Analysing Diafra Sakho's goalscoring return for West Ham against Bolton
Slaven Bilic’s West Ham United barely broke a sweat in their Carabao Cup Third Round tie, easing into the hat for the Fourth Round with a 3-0 over early Championship strugglers Bolton Wanderers at London Stadium.
Angelo Ogbonna, Diafra Sakho, and Arthur Masuaku were all on the scoresheet for the Hammers, Senegalese international Sakho repaying manager and fans with an impressive performance on his recall to the side despite declaring his intentions to leave the club over the summer, featuring as a lone striker flanked by wingers Andre Ayew and the impressive Marko Arnautovic.
Sakho and Arnautovic linked well for the majority of the night, and their chemistry showed its first glimpse as early as the fourth minute, Sakho winning a free-kick which Arnautovic duly stood over out on the right wing.
The Austrian played a perfect ball into the box, and with Sakho amongst others making nuisance of himself in the box, it allowed Angelo Ogbonna the time and space to surge into the area unopposed for a free header which he powered into the goal to give the hosts an early lead.
Sakho then almost turned provider for Arnautovic later in the first-half, latching onto Mark Noble’s clipped ball forward and holding up the ball expertly against Bolton defender Mark Beevers, before laying the ball on for Arnautovic to strike, who saw his initial effort blocked before his follow up effort was parried away by goalkeeper Mark Howard.
Sakho’s movement and hold-up play was beginning to cause Bolton all sorts of problems, and he showed off a glimpse of his ability to run the channels also. Played in down the left, he raced clear of defender Andrew Taylor and cut inside onto the edge of the penalty box before checking back onto his right foot and playing in the onrushing Andre Ayew, who could only drag his first-time effort wide of the right post.
With unwanted profligacy in front of goal seeming to set in, and unwilling to allow that to hand the visitors a route back into the contest, Sakho himself showed his teammates the route to goal with just over half an hour on the clock.
Noble, another impressive performer on the night, played a well weighted clipped ball through to Arnautovic who’d found a pocket of space down the left with acres of space to gallop forward.
Venturing inside, he laid the ball left-footed off for Sakho inside the penalty area, who had the simple task of finishing beyond Howard to put the hosts two goals ahead before the break. His celebration was muted, as he wandered over the byline to thank his teammate.
Sakho was notably quieter after the break, which mirrored West Ham’s team performance in the second-half, with chances fewer and further between until the forward made way for Javier Hernandez on 71 minutes.
The Hammers went on to finish the job in stoppage time, Arthur Masuaku being allowed the time and space on the left of the penalty area to pick his spot and send a left-footed pile-driver into the top right corner and complete Bolton’s misery in East London.
Although Sakho is almost certain to depart the club at the end of the season, if not in January, his hardworking team performance on Tuesday will remind Slaven Bilic that the want-away forward still has something to offer his side, for unlike popular belief, it appears the forward is not willing to allow his desire to leave the club impede his performances.
His performance also says a great deal about the strength in depth of this West Ham side when the players are performing, and the Hammers could prove to be a dark horse in this competition in the hat for the next round.