There was a collective sigh of relief around the London Stadium on Monday evening as two second-half goals ensured West Ham earned their first Premier League points of season against Huddersfield.
In their first home match of the campaign, Pedro Obiang gave the Hammers the lead when his shot from outside of the area took a wicked deflection off Mathias Jorgensen, wrong-footing Jonas Lossl.
And substitute Jordan Ayew wasted no time in wrapping up the three points just moments later when he poked home Jose Fonte’s effort on the line, lifting West Ham off the bottom of the table.
The result saw Huddersfield lose their first ever Premier League match – also seeing them concede their first top-flight goal – but David Wagner’s side remain in sixth and three points behind Manchester United.
Here are three things learnt from the game:
Victory eases the pressure on Bilic
On a day that saw Crystal Palace sack their manager Frank de Boer after four defeats in their opening four matches, focus quickly turned to the London Stadium to see if Slaven Bilic was next.
Three consecutive defeats to start the season – conceding ten goals in the process – had left the West Ham manager’s job firmly in the balance but his side turned the tides in a strong performance.
He set his side up well from the back on Monday, reverting to a three-man defensive system that kept things tight at the back, whilst the return of hit-man Andy Carroll had a clear impact in attack.
The nerves and frustration would no doubt have been growing on the West Ham touchline as the match went on but the relief was clear to see from Bilic’s celebration when Obiang’s effort went in.
Whilst the pressure on Bilic is by no means disappearing anytime soon, and a victory over a promoted side won’t paper over many cracks, it’s a big step in the right direction for West Ham.
Carroll’s return revitalises West Ham
West Ham needed a piece of inspiration in order to haul themselves out of their early season rut, and there’s little doubt that the return of Andy Carroll to the starting eleven provided exactly that.
The 28-year-old finally gave the Hammers a target to aim at when going forward, able to go more directly than the opening few games when they had to be clever and try and find the runs of Javier Hernandez in-behind a defence, and this direct path into the opposition third had a massive impact.
Carroll was typically excellent in the air on Monday, being involved in 17 of the 57 aerial battles undertaken during the 90 minutes, and his composure and ability to bring the ball down was superb.
He very nearly made a telling impact within just 90 seconds of his return, expertly taking the ball down on his chest in the area before thrashing an effort across the face of goal and wide of the post.
Carroll’s presence in the side also seems to get the best out of Michail Antonio on the right-wing, allowing him to use his pace and power to burst towards the by-line knowing that he has somebody to aim for in the box – without Carroll in the side this isn’t possible, not with Hernandez’s stature.
There’s an awful long way to go in the season, and it’s well-known that Carroll is only a game away from another spell on the side-lines, but it’s already clear to see the impact that he makes when he plays.
Huddersfield crippled by bad luck but continue to show promise
Whilst David Wagner and his Huddersfield side will currently be reflecting on their first taste of defeat in the Premier League, his side certainly didn’t disgrace themselves at the London Stadium.
Their excellent start to Premier League life has been clear for all to see, being dogged in defence whilst being proactive in attack, and for the majority of the match they played resiliently once again.
But football can be a cruel game as they say, and West Ham broke the deadlock in the most unfortunate of ways when Obiang’s shot took a deflection off a player and the post on its way in.
Yet although the result didn’t go their way there was nothing wrong with Huddersfield’s overall display, repelling the hosts’ intense pressure for 70 minutes, and Wagner should be encouraged.
His side managed to cope well with the threat of Carroll throughout, giving very little away from set-piece scenarios, and had it not been for a patch of bad luck they were well placed for another point.