Debuts don’t get much better. Two goals, three points and a man of match performance in front of the English coach.
Jesse Lingard looked like a man on a mission Wednesday night. From the first minute until his move in the 90th minute, the West Ham borrower was the star of an outstanding team effort.
West Ham were limited to long shots in the first half, particularly from Lingard testing Emi Martinez in the villa’s goal.
During his first 90-minute league game since May 2019, Lingard was a constant threat.
He had six shots with three hits, two of which ended up being goals, of course. In the first 45 minutes he started in number 10 with Said Benrahma playing on the left and the two connected well.
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There was one move in particular where Lingard delightedly kicked the ball down Benrahma’s path, who played an inch-perfect pass forward. Nothing came of the attack, but the threat was there and the beginning of a potentially beautiful partnership.
This wasn’t the only relationship Lingard appears to have built in a West Ham shirt. Michail Antonio and Lingard looked like veterans of 90 games together, not 90 minutes.
Antonio supported both of Lingard’s goals, the first being a nice pass to the 28-year-old’s chest which he immediately killed and struck with his left foot.
The second came from a quick hammer pull. Antonio carried the ball forward and pulled three men towards him before passing it to Lingard, who struck it hard with his right foot.
Martinez could have done better, but it was a shot on target and a tough hit. Lingard has done its part. He doesn’t care that the goalkeeper didn’t do his job.
The smile on Lingard’s face at the end of the game when his manager hugged him said it all. It was a difficult time for the Englishman on and off the pitch and his enjoyment of playing again was evident to all.
After the match, he was named Man of the Match Awards and spoke to BT Sport about his incredible debut.
After his stock replies “It was a team effort” and “All about the three points”, he opened a little more:
“I smiled before and during the game. I love soccer and I like to play soccer. As I said, if you like soccer, you get the rewards.
“I came here to get playing time and I played over 90 minutes tonight and enjoyed myself with a smile on my face. I scored two goals and three points are the most important thing!” Lingard said.
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For now, his reward will undoubtedly be another start for West Ham against Fulham on Saturday, but could a recall from England be in sight in the long run?
Hammer’s manager David Moyes believes this:
“If he plays as well as he did tonight and keeps scoring, he’ll do an excellent job for West Ham and if he keeps doing that he’ll be included in the English squad.”
“It’s not so long since he was at the level he was an England international and I hope he can return to that standard and if he does it will be great for us at West Ham. “