Betway Cup 2021 - West Ham United 2 - 0 Atalanta: Another Benrahma masterclass gives Hammers cup win
(Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

Pre-season preparation for West Ham United has been extremely successful thus far, with The Hammers winning all of their friendly matches. Today's match saw Italian dark horses Atalanta take the trip to the London Stadium, to compete in the Betway Cup. David Moyes' Claret and Blue boys would have felt confident in the win against the Champions League side, but the Nerazzurri would be their greatest test yet. With a team including Euro 2020 stars Rafael ToloiJoakin Maehle, and Matteo Pessina, Atalanta come to East London bearing a fantastic team. Similarly to West Ham, Atalanta had an outstanding previous campaign. They finished Serie A in 3rd position last season, finishing above regular European competing teams in Juventus, Lazio, and Roma.

This game saw the return of West Ham's Euro 2020 superstars Tomas SoucekVladimir Coufal, and captain, Declan Rice. Players were not the only ones to return either - with The Hammers playing in front of the largest crowd since March 2020. An estimated 30,000 people filled the London Stadium today, but producing noise like a full-house, as is standard for West Ham fans. 

On the bench sat new signing Alphonse Areola, who's arrival excited all football fans. After a successful campaign on loan last season with Fulham, the PSG-owned player is set for another explosive season. 

The deadlock was broken at the end of the first 45 minutes, where a Michail Antonio strike put the Hammers 1-0 up. Pablo Fornals doubled the lead at 90 minutes, securing West Ham the win.

Team news:

West Ham United: Fabiański, Coufal, Diop, Dawson, Cresswell, Rice (c), Souček, Yarmolenko, Benrahma, Fornals, Antonio

Subs: Areola (GK), Martin (GK), Fredericks, Johnson, Baptiste, Alves, Noble, Coventry, Bowen, Okoflex

Atalanta: Musso, Gosens, Palomino, Toloi (c), Djimsiti, Maehle, Freuler, De Roon, Pasalic, Miranchuk, Piccoli

Subs: Sportiello (GK), Rossi (GK), Pezzella, Del Prato, Demiral, Pessina, Ghislandi, Scalvini, Da Riva, Lovato, Muriel, Zapata

  • Story of the match

Declan Rice led the team out today for the first time since the end of the 2020/21 Premier League campaign.

West Ham dominated the first half of the game - but Atalanta didn't make it easy for The Hammers. Moyes' men had the majority of the possession for the first 15 minutes, with very few chances between the two teams. Benrahma and Fornals made the biggest impact in this time, making positive moves, exploiting the space, and firing pinpoint passes to their teammates. The first major chance came from Atalanta at 19 minutes, where a threatening attack came down the right wing after possession was lost by Benrahma. A cross was smashed across the face of goal, but missed everyone in the box. A minute later, Piccoli's position allowed him an opportunity at goal, but a poor touch let the player down. 

 

West Ham's first goal-scoring chance came at 26 minutes, as Benrahma collects the ball in the middle of the park, plays a one-two with Fornals, and takes a strike about 25 yards out - almost identical to the wondergoal he scored against his former club, Brentford. This sparked the positive flow of play from The Hammers. 2 minutes after Benrahma's chance, Yarmolenko drives down the middle of the pitch, and finds Fornals on the left hand side. The ball is worked forward to Cresswell who swings in a cross, but was blocked by the Italian's solid backline. Once again, an attacking chance is intitiated by Fornals. The Spaniard drives halfway down the pitch, and finds Coufal on the right. The newly-crowned Signing of the Season spots Benrahma completely unmarked in the box - and his cross allows Benrahma to control the ball on his chest, and hit a volley that smashes the cross-bar. The ball comes out to Rice, who attempts a curling strike, but goes high and wide.

On the brink of half-time, Issa Diop gets high to clear a dangerous cross from Gosens and Rice stretches to keep possession. He's fouled, and West Ham gain a free-kick in the Hammers own half. Rice quickly finds Antonio in the middle of the park, who loses it briefly. Benrahma intercepts from the defender, and sends a high ball over the top to Antonio making a run into the box, who eliminates two Italian players by doing so. The No9 controls the ball superbly and smashes the ball past the Argentine goalkeeper. The crowd, many of which had not been to the London Stadium in over a year, completely erupts. 

 

The second-half proved slightly slower for both teams. West Ham, continuing where they left off, dominated the half in terms of both possession and chances. At 53 minutes, Rice's pressure saw him in the Italians third, and won back possession. However, this attack was soon over after a poor touch from the Englishman and no support available for him.

A few minutes later saw the first of the subsititutions, with Atalanta bringing on Matteo Pessina, Duvan Zapata and Luis Muriel. This change was very positive for the Nerazzurri, as Zapata proved a nusiance for the West Ham backline. The Columbian attacker made two dangerous attacks in two minutes for Atalanta at minute 60, but Dawson and Cresswell were able to cut out the threat. 

The 63rd minute saw West Ham make six changes: 

Lukasz Fabianski, Coufal, Rice, Soucek and Andriy Yarmolenko and Antonio off.

Areola, Ryan Fredericks, Mark Noble (c), Conor Coventry, Jarrod Bowen and Ben Johnson on. 

 

The final 10 minutes of the match proved the most exciting in the second-half. A Noble turn leaves his man playing catch-up, as the West Ham captain plays the ball wide to Fornals. Not long after, he pulls a Cruyff turn to win a throw, both recieving cheers from the fans.

Almost identically to the first-half, a second goal came in the final minute of normal time - securing the Betway Cup win. Fredericks used his lightening speed to make a run down the right, and cut the ball back for Benrahma. The Algerian throws his head goalwards, hitting Fornals on the knee, sending the ball high into the roof of the net. 

  • Takeaways from the match

Firstly, Issa Diop needs to regain his confidence on the field. Perhaps a loan is in order, where he will be able to play week in, week out - potentially from a Premier League team. In his first season at West Ham, he showed the quality he possessed at Toulouse; the team that made him captain at 21. He is too good and too young to sell, but has to gain that confidence back, as he isn't the same player he was a few seasons back. Furthermore, with the potential arrival of Nikola Milenkovic, Diop will be further pushed down the pecking order. 

Reports coming out over the last few days have suggested that Conor Coventry was potentially heading out on loan to Peterborough United; but Moyes has since changed his mind. When the young Irishman is on the pitch, West Ham look comfortable in attack, and steady in defence. He is so confident on the ball, and could potentially save The Hammers millions - a pricey midfielder is not needed when he is in the ranks. 

  • Stand out player

Once again, Said Benrahma was unplayable today. His form continues to impress, and appears to be building confidence upon each game he plays. After a fantastic performance and goal against his previous team Brentford, it was obvious that Benrahma would have a desire to deliver in front of the home crowd today. Every attack that West Ham had throughout the match came from the No22 or Pablo Fornals - who also deserves an honourable mention.

With the way he is progressing, Benrahma will be one of The Hammers best players, and has proved today that he can play excellently against Champions League quality teams. 

 

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