A rare top-flight goal from Sebastien Haller handed West Ham a win at Bramall Lane on Sunday, piling further misery on bottom Sheffield United.
United were the greatest surprise package last term on their return to the Premier League as they finished ninth, but Chris Wilder’s men are enduring a difficult second season at the highest level.
The Blades have just one point from their opening nine games, with Haller’s finish from the edge of the box on 56 minutes condemning the hosts to a fourth straight defeat and an eighth in the Premier League this campaign.
The Hammers, on the other hand, have 14 points from a tricky opening set of fixtures that has already seen them play Arsenal, Wolves, Leicester, Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool, and David Moyes’ team are in the top 10 as a result.
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United started well as George Baldock worked Lukasz Fabianski with a driven near-post effort. Fabianski then parried a low shot from Oli McBurnie before the Pole reacted quickly to deny David McGoldrick on the follow-up.
The visitors grew into the match and enjoyed a sustained spell of pressure midway through the first half before Vladimir Coufal brought a good block from Aaron Ramsdale.
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The Hammers should have taken the lead after 34 minutes when Haller headed the ball down into the path of Tomas Soucek inside the penalty area but, with the goal at his mercy, the midfielder scuffed his shot wide. It was a big let-off for the hosts.
A looping header from McBurnie saw Fabianski make another decent save just before half-time, this time tipping the ball over the crossbar, but it was West Ham who went ahead early in the second half.
Jarrod Bowen collected the ball on the half-turn following a clearance by Ramsdale and embarked on a driving run towards the home defence. He released the ball to Pablo Fornals, whose shot was blocked at point-blank range, but the ball ricocheted into the path of Haller, whose first-time effort from the edge of the penalty area flew into the roof of the net. Blades goalkeeper Ramsdale got a hand to the ball but he was unable to keep it out.
Ivory Coast striker Haller has scored four goals in cup competitions this season, but his strike on Sunday was only his second goal in the Premier League this campaign and fourth in 2020.
Wilder’s side were suddenly all at sea and looked in danger of conceding again. Coufal and Declan Rice saw shots bravely blocked in a goalmouth scramble before Haller scuffed another effort wide.
The hosts’ best chance came after 76 minutes when substitute Rhian Brewster played a delightful ball behind the West Ham defence into the path of McBurnie. The Scot’s first touch was good but, one-on-one with the goalkeeper, he snatched at the chance and blasted his effort against the crossbar.
It left the impression that it would not be the Blades’ day and it proved to be the case as they slipped to another defeat.
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