Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 – 2 West Ham United

James Ward-Prowse scored direct from a corner to give West Ham a precious Premier League win at Wolves – but the victory was marred by an injury scare around Jarrod Bowen.

Ward-Prowse’s 84th-minute effort swerved over Wolves keeper Jose Sa and dipped in at the far post to complete a second-half comeback after Lucas Paqueta cancelled out Pabio Sarabia’s penalty with his own coolly-taken spot-kick.

The game ended in controversy though as Wolves were denied what they thought was an equaliser in the ninth minute of stoppage time for an offside against young substitute Tawanda Chirewa. He was deemed to have impeded Lukasz Fabianski, even though the Hammers goalkeeper was getting nowhere near Max Kilman’s header.

However, David Moyes’ joy at victory will be tempered significantly by the loss of Bowen.

The England forward appeared to hurt his hip as he fell awkwardly five minutes into the second period and although he tried to continue, it quickly became apparent he had to go off.

Bowen made his way straight to the dressing room but was moving very slowly as he went.

“It was a knee into his hip or back,” said Moyes. “The good thing is it isn’t a twist. But he is really stiff. I asked him how he was and he said ‘sore’.

“I have had one or two of those myself and they don’t go away too quickly. We have to hope it doesn’t linger.”

With 19 goals, Bowen is by far West Ham’s biggest attacking threat and would have been a key man in his club’s Europa League quarter-final first-leg tie in Germany on Thursday against a Bayer Leverkusen side yet to lose a game under Xabi Alonso this season.

“I am hoping it won’t be too bad – in this week of all weeks, we need all our big players to be ready,” Moyes added.

Only their third Premier League triumph of 2024, the victory keeps alive West Ham’s hopes of securing European qualification for an unprecedented fourth consecutive season through their Premier League position.

For Wolves, a fourth game without a win in all competitions matches their longest run of the season as injuries continue to hamper Gary O’Neil’s hopes of a top-half finish.

O’Neil fury but delight for Moyes

After the game, O’Neil marched straight to referee Tony Harrington, who made the decision to rule out what would have been Wolves’ late equaliser after being asked to look at the pitchside monitor.

Wolves feel they have been on the wrong end of too many crucial calls this term and this was another that will frustrate them hugely.

Not that Moyes will be concerned about that as West Ham went level on points with his former club Manchester United.

It was intriguing to see former Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cooper in the stands for one of those games that irritates West Ham fans about Moyes, whose future beyond the end of the season remains open to question with the Scot yet to indicate whether he will sign the contract extension he says he has been offered.

Moyes opted to leave Michail Antonio on the bench and pick Paqueta as his wide left attacking option.

Aside from an inexplicable miss from Tomas Soucek, who trod on the ball with the goal at his mercy after Bowen had robbed Nelson Semedo by the goalline and delivered the perfect cutback into the Czech’s path, West Ham were non-existent as an attacking force in the opening period.

Antonio replaced Soucek at the break, which transformed the flow of the contest.

West Ham made light of Bowen’s early exit and with Antonio pushing Wolves’ defence back, the home side were unable to relieve growing pressure around their penalty area.

After Kilman had handled Emerson’s cross, Paqueta kept his nerve to beat Jose Sa’s despairing dive by millimetres.

Then, after Matt Doherty had denied Mohammed Kudus a shooting chance, Ward-Prowse delivered the precision from the corner flag that Wolves could not repel.

Ait-Nouri shines in Wolves defeat

Had Julen Lopetegui remained as Wolves manager this season rather than quitting days before it began, it is hard to imagine Rayan Ait-Nouri making the impact he has.

The Algerian started two Premier League games for Lopetegui. One was in a fabulous victory at Liverpool, but it is clear Lopetegui didn’t fancy him.

Given an extended opportunity by O’Neil, Ait-Nouri has proved the folly of Lopetegui’s decision-making.

The issue, it appears, was down to Ait-Nouri’s attitude. O’Neil has worked both on that and the defender’s fitness.

The result is a far more decisive player, capable at the back but, as has been seen during Wolves’ injury-riddled second half of the season, a real danger when he runs at defences.

Ait-Nouri had already won a corner with a length-of-the-field burst that ended with a blocked shot, when he surged into the box to win Wolves’ first-half penalty.

Evidently, Moyes did not think much of the decision but Sarabia’s finish was well deserved on the balance of play.

As for Ait-Nouri, it was another valuable contribution, which will focus minds around his complicated contractual situation.

Wolves are currently committed to a 50% sell-on clause as part of the £9.5m deal that saw him signed from French club Angers in 2020, but the contract be bought out at any point.

On this evidence, Wolves will surely want to do that given the player’s current value far exceeds his purchase price and Ait-Nouri is bound to attract attention from bigger and richer clubs this summer.


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