No one could accuse the Luton Town supporters of not doing enough to push their team forward. They savored every moment of Kenilworth Road’s first Premier League preview, keeping the volume high from start to finish, and the celebrations would have been wild had Carlton Morris seized a late chance to equalize moments before Kurt Zouma scored the goal that carried West. The ham returns to the top of the table.
Unfortunately for Luton, their big night would end with another lesson in the harsh reality of life at the top level. Rob Edwards’ side fought on until the end, Mads Andersen’s header in stoppage time creating a frantic finish, but they were tough for long stretches and weren’t ruthless enough when it came to counted. Resilient and experienced West Ham were rarely in trouble once Jarrod Bowen gave them the lead.
Since April 1992, this inimitable ground had not hosted an elite match. Luton have been through so much since, from the agony of dropping out of the Football League in 2010 to the ecstasy of last season’s unlikely promotion, and against that backdrop it didn’t matter that some renovations were needed until they can finally retire. at home. Indeed, judging by the buzz of anticipation as kick-off approached, that only made the occasion even more special.
The noise was deafening at first, the place was packed and there was no way Luton would allow West Ham to feel comfortable. They were looking to feed off an exciting old school atmosphere and were quick to establish themselves in physical duels, throwing themselves into challenges, going head-to-head every 50-50, Ryan Giles drawing inspiration from the mood when he stopped Bowen from carrying the visitors onto the pitch. during the early stages.
West Ham had to earn the right to play. Luton pressed, Marvelous Nakamba and Tahith Chong worked hard in midfield and went long. Alphonse Areola, the West Ham goalkeeper, had to be vigilant. The Frenchman gave his team a scare early on, nervously beating a cross from the left, and was quickly grateful to see Ross Barkley fire wide after a solid hold-up play from Carlton Morris.
However, as the first half wore on, doubts grew over Luton’s quality in the final third. Morris and Elijah Adebayo struggled to make an impact up front and West Ham, whose bid was flawless, were able to settle in thanks to the composure of their new midfield pair of Edson Álvarez and James Ward-Prowse.
Firm in the tackle and calm in possession, Álvarez would be close to opening the scoring when he shot from the edge of the area. Chong and Mads Andersen threw themselves in front of the Mexican’s shot, summing up Luton’s urge, but cracks were starting to show. Both Bowen and Saïd Benrahma had sent shots wide wide and the breakthrough came quickly, Luton paying a heavy price by giving Lucas Paquetá too much time to cross in the 37th minute.
They will know better than to let a £51million Brazil international hold his head up next time. There was no pressure on Paquetá and he took advantage of it by selecting Bowen, who pulled away from Amari’i Bell before slotting a header past Thomas Kaminski.
Luton had to keep believing it. Their response was positive, with Morris glancing wide with Chong closing in, but they struggled to stretch West Ham. Even long bullets had little effect. Zouma continued to push them back and it was West Ham who threatened early in the second half, with Emerson Palmieri denied a goal after Antonio was flagged offside and Benrahma nearly converted Ward’s low cross. Prowse.
West Ham’s inability to kill the game gave Luton hope. Alfie Doughty stepped in from the right and deflected a fierce shot. Nakamba swung in a cross and Nayef Aguerd’s inexplicable attempt to leave it for Areola almost gave Adebayo the equaliser.
The pressure was building, Reece Burke heading for a corner and West Ham could feel their control slipping away. A loose pass from Ward-Prowse threatened to put Zouma in a tight spot and nothing captured Luton’s growing confidence more than Giles who put Paquetá down in the 68th minute.
It was no surprise when David Moyes introduced the discipline of Pablo Fornals in place of Benrahma. West Ham needed to stiffen up and quickly used their skill to slow play, with Alvarez repeatedly switching in defense to help Aguerd and Zouma.
Openings have dried up for Luton. They needed sharpness when one finally appeared, but Morris rushed when the ball fell to him in the box. It was a pivotal moment. West Ham scored on their next attack, Ward-Prowse swinging in a corner and Zouma’s header momentarily silenced the hosts. Andersen’s goal in stoppage time was just a consolation.