Kurt Zouma’s unusual finishing touch helps West Ham peg back Spurs

The fact that Tottenham saw most of the ball came as little surprise. West Ham are built to absorb pressure and the longer this game remained locked at 1-1, the less likely that David Moyes was to tell his side to gamble on chasing the goal that would have tightened their grip on seventh place.

Perhaps Moyes, drawing on that pragmatic streak, wanted to see some proper defending after West Ham’s collapse against Newcastle. There was a lot of talk of “resilience” from the Scot, who rued Michail Antonio wasting a glorious opportunity on the hour, and a distinct relish in the way he spoke about restricting Spurs to so few clear chances. “We had to defend,” said Moyes, who accepted that a draw was the right result. “But that is part of football.”

Both managers were in ­philosophical mode. Whereas Moyes opted against making any ­substitutions, perhaps because he was still scarred by the memory of bringing on Kalvin Phillips against Newcastle, Ange Postecoglou turned to his bench five times. The Spurs manager could see that his side, who now lie two points off fourth-placed Aston Villa, needed an extra gear in the final third. They had to be disappointed with their inability to create more after West Ham responded to Brennan Johnson’s early goal with an equaliser from Kurt Zouma.

“They sit deep and make it ­difficult,” Postecoglou said. “It’s just probably for us in the final third we lacked clarity of thought. They’re human beings. I’d love to have a joy-stick and help them through that.”

The first talking point had centred around whether a counterpunching team can thrive without solid foundations. Gaps have appeared in West Ham’s defence recently, a record of one clean sheet in the league in 2024 irritating Moyes, and it was too easy for Spurs to strike after five minutes.

James Ward-Prowse and Tomas Soucek were not close enough to James Maddison when the playmaker popped up in a pocket of space. West Ham pined for the security provided by their suspended midfield enforcer, Edson Álvarez. They struggle ­without Álvarez, who might have done more to stop Maddison isolating Timo ­Werner against Vladimir Coufal.

Brennan Johnson peels away after giving Tottenham an early lead. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

It was a mismatch. Werner went down the outside and Coufal, who struggled against Newcastle’s ­wingers last weekend, could not stop the forward from teeing up Johnson for a simple finish from close range.

The next 10 minutes were ­awkward for West Ham. Indecision set in and Spurs almost profited from an intense high press. Pedro Porro and Son Heung-min went close after errors from Lucas Paquetá and Coufal.

Yet West Ham had threatened at 0-0, Jarrod Bowen slicing wide after Porro lost possession to ­Mohammed Kudus, and their physicality ­unsettled Spurs. Even Paquetá joined in, taking a moment out of his showboating to flatten Maddison.

It was 1-1 by then, West Ham’s equaliser arriving when Spurs failed to deal with a corner. Bowen, a live wire on the right, won it by driving against Destiny Udogie and the visitors cracked when the England winger lifted the ball into the six-yard box. Guglielmo Vicario was pinned to his line by Antonio, Micky van de Ven was ball-watching and nobody challenged Zouma.

The goal invigorated West Ham, who saw Ward-Prowse’s free-kick test Vicario, but they were forced back at times. Johnson’s speed was a worry and Maddison kept scheming. Postecoglou thought that Yves Bissouma was outstanding in midfield.

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West Ham looked to step up at the start of the second half, Antonio drawing a fine save from Vicario after slack play from Rodrigo Bentancur, Paquetá’s shot whistling just wide.

Yet the possession statistics heavily favoured Spurs. West Ham sank back, waiting for openings on the break, and one appeared on the hour, only for Antonio to shoot straight at Vicario after running on to ­Ward-Prowse’s pass and outmuscling Van de Ven.

The long spells of Spurs dominance resumed, although they rarely got behind West Ham. Maddison would fade before making way for Dejan Kulusevski. West Ham, winless in four league games, dug in and hoped that one more chance would materialise on the counterattack. Bowen, Paquetá and Kudus had glimpses of goal in added time.

Yet Moyes seemed content with a solid display from his centre-backs, Zouma and Konstantinos ­Mavropanos. Lukasz Fabianski, West Ham’s goalkeeper, did not have to do much.

There were 12 shots from Spurs, including one that Udogie should have done better with in the last minute of added time, but only four on target. Both sides lacked a ­cutting edge.

The Guardian