It’s been a rough start for new boss Manuel Pellegrini and West Ham in the Premier League, where the club has opened the new campaign with three consecutive defeats, but the Hammers took a positive step forward by beating League One side AFC Wimbledon in the second round of the EFL Cup Tuesday.
Mexico international Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez was selected to lead the line and went the full 90 minutes in the 3-1 win. Chicharito had previously appeared in all three of West Ham’s EPL matches, going scoreless in 126 minutes of action while registering five shots, but he found a lot more joy against the third division side in the confines of Kingsmeadow.
On Tuesday, Chicharito attempted five shots, putting three on target, while completing 95 percent of his passes (21 of 22 with Whoscored.com denoting three of them as “key passes”). However, you can tell that the 30-year-old was disappointed to only find the back of the net with his final shot of the match.
With Wimbledon pouring men forward in search of an equalizer at the death, West Ham broke on a counterattack and Chicharito notched his first of the season after rounding the keeper and getting a shot past a defender near the goal line.
But Chicha’s performance wasn’t without blemish in the eyes of Wimbledon boss Neal Ardley. Center back Rod McDonald was issued a yellow in the 13th minute of the match and then was sent off for his second bookable offense — a pullback on Chicharito — only five minutes later. Ardley disagreed with the decision.
“The sending off is soft,” he said. “For me it’s a game changer and from that moment on the game was ruined. Was it a dive? For the contact there was, absolutely. It’s not like a yank of the arm, it’s an arm on an arm, and he wasn’t getting the ball anyway.
“We make comments about stopping diving but you don’t get anything if you don’t dive. It’s a big bugbear of mine but we have to get on with it.”
West Ham returns to action in the EPL on Saturday when hosting Wolves at London Stadium. It’s likely Chicharito will return to the bench with Pellegrini preferring Marko Arnautovic in the lone striker role, but the attack-minded Chilean could also opt for two forwards and place the Mexican alongside him.
At this point, the Hammers really can’t afford to entrench themselves any further at the foot of the table.