West Ham 2 Leeds United 3: Injuries mounting up but Harrison hat-trick secures victory

After seeing his West Ham United team lose 3-2 to Leeds United, David Moyes reached for the manager’s manual and opened it on page one: When yor team is beaten, be sure to come up with an excuse.

Jack Harrison celebrates with Daniel James. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Jack Harrison celebrates with Daniel James. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

The shrewd operator that he is, Moyes had prepared the ground beforehand by complaining about being given that most arduous of midweek tasks, a match at home to Norwich City. So after the game, naturally, journalists asked if he thought it had a bearing on events at the London Stadium too.

“I think it was a huge factor,” said the Scot.

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“We’ve missed one game (through Covid-19), not by our own doing, and it was made to go in at this point for some reason.

Jack Harrison of Leeds United applauds fans with his match ball. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

“Leeds had two games to play and they weren’t asked to play in midweek and we were. I cannot understand it.

“It only tells me the people doing it cannot understand what recovery means, what it means to play games on a regular basis.”

Moyes may or may not have a valid point, although some body might want to point out to him that Leeds’s outstanding fixtures were against Liverpool and Aston Villa, two clubs with prior engagements last midweek.

Finding excuses is not that difficult in as demanding a league as the Premier League and Leeds were practically falling over them. The difference was, they refused to take them.

Jack Harrison of Leeds United scores their team's third goal. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Midway through the first half it was already looking like it was going to be one of those days.

Junior Firpo had been rubbing his hamstring gingerly for some time when Adam Forshaw went to ground, and began doing the same. With Leo Fuhr Hjelde ready to come on, Lewis Bate came on instead for Forshaw, Hjelde preplacing two minutes later.

Considering what it takes some teams to call off north London derbies – sorry, Premier League games – you have to look at the way Leeds plough on with a mixture of admiration and sympathy. They got their reward with a victory secured by Jack Harrison’s hat-trick.

In the fifth added minute they even had the luck they earned, Jarrod Bowen somehow chesting Michail Antonio’s cross over the bar.

At kick-off Leeds had six senior players injured – plus Charlie Creswell who, unlike seven of their nine substitutes had played in the Premier League – and Diego Llorente suspended. Had Rodrigo not been on the bench, its average age would been 18

Leeds were winning 1-0 when Forshaw and Firpo came off and 10 minutes later they did what they do when they play West Ham and conceded from a corner.

They just scored again, and again when Pablo Fornals equalised a second time. Even with Raphinha hitting a free-kick against the post and Mateusz Klich unfortunate to have a goal disallowed, they came out on top.

Leeds were terrific in the opening 10 minutes, Luke Ayling – at centre-back so Robin Koch could hold the midfield – putting a chance wide at a free-kick, and Harrison unable to find a gap big enough to force a shot through.

They got their reward when Ayling played a ball over the top for Raphinha, who picked out Klich. He did force a save and when it came out to Forshaw, with a fair amount of net to aim open but his back to goal, rather than try to spin on it and snatch some glory, he laid it back for Harrison to open the scoring.

Forshaw then played a lovely pass to Dan James, who worked hard for plenty of chances as the emergency centre-forward but wasted all of them.

In the 29th minute, Leeds had their warning. When Stuart Dallas conceded a corner, Craig Dawson got free and headed a fraction wide of the goal he found the last time the sides met here in the Premier League.

Five minutes later Dallas conceded another flag kick. Hjelde had been brought on to shadow Bowen in open play, changing Leeds’s formation from a back three to a four depending on the whim of the former Hull City man. At the corner, though, he was Dallas’s man and he lost him, heading in an equaliser.

Leeds just scored another, surprisingly from their own corner.

When Ayling headed Raphinha’s corner on, Harrison found himself in so much space you wondered if he was offside but he was not.

West Ham came back strongly again at the start of the second half. When Ayling gave the ball away, the Hammers worked it to Antonio, whose touch Fornals ran onto and hit a clever shot inside the near post. It took an important Ayling header a minute later to deny Nikola Vlasic the chance of a third.

Leeds just refused to throw in the towel.

When a brilliant Raphinha pass picked out Harrison and Fabianski ran out to him, he showed the composure of a man who has scored four goals in his last two league games, not someone who had not broken his duck for the season until then.

The Brazilian was starting to take control of the game, picking himself up after a Manuel Lazini foul and curling the free-kick against the post.

Rodrigo had come on by now, harshly replacing Premier League debutant Bate, but he did not have the impact hoped for.

When Raphinha skipped passed Issa Diop and pulled the ball back, Klich’s shot grazed Rodrigo, stood on the line on its way in. The Hammers also had a goal disallowed for offside, given against Bowen. With Bowen’s incredible miss, Leeds could not say all the luck went against them, but everything they got was very hard-earned.