Declan Rice says halting Leeds United man was key to West Ham victory against 'crazy' Whites

Marcelo Bielsa saw his side fall to a 2-1 defeat to West Ham on Friday evening.

Saturday, 12th December 2020, 11:53 am
Updated Saturday, 12th December 2020, 11:55 am

Declan Rice has described Leeds United's style of play as 'crazy', believing West Ham's ability to halt Kalvin Phillips was key to his side's Elland Road victory.

The two England midfielders came face to face for the first time in the top flight on Friday night, with the Hammers running out 2-1 winners in West Yorkshire.

Despite taking an early lead in LS11 through Mateusz Klich's retaken spot kick, United failed to capitalise on the advantage for a second week running as they fell to back-to-back Premier League defeats.

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Declan Rice (L) complains about Leeds United's early penalty retake. Pic: Bruce Rollinson

Marcelo Bielsa's set-piece problem was exposed once more, with David Moyes' men scoring twice from dead ball situations to compound the head coach's misery.

Tomas Soucek powered a header home from a Jarrod Bowen corner on the half hour mark to level up proceedings before Angelo Ogbonna gave the visitors a deserved lead 10 minutes from time.

The West Ham defender broke free of Liam Cooper to find the top corner following an inch-perfect delivery from left-back Aaron Cresswell.

United struggled to impose themselves on the encounter, with Moyes' men looking to launch counter-attacks at every opportunity to good effect.

"The confidence is flying, as you can see, and everyone is fighting for each other," Rice reflected post-match.

"To be fair, their goalkeeper has made four or five worldies and it could easily have been four or five [goals].

"I thought we nullified them, their game. We knew how good they were.

"They’re a new team in the Premier League and they play unbelievable football, their style of play following you around is crazy, but we stopped them."

Rice believed a crucial aspect to the Hammers win was the role of Said Benrahma, who was making his first start for the club since his summer arrival from Championship side Brentford.

The playmaker was tasked with keeping Leeds midfielder Phillips busy, something his team-mate says was key to their victory.

“The game was opening up, you could see that," Rice continued.

"Once we’d beaten their first couple of players, it was an open game and for players like Said [Benrahma] and Jarrod [Bowen] to get on the ball.

"Tonight was special and special for Said, as well. What a player.

"We put him on their holding midfield player Kalvin Phillips, who is such a good player when the ball is at his feet. Everything that goes through the Leeds team goes through him, he really stopped him tonight.

"It’s always horrible going 2-1 up because some West Ham teams over the years would have caved in. With ten minutes to go, you’re looking at the clock thinking ‘They’re going to throw everything at us’ and it could go either way, but to get that at 2-1 was unbelievable.”

Hammers head coach Moyes echoed his stand-in captain's thoughts post-match.

"Leeds are going to cause teams lots of problems because of the way they play," the Scot said.

"This game is different to probably any other you play in the Premier League. They've got something different. Parts of the game we controlled, parts we didn't but we didn't give in, we were resilient.

"Bielsa is an incredible manager, has had an incredible career but more importantly has a style that has been broken down into bits and picked up for other coaches as well. He's had a long and very good career."