeter off his line a millisecond too early to save Klich’s penalty kick, but what about Patrick Bamford encroaching three yards into the box before Klich’s re-take? Neither referee Michael Oliver nor video-assistant referee Jarred Gillett drew attention to Leeds for the infraction, and for good reason. In the event that both an attacking and defending player encroach — as was the case on Friday — the penalty should be retaken (again). However, the encroaching player must have a material impact as the play proceeds. Since Klich converted his second attempt, Bamford (or any other player) could have no such impact.

2. Leeds work hard, but don’t defend well: For all of the talk about El Loco Bielsa bringing his heart-racing tactical style to the Premier League, Leeds have been exceedingly poor — almost impossibly so — in defense thus far. The biggest difference Leeds will have noticed in trading the EFL Championship for the PL? How much more opposition players can do with the same amount of time and space, even when it’s brief and congested — PL players won’t panic and turn the ball over quite like players a division down. Leeds’ press is hardly useless in the Premier League, but it won’t be nearly as effective as the go-to plan. A dozen games into the season, we’re yet to see Leeds deviate and sit any deeper. Their 22 goals conceded ranks third-most in the league.

3. West Ham not flashy, but effective: West Ham have scored seven of their 20 PL goals (35 percent) from set pieces, plus two more from own goals, this season. Moyes has never once been accused of playing free-flowing, expansive attacking football — and he’s certainly not changing his tune now — but he appears to have struck a healthy balance between defending and attacking, with a higher quality of player in tow, and it’s working like a charm these days.

Things couldn’t have started much worse for West Ham as Lukasz Fabianski gave away an obvious penalty kick in the 3rd minute, only to save Klich’s initial (rather poor) spot kick before having Oliver rule that Fabianski was narrowly off his line when Klich struck the ball. On second attempt, Leeds’ Polish international beat his compatriot to hand the home side a 1-0 lead.

West Ham found themselves a goal down, but not without plenty of scoring chances of their own. For all of Leeds’ dogged defensive effort, Marcelo Bielsa’s side simply isn’t good at defending. Soucek’s 25th-minute equalizer exposed some truly horrific set-piece defending.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Said Benrahma went inches from scoring his first goal for West Ham and giving the Hammers the lead in the 68th minute. The club-record signing found a bit of space atop the penalty area and went for a curled finish into the upper-90, evading the outstretched Illan Meslier and going just wide of the post.

With barely 10 minutes left in the game, it was more poor set-piece defending that proved Leeds’ undoing. Once again, a very simple ball into the box found Ogbonna under very little pressure and the Italian powered his header home for 2-1.

Follow @AndyEdMLS